The Washington Times falsely asserted that a proposed ordinance protecting LGBT workers from discrimination in San Antonio endangers free speech.
The First Amendment took a hit in San Antonio last week, but the Constitution is still breathing. The San Antonio City Council voted to consider a city ordinance disqualifying anyone who believes homosexual conduct is wrong from serving, ever, on a municipal board. The ban is to be applied “if the City Council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed” against various protected classes, and for the first time to include sexual orientation and “gender identity.”
Such bigots, for bigots is what they are, have no qualms about using such power as they have to bully anyone who holds views rooted in tradition or religion. The first draft of the San Antonio proposal would also have forbidden the city from doing business with anyone who fails to espouse politically correct views, and could, theoretically be used to remove anyone from office with a traditional view, or even a view not believed fervently enough, for “malfeasance.” Such discrimination is proposed under the cloak of a “non-discrimination” ordinance. George Orwell is alive and hiding in Texas.
The Times proceeded to cite the concerns of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an extremist anti-gay group that is currently working vigorously to criminalize gay sex in Belize. The ADF, according to the Times, “says it has never before encountered such an expansive ordinance.” Critics of the ordinance seize on the clause pertaining to discrimination or bias demonstrated “by word or deed” to depict the proposal as a sweeping assault on free speech - or even, as the Times has previously suggested, as an effort to ban Christians from holding public office in the city. Such conspiracy-minded fears are unfounded.
As Councilman Diego Bernal, the proposal's sponsor, told the San Antonio Express-News, the ordinance would simply ensure that city officials don't “reserve the legal right to discriminate against” individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. It does not police individuals' personal thoughts. It does, however, ensure that anti-gay individuals cannot retaliate against LGBT employees based on such thoughts.
The case of Peter TerVeer, an auditor for the Library of Congress who received harassing emails from his anti-gay supervisor after coming out and eventually lost his job, underscores the reality of “discrimination ... [and] bias” by both “word” and “deed.” UCLA's Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy reports that LGBT employees encounter “widespread” workplace discrimination - highlighting the need for robust protections like the San Antonio proposal and the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The San Antonio proposal stems from a very real and persistent problem confronted by far too many LGBT workers. It is not borne, as the Times contends, out of “bigotry.” If the Times were truly concerned about calling out bigotry and bullying, perhaps its editorial board would not have used the same editorial to cite bans on cruel, degrading, and medically unsound “ex-gay” therapy as further evidence of the war on “views rooted in tradition or religion.” Alas, this is The Washington Times, which routinely provides a platform to the most virulent and venomous anti-gay figures in right-wing media.