A group of church leaders are suing the city of Austin, hoping for an exemption to that city's non-discrimination ordinance, but experts say it's a move that could have ripple effects across the state of Texas, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
The U.S. Pastor Council, which represents one thousand member churches, is challenging the ban on hiring and fire based on sexual orientation.
"Because these member churches rely on the Bible rather than modern-day cultural fads for religious and moral guidance, they will not hire practicing homosexuals or transgendered people as clergy," the lawsuit reads.
San Antonio has an ordinance similar to Austin, and if the lawsuit is effective there, legal experts predict it will be the first of many legal challenges.
Attorney Holt Lackey, who specializes in employment law and has helped clients argue discrimination cases, says the reasoning behind the lawsuit threatens any municipality's ability to have a non-discrimination ordinance.
"This is an opening shot in a new battle of an ongoing fight about the intersection of religious liberty and non-discrimination law," he says.
Win or lose, he predicts that the lawsuit merely sets up a larger debate when state lawmakers get back to work in January.
"The relief that the pastors are seeking is a longshot," he explains. "Sometimes people file a lawsuit to lay a marker."Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso all have non-discrimination ordinances that could be challenged by a new state law