San Antonio Debates Nondiscrimination Ordinance
May 22, 2013 by Karin Quimby, Regional Field Director
HRC has been on the ground since January assisting the local coalition Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) in urging the city council to pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations.
On May 21, Councilmember Diego Bernal brought forward a council consideration request to the governance committee to amend the city codes to include sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status as protected categories. Over 100 supporters of fairness and equality filled the chambers. We dramatically outnumbered our opponents who were there somehow thinking that the committee was debating same-sex marriage as they were wearing the familiar stickers claiming: one man + one woman = marriage. But they weren’t the only ones who were confused. Several members of the committee said they needed more time to think about it, apparently not understanding their own initial comments that they oppose discrimination in any form. In the end, 3 of the 5 committee members were not willing to move forward to actually prohibit the discrimination they supposedly oppose.
Our champions, Mayor Julian Castro and Councilmember Diego Bernal, made the case that they are simply proposing protections that are extended to other protected classes like race, religion, and gender. They also acknowledged that San Antonio is lagging behind other Texas cities like Ft. Worth, Dallas and Austin who already have these protections in place. But then Mayor Castro drew a line in the sand when he said decidedly, “I believe that we cannot have second-class citizens in this city” and that “if you are for this ordinance you are against discrimination. If you are against this ordinance you are for discrimination.” The room full of supporters broke out into loud applause. Lauryn Farris, from the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), later said that when the city code is amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity, it will be the first time in San Antonio that transgender people will be protected. We are all impatient for that day.
The governance committee moved to bring the issue back as a “B Session” which means the full city council will have the opportunity to be briefed and to ask questions before it moves on to a vote. We are asking our San Antonio supporters to call their city council members immediately to ask them to support fairness and equality for all San Antonians.
After the meeting, CAUSA held a press conference where mothers, business owners, clergy, a transgender spokesperson, and our very own Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, who lives in San Antonio, spoke in personal and powerful ways reminding us that informing this decision by the city council is the value that most all hold dear. As Rev. Charles Fredrickson, pastor of San Antonio’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, reminded us: We are called to treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated.
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