Religious leaders call for civility ahead of nondiscrimination vote

Clergy members who support ordinance say healing process must begin now

By Cory Smith - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - More than a dozen faith leaders gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to voice their support for the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

"It is because of my religious conviction, because I am a Jew, because of my faith, because of my values that I stand here and feel compelled and feel commanded to support this legislation," said Rabbi Elisa Koppel, of Temple Beth-El .

Several clergy members also called for civility and compassion ahead of Thursday's much anticipated vote, which has sharply divided the city along religious lines.

"This does not mean that we stand against our fellow Christians and fellow citizens who oppose the ordinance. We respect and we do not condemn their opinions and believe they should be able to express their opinions and positions without being castigated, without being demonized,"  said Reverend Robert Woody, of the Church of Reconciliation, an Episcopal church. "We urge those who oppose the ordinance to refrain from castigating and demonizing the gay and lesbian community and those who support this ordinance."

Proposed changes to the policy would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status to the list of protected class under the city nondiscrimination ordinance.

Despite several religious exemptions, opponents argue that the current draft of the law would force people of faith to compromise their religious beliefs in order to comply with the law.

Father "Chip" Harper of All Saints Anglican Church said comments from people on both sides of this issue have divided the city, but he believes the freedom to express one's beliefs is what this fight is all about.

"We've all got to be Americans. We've all got to live together and we've got to find a way to be able to honor the freedom of expression that our constitution guarantees to us. I think that's the main issue," he said. "We've got to be able to have a freedom of expression, freely from all sides, in a way that's not harmful to the community."

Click here for more information on how you can weigh in on the city's proposed nondiscrimination ordinance before Thursday's scheduled vote.

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