Monday night, the Plano, Texas City Council voted 5–3 to approve an expansion of the city’s Equal Rights Policy, adding protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories. Though LGBT people will now enjoy protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations, the bill did include an exclusion for bathrooms and locker rooms, meaning transgender people could still be denied access to some basic services. Additionally, religious organizations, political organizations, non-profit organizations, and educational organizations were among the groups exempted by the law.
Despite the wide exemptions, opposition to the ordinance was fierce. The Liberty Institute, a Christian legal defense organization that happens to be based in Plano, claimed that the 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 group has promised to sue to challenge the protections.
Texas Values, one of the state’s most prominent conservative Christian organizations, also opposed the policy, expressing their fear that it “may place women and children at risk.” They forwarded a letter of opposition that was signed by Texas Attorney General-elect Ken Paxton (R) as well as four state lawmakers, Reps. Pat Fallon, Jodie Laubenberg, and Jeff Leach and Rep.-elect Matt Shaeen — all Republicans.
The ordinance mirrors several other LGBT city protections across Texas — as does the response. When San Antonio passed its ordinance last year, it was only after hours of testimony and large demonstrations from both supporters and opponents. Attorney General (and now Governor-elect) Greg Abbott (R) similarly threatened to sue to challenge the law, but when he eventually read it, he conceded it was constitutional.
Conflict over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, which passed earlier this year, is ongoing. Thousands of opponents rallied against the LGBT protections last month at a group sponsored by numerous anti-LGBT hate groups. In court, opponents continue to demand their petition challenging the law be approved, despite not collecting sufficient valid signatures.