nondiscrimination ordinance

Neutral or slanted coverage: Texas newspaper reports on pastors group's lawsuit over LGBT hiring

Neutral or slanted coverage: Texas newspaper reports on pastors group's lawsuit over LGBT hiring

Last year, I praised an Austin American-Statesman story for its fair, evenhanded coverage of religious leaders on both sides of a fight over transgender bathrooms.

That story mentioned the U.S. Pastor Council, which favored limiting the use of bathrooms in schools and government buildings to the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.

The same group figures in a recent story by the same newspaper. But this time, reader Thomas Szyszkiewicz, the Catholic media pro who shared the link with GetReligion, questioned the American-Statesman’s lede.

Here is that lede:

A conservative Christian organization has sued the city of Austin in federal court in hopes of overturning a nondiscrimination ordinance that offers employment protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council argued that the ordinance is unconstitutional and invalid because it does not include a religious exemption for 25 member churches in Austin that refuse to hire gay or transgender people as employees or clergy.

Szyszkiewicz’s comments:

Am I reading too much into it or am I right in thinking that it could have been written in a more neutral way? Or that at least a second sentence or phrase could have been added to make clear that they're trying to protect their religious liberty?

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Wow! Wall Street Journal demonstrates how to cover gay rights vs. religious liberty

Wow! Wall Street Journal demonstrates how to cover gay rights vs. religious liberty

When it comes to gay rights vs. religious liberty, framing is frequently an issue in mainstream news reports.

Too many journalists — unable to keep their personal worldviews to themselves — ditch impartiality for advocacy on this subject matter.

The funny thing is, unbiased reporting makes for much better reading. Right?

I mean, who doesn't enjoy a story with real-life nuance, conflict and intrigue? Enter The Wall Street Journal with a six-month update on the "Utah Compromise": 

Every morning for about the past year, Angie Rice woke up to go to work as a special-education teacher at Roy Elementary School near Salt Lake City, sat on the edge of her bed, and wept.

She then layered four men’s shirts and put on baggy cargo pants to hide her changing shape—and arrived for work in her old identity as a man named Art.

But this fall, because of a new Utah law that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from being fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity, Ms. Rice, who over the past four years had transitioned from a man to a woman, felt comfortable going to school as herself for the first time.

“That law saved my life,” said Ms. Rice, 53 years old.

In the same county as Ms. Rice’s school, Ricky Hatch, a clerk who opposes same-sex marriage, has been able to continue in his job without performing weddings. A provision in a companion law passed on the same day as the antidiscrimination measure lets him appoint others to perform weddings as “clerk designees”; all have agreed to perform same-sex weddings.

“I don’t want to discriminate as an elected official, but I also don’t want to violate my religious conscience, and this law allows me to do that,” said Mr. Hatch, 48.

Six months after the “Utah Compromise” antidiscrimination law took effect, both gay-rights activists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say the law helps preserve the rights of religious believers who oppose same-sex marriage while protecting LGBT people from discrimination. At the same time, new church policies last week barring young children of gay couples from church membership, and requiring disciplinary action for Mormons in same-sex marriages, illuminate the church’s complicated path in its “fairness for all” approach that attempts to separate its teaching from its politics.

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Big news report card: Grading coverage of Houston's defeated ordinance on gays, transgenders

Big news report card: Grading coverage of Houston's defeated ordinance on gays, transgenders

If you're a news — or culture war — junkie, you already know the outcome of Tuesday's hotly contested municipal battle in Houston.

Voters in the Texas city of 2.2 million people soundly rejected — or as The Associated Press described it, failed to approve — the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, dubbed "HERO."

As The Wall Street Journal reported:

HOUSTON — In a victory for social conservatives, voters in the nation’s fourth-largest city on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure to extend nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender people.

For insightful analysis of the decision from the right, check out Rod "Friend of this Blog" Dreher's American Conservative post titled "Houston: Ladies Rooms Are For Ladies." For a left-leaning take, consider Atlantic writer Russell Berman's piece on "How Bathroom Fears Conquered Transgender Rights in Houston."

Here at GetReligion, we focus on promoting good, old-fashioned journalism that is fair, accurate and complete.

To that end, let's grade some of the major coverage of Tuesday's vote:

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As Associated Press extols LGBT protections, looking for an anti-HERO in Houston

As Associated Press extols LGBT protections, looking for an anti-HERO in Houston

As Houston voters prepare to go to the polls next week, there's a major battle in that Texas city over an LGBT nondiscrimination measure.

Both supporters and opponents are fired up over the proposed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — dubbed "HERO."

Regrettably, an Associated Press report on Tuesday's ballot measure tilts heavily in favor of one side. 

Guess which one:

HOUSTON — After a drawn-out showdown between Houston’s popular lesbian mayor and a coalition of conservative pastors, voters in the nation’s fourth-largest city will soon decide whether to establish nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people.
Nationwide, there’s interest in the Nov. 3 referendum: Confrontations over the same issue are flaring in many places, at the state and local level, now that nondiscrimination has replaced same-sex marriage as the No. 1 priority for the LGBT-rights movement.
“The vote in Houston will carry national significance,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights group. She noted that Houston, with 2.2 million residents, is more populous than 15 states.
The contested Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a broad measure that would consolidate existing bans on discrimination tied to race, sex, religion and other categories in employment, housing and public accommodations, and extend such protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

Rather than treat the nation's news consumers to an impartial account of the Houston debate, AP frames the issue totally from the perspective of the gay-rights movement. 

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Gay rights in San Antonio: simple quote, complex subject

In San Antonio, a battle over a proposed ordinance to add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the city’s nondiscrimination code has dominated headlines the last few weeks.

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