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PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – A new ordinance protecting gays and lesbians is under fire with opponents vowing to repeal.

Plano passed the Equal Rights Ordinance earlier this month. Now a coalition has formed in opposition.

There’s a growing movement to overturn what happened here at City Hall two weeks ago, and the battle lines are forming for a fight that could go to the voters.

When Plano added sexual orientation and gender identity to its list of protected characteristics, it was immediately met with backlash. Prestonwood Baptist Church hosted an emergency meeting to launch efforts to repeal the ordinance.

“I used to attend Prestonwood Baptist Church, and to see them still continue a hard line stance against gays and lesbians, it’s very discouraging,” Sean Sala said.

Sala is a nationally recognized LGBT activist who grew up in Dallas and recently moved back to the area. He’s called on local leaders to condemn efforts to repeal the equal rights ordinance.

“There is a difference between saying what you believe and then going out to make an organized effort to repeal somebody’s rights,” Sala said.

When asked to comment, a spokesperson for Pastor Jack Graham at Prestonwood Baptist Church referred us to Houston-based Executive Director of the Texas Pastor Council Dave Welch.

“So far we’ve had over 50 churches and many elected officials and other citizen leaders stepping forward to express opposition,” Welch said.

He believes Plano’s ordinance is unfair to those whose beliefs don’t recognize sexual orientation as a protected characteristic.

“Business owners in particular who express their religious beliefs, for example who choose not to provide flowers for a same-sex blessing ceremony or something of that nature,” Welch said.

But Sala insists repealing the ordinance would open the door to widespread discrimination.

“I’m gay. I’m an Iraq war veteran, so I could walk into any business in Plano, and somebody based on their own presumptions of me could deny me service, and I fought for this country. It’s just disgusting,” Sala said.

Opponents have until next month to gather nearly 4000 signatures to get a referendum on the May ballot. It would allow voters to decide this issue.

A spokesperson for the City of Plano released a statement about the ongoing debate over the equal rights ordinance.

It reads in part, ” The City of Plano remains committed to promoting the full enjoyment of civil, religious and human rights for our citizens and visitors. As we implement the Equal Rights Ordinance, we are committed to respecting opinions of all citizens.
Like anyone, Pastor Graham certainly has the right to speak out on the City of Plano Equal Rights Ordinance.”

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