In his first public comment on the controversial city Gay and Lesbian Non Discrimination law, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller is encouraging city officials to continue talks with the faith community, and says a compromise on the issue is possible, 1200 WOAI news reports.
1200 WOAI news reported Friday that it now appears there are enough votes on City Council to approve the measure, after north side Councilman Ron Nirenberg's decision to support it.
"The Archdiocese of San Antonio does not oppose the spirit of this ordinance, but we feel that it is incomplete as it stands," Garcia-Siller says.
The Archbishop praises Councilman Diego Bernal, the sponsor of the ordinance, and City Attorney Michael Bernard for being willing to discuss common ground. But he says he wants assurances that the faith community will not 'have to choose between obeying the teaching of their faith and the law.'
""Society must also avoid establishing civil laws and policies conflicting with natural moral law, destabilizing the family, or infringing on human and constitutional rights," the Archbishop says. "The proposed expansion of the city's non discrimination policy raises still serious concerns regarding infringements on our First Amendment rights. Catholics should not become a target for legal action for expressing deeply held beliefs on human sexuality, marriage, and chastity."
Bernal has repeatedly said that language in the proposed measure is routine and has remained in the city's non discrimination laws for decades without anybody being sued, prosecuted, or denied a city position or contract for sincerely held religious beliefs with contradict city policy.
But Garica-Siller wants guarantees written in the law. He says 'we have been told that these guarantees are implied in the ordinances, but we continue to ask that this be explicitly and clearly written into the ordinance.'
"Beyond institutional challenges to the church, we are concerned by intrusions on the right of conscience for individuals, especially in the area of public accommodation," Garcia-Siller says. "It is not the province of civil government to interfere with the rights of conscience of a person's faith. It appears that this policy could force individuals who supply goods and services to the general public to provide them to individuals and organizations involved in activities that are in conflict with the providers' moral values and right of conscience."
Garcia-Siller is concerned about incidents which have happened in other states, where, for example, bakeries which refused to bake wedding cakes for gay couples have found themselves 'investigated' by shadowy and Orwellian 'human rights commissions,' and occasionally even fined and sued.
The Archbishop says the 'voices of the community' have already affected the draft ordinance for the better, specifically in prompting the removal of the 'word and deed clause,' which appeared to bar individuals from serving on city boards and commissions if they have ever stated that homosexuality is wrong.
The proposal is expected to come up for a City Council vote in early September.