On December 8, 2014, the mayor of Plano, Harry La Rosiliere, introduced a non-discrimination ordinance for the city of Plano. This ordinance would include sexual orientation and gender identity and potentially will allow transgender persons to demand access to the bathroom of their choice. The law would apply to all business owners in Plano and any business that contracts with the City for services or use of City facilities. The amendment to the city’s 1989 anti-discrimination policy extends protections in housing, employment and public accommodation discrimination to now include sexual orientation, gender identity and other categories. The City Council members voted 5-3 for this ordinance in spite of the opposition of the people in the chambers saying that the ordinance did not represent the views of the majority of Plano residents.
Jonathan Saenz, president and attorney for Texas Values, states, ”This is a reckless effort to fast-track a law that undermines state law and attacks religious freedom and free speech and will do damage to Plano, especially its small businesses. 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.”
The Mayor invoked the history of race and women as a reason for passing the new law. “Providing equal rights for everyone is the right thing to do,” stated the Mayor.
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. According to the legal group Liberty Institute, “the 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.” The Liberty Institute plans to sue over the ordinance.
Concerned Women for America has as one of its major concerns “the trend of government to diminish and disregard the God-given inalienable rights of individuals and the erosion of religious liberty and the legal and cultural imposition of anti-Judeo Christian philosophies upon our society.” Ann Hettinger, Texas State Director, said, “Some issues are philosophical in nature. This one is both philosophical and physical. Opening women’s restroom facilities not only violates the religious convictions of business owners, it places Texas women and children at risk of great harm. Passing this ordinance would not only hurt businesses but also hurt families. CWA of Texas will work with legislators in the upcoming session to make sure these ordinances are stopped.”
On December 17, 2014, the Texas Pastor Council met at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano to brief pastors concerning this ordinance. Jeff Mateer of Liberty Institute gave a legal analysis of why the ordinance and others like it are a direct offense against First Amendment rights of religious belief, expression, and “free exercise.” The complete ordinance can be read at www.planoequalrights.com.
The pastors agreed to launch a referendum petition drive that, under the City Charter, would require the City Council to either repeal the entire ordinance or place it on a special election ballot for a vote of the people.