S.A. council adds LGBT protections to city's non-discrination ordinance

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by Jeff Anastasio / KENS 5

kens5.com

Posted on September 5, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 4:07 PM

SAN ANTONIO -- In front of a packed house Thursday, the San Antonio City Council voted to amend the city's non-discrimination ordinance to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. 

San Antonio joins the list of other major Texas cities that have already approved similar amendments, including Houston, Dallas and Austin.

Mayor Julian Castro said the ordinance had significant support from all sectors of the city including government organizations and local businesses such as the San Antonio Spurs.

"This ordinance fundamentally is about ensuring whether white or black, Christian or Jew, whether straight or gay, San Antonio belongs to you."

The decision came after an extended public comment session, during which more than 2,000 citizens from both sides of the issue addressed city leaders with their concerns. 

Citizens for and against the proposal made impassioned pleas, often with cheers rising from the audience.

Those who supported the decision said the amendment adds better protections for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people.

A former Air Force officer, told the council: "Every time I say the Pledge of Allegiance, even today, I say, 'justice for some,' 'cause there's an asterisk. That means not me."

"Today, you will take the asterisk away, and I will be able to say, 'justice for all.'"

Those fighting the change argued that it violates their religious freedom and hinders their right to speak out against a way of life that they believe goes against their religious views.

"Such an ordinance divides the city and puts the faith community in a 'second class citizen' status," Pastor Charles Flowers told the council.  Saying the 'fight starts today,' Flowers promised to work to unseat council members who voted in favor of the ordinance.

The debate to amend the non-discrimination code also made headlines in the past few weeks after a secret recording of a council member's opinions about the ordinance was released.

District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan's comments sparked national headlines. In the audio recording, she could be heard calling homosexuals "disgusting" and said gays should not be allowed to adopt children.

Chan acknowledged her remarks might be viewed as offensive, but asserted they were intended for a closed meeting on the ordinance. 

James Stevens, a former aide to Chan, told KENS 5's Jeff Goldblatt why he decided to record and release the audio.

Another portion of the recording made specific reference to former Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna and her partner. Chan apologized for those remarks.

Religious groups have protested the ordinance, saying it would hinder the civil rights of church leaders and followers.

"I am for equality," Mark Longoria told the council.  "The problem that I have is you criminalize us if we speak our faith."

"Sadly, the walls of this chamber reek of injustice this morning." Sylvia Villarreal told the audience.

For many, Thursday's vote sparked hope for a broader movement on sexual orientation issues in the Alamo City. 

"Today, I hope to end my workday as an equal citizen in Texas and a equal citizen in San Antonio." Justin Nichols said.

The changes are effective immediately.

  • S.A. Non-discrimination Ordinance: Click here for complete KENS 5 coverage


VOTE ON LGBT NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCE

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro - YES
District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal - YES
District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor - NO
District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran - YES
District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana - YES
District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales - YES
District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez - YES
District 7 Councilman Cris Medina - YES
District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg - YES
District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan - NO
District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules - NO


VOTE ON VETERANS NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCE

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro - YES
District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal - YES
District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor - YES
District 3 Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran - YES
District 4 Councilman Rey Saldana - YES
District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales - YES
District 6 Councilman Ray Lopez - YES
District 7 Councilman Cris Medina - YES
District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg - YES
District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan - NO
District 10 Councilman Carlton Soules - NO
 

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