At a fiery meeting last month, the Plano City Council enacted an ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents have launched a petition drive to overturn the measure.
Plano Citizens United, along with local clergy and public figures, wants to repeal the city ordinance that primarily prohibits businesses, employers and landlords from turning away gay, lesbian and transgender people. The City Council passed the measure in December in a 5-3 vote.
On Wednesday, petition drive supporters held a news conference. The Plano Citizens United petition needs about 3,800 signatures by Jan. 20. If the group gets enough signatures, the City Council would have two options: Repeal the ordinance or take it to a public vote.
Jeff Mateer is among the many leaders behind the petition drive. He’s an attorney for Liberty Institute, a Plano nonprofit legal group. He argues the ordinance is unlawful and unconstitutional, and it forces citizens and businesses to forfeit religious liberty.
“We can look in other areas of the country where we see ordinances like these be used to put wedding chapels out of businesses, to put bakers out of business, to put photographers out of business, to put florists out of business,” Mateer said. “[They are] being told that in order to comply with the law, they have to violate their religious beliefs concerning marriage.”
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, who’s been resolute about the ordinance, said that’s not happening. He points out hundreds of cities across the country, including Dallas and Fort Worth, that have similar measures already in place. And in Plano, he’s confident there’s no turning back.
“The debate is over,” LaRosiliere said. “Plano is against discrimination, bullying and hate mongering. A city of excellence reflects the rights of everyone and discriminates no one. The ordinance is fair; it’s legal; and it’s constitutional.
LaRosiliere said rumors about the ordinance have led to numerous misconceptions. For instance, the measure does not regulate public restrooms; it exempts religious organizations, and it does not criminalize religious beliefs.
Joe Riggs showed up at the petition drive group’s press conference to voice his support for the ordinance. Riggs is gay, married and the father of two. He said the measure is necessary, as he looked back at his own wedding.
“We actually did have our first cakemaker end up refusing services,” Riggs said. “Our wedding coordinator ended up saying they’ll never do business with that person again simply because she didn’t believe that we should be discriminated against.”
Laura Tynes, a Plano resident of nearly 40 years, opposes the ordinance.
“I have 18 grandchildren and one great grandchild,” Tynes said. “I want them to live in the kind of world that I was able to live in and not be fettered at every turn by the government.”
LaRosiliere spoke with KERA last month about the ordinance -- and Plano's changing demographics.