Plano, TX, December 9, 2014 – Late last night, the Plano City Council held its first and only public hearing and voted, 5-3 (view results), to pass a new controversial non-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance is similar to the ordinance the City of Houston passed earlier this year, over enormous opposition by the people, that is now the subject of an expensive lawsuit and referendum effort. The Plano ordinance will expand the City’s non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity (a term that does not appear in state law) and potentially will allow transgender persons to demand access to the bathroom of their choice. The law applies to all business owners in Plano and any business that contracts with the City for services or use of City facilities. Legal experts agree that this ordinance is as a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution, and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“This reckless effort to fast-track a law that undermines state law and attacks religious freedom and free speech will do great damage to Plano and especially its small businesses. The City will now find itself dealing with a similar mess that Houston has created for itself. The City of Houston is now spending thousands, if not millions, of tax dollars fighting in court on a similar ordinance that was extremely divisive and that was also widely rejected by the people. This special rights ordinance will be used as a weapon against people of sincere faith and the business community and will permanently damage the reputation of the City of Plano,” said Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values.
Within a few hours of Plano residents becoming aware of the proposed ordinance, over 1,600 emails were sent to the Plano City Council opposing the ordinance. Despite the diverse opposition to the ordinance at the meeting, including racial minorities, small business owners, and legal experts, the Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere still invoked the history of race and women as a reason for passing the new law. Mayor LaRosiliere seemed convinced that LGBT sexual lifestyle choices are more important and historically relevant than religious freedom, as the new law allows LGBT choices to trump religious rights. The packed council room of opposition included only a few people who supported the ordinance; an ACLU representative and a few LGBT activists.
State Senator and Attorney General-Elect, Ken Paxton and other statewide Plano-area officials signed onto a letter sent to the City of Plano requesting that the City “postpone” the vote. View the letter.
According to legal group Liberty Institute, “[t]he Proposed Ordinance is vaguely worded and compels private businesses and employees to violate their sincerely-held religious beliefs, in contravention of federal and state laws protecting persons of faith. In effect, the Proposed Ordinance makes it a crime to do business in the City of Plano while maintaining Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other traditional religious views of marriage, sexuality, and gender identity.” Liberty Institute plans to sue over the ordinance. View Liberty’s letter.