Metro Weekly

Texas pastors sue the city of Austin for the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people

City of Austin will "vigorously defend" an ordinance that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment

Photo: MyfanwyX / Flickr

The U.S. Pastor council is waging war against the city of Austin’s legal protections for LGBTQ people.

The notoriously anti-LGBTQ group of pastors has filed a lawsuit against the Texas city, Mayor Steve Adler, and Sareta Davis, chair of the Austin Human Rights Commission, to try and overturn a nondiscrimination ordinance that protects LGBTQ people against discrimination in employment, KUT Austin reports.

The group argues that the ordinance doesn’t exempt “employers who hold religious objections” to LGBTQ people — in other words, it doesn’t allow them to cite religious beliefs to justify not hiring LGBTQ people.

The council claims the ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that “every church in Austin that refuses to hire practicing homosexuals as clergy or church employees is violating city law and subject to civil penalties and liability,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit adds that the churches fighting the ordinance “rely on the Bible rather than modern-day cultural fads for religious and moral guidance, [and] will not hire practicing homosexuals or transgendered people as clergy.”

In a letter to the Austin City Council earlier this year, Executive Director David Welch said the ordinance contained the “stingiest religious exemptions we have ever seen in an anti-discrimination law,” and called it “inexcusable” that a church’s hiring decisions would be subject to the ordinance.

However, city spokesperson David Green told KUT that the ordinance “reflects our values and culture respecting the dignity and rights of every individual,” and said the city of Austin was “prepared to vigorously defend the City against this challenge to the City’s civil rights protections.”

The Pastor Council is no stranger to trying to quash LGBTQ rights, and helped spearhead the state’s attempt to ban transgender people from accessing public facilities that match their gender identity.

Texas lawmakers even went so far as to hold a special legislative session to try and pass the so-called “bathroom bills,” but they ultimately failed.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — who pushed for the passage of the bills — recently said that he would abandon bathroom bills in favor of focusing on taxes, veterans, and “arresting dangerous gang members.”

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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