by Mary Tuma
Religious-right led misinformation filled council chambers during a hearing about a proposed LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.
Expected for a vote early next month, the NDO protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents from discrimination in hiring and firing, public accommodations, fair housing, city employment, contracts and board appointments by adding sexual orientation and gender identity (and veteran status) to the city code. The hearing was one of many over the past few months that drew heated opposition and support from both sides of the debate.
Lately, the ordinance has been generating a lot of attention from conservative media outlets that don’t seem to be reporting all the facts. Snippets of the wave of misinformation purported by national right-wing news organizations, including Fox News, popped up during the hearing. For instance, claims that the NDO would violate freedom of speech and erode religious liberties abounded. But those assertions aren’t based in reality
For one, the ordinance makes specific exemptions for religious organizations. Additionally, the section causing the right wing to cry free speech violations was removed. Bill architect District 1 council member Diego Bernal has since omitted a provision that would prohibit anyone who has in "word or deed" opposed homosexuality from serving in public office or obtaining city contracts. (And the clause itself was already in the municipal books for years.) It seems like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz may not have gotten the memo, though. Cruz got in on the bashing from afar. In a statement released Wednesday, Cruz wrote, "any attempt to bar an individual from public service based on a personal religious conviction is contrary to the liberties guaranteed us under our constitution and should be emphatically opposed." That part, once again, doesn't exist.
The anti-LGBT activists persisted with the spin, with one testifier saying “when you give preference to one group, you automatically take it away from another.” But again, that doesn’t follow the facts. The NDO, a measure enacted in comparable metro cities like Austin and Dallas, simply places LGBT residents on the same footing as other residents– there is no preferential treatment. And lastly, claims that the NDO is just an attempt to “legalize same-sex marriage” can’t be taken seriously– the NDO nowhere deals with, references or even mentions marriage.
And those were the semi-logical arguments. Some anti-LGBT rights testifiers alleged machinations from "elitist government control over people's lives" to brainwashing Pre-K students with transgender curriculum. And there was the perennial conflation of pedophiles with members of the LGBT community– an argument gay rights activists
Donning red shirts in solidarity, LGBT rights supporters who had to sit through the borderline malicious accusations from the opposition, asked council to, “vote on the right side of history,” and channeled instances of how religion has been used to justify inequality throughout time. Not voting for the ordinance “would be like saying we don’t serve your kind here,” said one testifier.
A possible vote on the controversial ordinance is expected for Sept. 5.