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Laredo Council Tables LGBTQ Protections After Threats From Hate Group Leader

Pastor claims anti-discrimination ordinance would force churches to hire people with 'psychological problem[s].'

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The Laredo City Council on Monday, Nov. 19 tabled an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people, after the leader of an Austin-based hate group threatened to sue if the measure is enacted.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. Although the ordinance includes an exemption for religious organizations, Pastor Jorge Tovar of Jordan River Church claimed that the measure would force churches to hire LGBTQ people.

“These churches rely on the Bible rather than modern-day-culture fads,” Tovar told the council. “We will not, for example, hire any practicing people who have a psychological problem with their sexual orientation or even their gender identity. It’s against our beliefs and against Bible principles.”

Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, also testified against the proposed ordinance, noting that his group has filed a lawsuit challenging LGBTQ protections in Austin. Saenz, whose ex-wife famously left him for a woman, told council members the ordinance would be used to “punish people and shut businesses down.”

“We applaud the Laredo City Council for hearing the concerns of its citizens and not opening themselves up to a lawsuit with this flawed and dangerous ordinance,” Saenz said later in a statement. “By setting aside this proposed LGBT ordinance for now, religious liberty rights for citizens of Laredo remain protected for another day. As we are about to enter the 2019 legislative session, Texas Values looks forward to making sure these same rights are protected for all Texans.”

With a population of more than 235,000, Laredo is the 10th-largest city in Texas. Other Texas cities with ordinances similar to the one proposed in Laredo include Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Despite Saenz’s claim, no business owner has ever been prosecuted under any of those ordinances.

Watch a report from KGNS-TV below.

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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