Sunday, September 08, 2013

Texas AG Says City's Ban On Officials Demonstrating Bias By Word or Deed is Unconstitutional

On Thursday, the San Antonio, Texas city council adopted, by a vote of 8-3 an ordinance (full text) expanding its non-discrimination bans to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status. It provides, however, that nothing in the ordinance "shall be construed as requiring any person or organization to support or advocate any particular lifestyle or religious view, or advance any particular message or idea." One of the most controversial portions of the new law is the provision that:
No appointed official or member of a board or commission shall engage in discrimination or demonstrate a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group of persons, or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, while acting in their official capacity while in such public position.
The Texas Tribune reported Friday that state attorney general Greg Abbott takes the position that this ban violates the free speech and free exercise provisions of the Texas and U.S. constitutions and opens the city to possible lawsuits. He says that the provision could expose officials to removal from office for speaking in favor of Texas' constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.