The seventh largest city in the US is considering a law which could ban anyone who disagrees with gay marriage from working for the city government.
San Antonio City Council in the US state of Texas is amending its anti-discrimination rules in a move which could also hit city contracts with faith groups.
The proposed new wording for the city ordinance says “no person shall be appointed to a position” if that person has ever shown “a bias, by word or deed” against a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
But local Christians are deeply troubled by the broad wording, saying it could lead to an employment ban against anyone who holds traditional views about marriage.
Pastor Steve Branson of Village Parkway Baptist Church in San Antonio said: “It’s a stifling of free speech.”
He added: “If you voice any opinion, no matter how many years back it’s been, it can be used against you. City employees are going to be greatly affected by this.”
An organisation called Faith Outreach criticised the proposals. The group said: “The proposed ordinance includes ‘words’ against sexual orientation or gender identity as discriminatory acts.
“It allows City Council to prohibit those that speak their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality from serving on city boards. This violates First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
The group added: “For example, if a person publically expresses their religious belief that homosexual behaviour is a sin—even if this expression is at a church service—that person could be frozen out of involvement with city government.”
Other proposed changes to the city ordinances could affect contracts with outside agencies like churches and other faith groups.
Charles Flowers, a pastor in the San Antonio area, said the proposed policy revisions are “unprecedentedly wrong.”
“The ordinance … says that if you have at any point demonstrated a bias—without defining what a bias is or who will determine whether or not one has been exercised—that you cannot get a city contract.”
But the city councillor who is pushing the change defended the proposals. Diego Bernal said the city code needed updating and the new wording was “the bare minimum”.