UPDATED: San Antonio Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Ordinance

March in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance outside San Antonio City Council meeting.

UPDATE, 2:43 pm: The non-discrimination ordinance passed 8-3 and goes into effect immediately. Although religious right organizations have promised to sue, the lopsided vote brings to a close what became an unexpectedly heated debate over a rather innocuous local measure that’s already on the books in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, El Paso and more than 170 other cities nationwide.

Mayor Julian Castro gave the final word before the vote.

“Whether you are white or black, Christian or Jew, whether you are straight or gay, San Antonio belongs to you too,” he said. “This is a city that belongs to everyone. This ordinance is about saying there are no second class citizens in San Antonio.”

LGBT groups declared the vote a victory for equality but some expressed dismay at the rancorous tone adopted by some opponents. “Today’s vote is a victory, but the attacks we saw from our opposition in the run-up to this—particularly the transphobic messaging—remind us of the ruthless tactics they use to promote discrimination against LGBT people,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement.

Councilwoman Elisa Chan, who earned notoriety after a secret recording revealed her unvarnished views on homosexuality, gave a defiant speech before the vote.

“I’m disappointed that the power of political correctness has prevailed over the freedom of speech,” Chan said. Those expecting her to apologize for her “it’s disgusting” remarks might’ve been disappointed too.

“Just because I disagree with the lifestyle choice of LGBT community doesn’t meant that I dislike them,” she said. “Similarly just because one opposes this ordinance, that doesn’t mean one is for discrimination.”

At the end of the day, though, the question before the City Council was simple: whether to continue to make it legal for people to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the city of San Antonio. Everything else was either an invented issue (men in the women’s restroom!) or a side issue (the precise wording of the ordinance). In the end, a majority decided that LGBT people are deserving of the same protection as other protected groups.

You got the sense from listening to the NDO opponents that they know neither time nor momentum is on their side—even in Texas, where just about every Republican running for statewide office weighed in against the ordinance. (My favorite was state Sen. Donna Campbell worrying that “Tolerance is going too far in this instance.”) They had about them an air of desperation and a hint of the self-pitying righteousness that comes when your point of view falls from favor.

Although same-sex marriage or civil unions or a statewide anti-discrimination law isn’t coming anytime soon to Texas, it’s unlikely that the future holds any more rollbacks for the LGBT community. The vote on the San Antonio ordinance wasn’t even close, 8-3. And barring the wrath of God that some predicted would be unleashed upon the city, the ordinance is unlikely to change much of anything. But it is a fight that the LGBT equality movement won and the other side lost. It’s just strange that they came to die on a molehill.

UPDATE, 12:25 pm: After taking citizen testimony for several hours, the Council is on a lunch break. Business is expected to reconvene around 1 pm and Mayor Julian Castro plans to take a vote by 2 pm. The NDO measure is expected to pass 8-3 or 7-4.

Testimony this morning was mostly a redux of last night, with the opponents looking a bit more glum. Generally, I don’t think the blue shirts helped their cause a lot by threatening to unseat anyone who votes for the ordinance or by the bizarre and at times blatantly homophobic ramblings of several of that side’s speakers.

Several speakers told the Council that gay people do not suffer any discrimination.
“This [ordinance] is for something that doesn’t exist,” said Pete Ortega. “There is no history of discrimination against the gay, lesbian community.” He went to explain that LGBT folks won’t be discriminated against as long as they don’t act gay.

“I cannot detect homosexuals,” he said. “Unless they make it a point to identify themselves through their dress, I cannot tell. They can go through society undetectable which means they do not have to be discriminated. They can blend in.”

Another man, Patrick Von Dohlen, indulged in some good old-fashioned gay shaming. “God forgives, but nature doesn’t,” he warned, after briefly citing the much-maligned UT-Austin Regnerus study. Von Dohlen then gave an anatomical lesson involving anuses, penises and “toxic waste.”

It was instructive that in this final hour—after all the talk of sexual predators in the restroom and other red herrings—that so many opposed to the ordinance laid their cards on the table.

“I love the person but I hate the sin,” said a third man. “Homosexuality is a sin, it’s a filthy lifestyle.”

Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, Donna Campbell, Barry Smitherman and many other high-ranking GOP elected officials have registered their opposition to the non-discrimination ordinance.

ORIGINAL STORY: Last night, the San Antonio City Council chamber was a house divided between red and blue as hundreds lined up for and against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance.

Opponents of the measure—which would add sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to the city’s list of groups protected from discrimination—wore blue and sat on the right. They carried bibles and claimed the ordinance would stifle free speech and persecute Christians. On the other side of the chamber, proponents wore red and urged the City Council, led by Mayor Julian Castro, to stand up for equality and the rights of the LGBT community. This being San Antonio, both sides sounded themes of family, Christian charity and pleaded the case for veterans. With more than 700 signed up to speak, citizen testimony lasted until 1 a.m. City Council reconvenes at  9 a.m. and the measure is expected to pass later today.

The religious right groups opposing the non-discrimination ordinance have picked an odd fight. San Antonio is proposing updates to its ordinance that would bring it in line with every other major city in Texas—Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and El Paso—and some 180 cities around the nation. Some states, not Texas of course, have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of housing, public accommodations and the like. Constitutional and other legal challenges to such laws have long ago been exhausted. The author of the proposed changes, San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal, has repeatedly pointed out that he’s doing little more than adding sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability.


But opponents insist that it’s they—Christians who oppose homosexuality—who will be discriminated against. They’ve cloaked their position in the language of human rights and free speech. One of their groups is called the San Antonio Human Rights Coalition.

Last night, the blue shirts quoted Scripture, warned of God’s wrath, compared the ordinance to Nazism and slavery, and railed against what one speaker, Pastor Charles Flowers, called the “homosexual, lesbian and gender-confused community.”

“[The ordinance] seeks to legitimatize behavior that God calls an abomination,” one man told the Council. “It discriminates against God’s people. Thou shall not lie with mankind as womankind.”

 Jon Kaplan of San Antonio warned that he could imagine the Council “charging and convicting [Councilwoman Elisa Chan] to quash her point of view.” (Chan was caught on tape calling gay people “disgusting.”)

Many intimated that God would punish the city if the ordinance passes. “History clearly shows us that any culture that turns away from God will fall into decline and it will be cut off from God’s blessings,” said Jay Braymer. “This ordinance would bring condemnation on the city of San Antonio. Ultimately you’ll have to answer to God for how you vote tomorrow.”

Kelli Farris, wearing red, summed up the feeling on her side of the room when she said, “If anyone made the case for why this ordinance is needed every time you speak you’ve made that case.”

One of the points of contention has been which side can lay claim to the civil rights movement. Flowers, who preaches “Holy Ghost healthcare” at his San Antonio church, complained last night that the “homosexual, lesbian and gender-confused community” is seeking “to piggyback on the civil rights movement.” Sexual orientation, unlike race, is a choice and a perversion at that, he said. (Of course, one’s personal faith cannot be compelled and is therefore a choice, but is nonetheless covered by the local non-discrimination ordinance.)

But Nettie Hinton, a 74-year-old woman who was at the March on Washington in 1963, told me that Flowers “clearly has a warped view of what civil rights means.”

“This is about civil rights and human rights,” she said. “It’s not a choice. It is how God has created people, just as I was born black and I have not chosen to be black. God creates people and he does not make mistakes.”

Check back here or follow me on Twitter (@forrest4trees) for updates from today’s City Council vote.

  • radsenior

    Civil rights does not differentiate – People do! Different people have a right to live their lives the way they see fit. People do not have the right to impose thier skewed notions or views onto others. Those who want to intervene and force their views sholdnever be voted into office. Texas has too many warped mental types in office across the state who would and do impose their views onto others just because they want to. This is a call to arms to get registered and not allow minority segments of society to rule the majority. In the meantime let’s get started by doing your part by grabbing a few voter registration forms and sitting outside grocery stores, churches and state drivers license offices. Make waves and show your interest in getting others ready to vote early. Staying behind and hoping others will do their part is not the American way. Get busy – Get involved – Get Registered – Get out the vote! All Americans should STAND YOUR GROUND when voting. NO ONE SHOULD KEEP YOU FROM VOTING, REGISTERING OTHERS TO VOTE, OR GETTING OUT THE VOTE! DO NOT ALLOW ANYONE TO KEEP YOU FROM VOTING. V.O.T.E.(Vote Out The Encumberance)

  • SoberMoney

    Take that, Ms. Chan, and put it in your wok and cook it.

  • Glenna Jones-Kachtik

    I am not sure HOW Chan figures that her (or any other Christian’s) right to freedom of speech was infringed upon. Her side had plenty of opportunities to say what they wanted & they did…I heard that one guy said he didn’t fight in the navy so HIS rights could be taken away (he was against the measure). I am not sure how making sure that LGBTQ people have the same civil rights he does takes any rights away from him. Gay people have freedom of speech too. It is telling that Chan blames the gay people for her remarks – as dumb as they were.

    It is pathetic to see people like Rev. (& he calls himself that – he’s not like any pastor I ever saw) Flowers can preach about the sin of being gay & how they shouldn’t have any rights – I am not sure why HE is still free & not in jail after dragging a 15 year old girl behind his truck at his “boot camp”. Somehow, that doesn’t qualify as Christian to me – nor the woman who told one of the participants on the “winning side” to get the F**k out of her face…….Hatred wraped in religiosity is still hatred.

    • Shallymar

      Way to. go Glenna! Spoken like a true non-believer. Your words prove your ignorance as to the consequences of this law and any similar to it. Christians will suffer from this, like the Christian bakers in Oregon who refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple siting it was against the tenets of their religion. They could have had a cake made by many other bakers, but chose not to. They caused such an ordeal over this that Sweet Cakes bakery had no choice but to close their doors. Way to go LGBT community. They don’t care about the rights for everyone, only the rights of the deviants. One day, Glenna, on bended knee, you will confess God is Lord Almighty. Hopefully it is before you take your last breath.

      • Glenna Jones-Kachtik

        The only consequences of this law is that gay people will not be discriminated against. People can’t fire them for being gay. People can’t not hire them for being gay. They can’t refuse them admittance into the hospital room where their partner is…It really had nothing to do with same sex marriage. People shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate because of religious reasons. Christians in America are not now, nor have they ever suffered. That 1st Amendment right thing works BOTH ways. Christianity is not set apart as THE religion. I am not gay but I have real friends & facebook friends who are. I just think it is in bad form when a preacher entices his “flock” to boo a man who was the first person to loose his leg in Iraq because he is gay. When Eric Alva returned home he was a hero & hailed as one. However, when some found out he was gay, all of a sudden he lost his hero status & it became OK to boo him, call him names & generally deny him rights. This for someone who laid HIS life down on the line for those who are actively discriminating against him now. They think he should be denied rights because he is gay.

        As for your Oregon bakers??? They are discriminating. The ordinance clearly states that they cannot discriminate because of sexual preference. If they advertise that they make wedding cakes, that means they make wedding cakes. Just because they will sell a birthday cake to gay people doesn’t disqualify them from being discriminating because they won’t bake a wedding cake…THEY ARE DISCRIMINATING. A wedding cake is a wedding cake – never mind who it is for. What would they have done if someone else had bought & paid for the wedding cake???? Gone to the ceremony & denounced it?

        The thing is, Shallymar, there is a big difference between the laws of man & the laws of GOD. Since this nation is & should be, a nation of secular laws then those secular laws should apply to everyone across the board – be they Christian, Agnostic, Atheist or any other religions. Christians should never receive any better treatment under the LAW than anyone else. God may be the final judge; but not on this earth. Let God judge what HE will. If religion ruled everything, then the world would still be flat, witches would still be burned at the stake & we would live in the dark ages with leeches, no cars & nothing else. We wouldn’t eat pork, shellfish or work on Sunday without being stoned to death. Jehovah’s Witnesses could refuse to pay for blood transfusions or organ donations; Other religions could refuse to use medications because prayer works….
        You be sure to let me know when Christians in America are thrown into jail for reading their bibles, praying in public or preaching on the street corners…THAT is discrimination & I will stand right along side you & denounce it. But some person screaming about his religious rights being violated because gay people can’t be discriminated against just doesn’t fill that bill.

        I live a good life, I am kind, I am generous, I try to leave the world a better place than I found it. I really don’t have any fears about meeting my maker – so thanks anyway. I will keep YOU in my prayers – that you learn some compassion & some humanity.

  • Melissa

    The City of Brownsville passed an ordinance, too, sometime last year. There was no opposition.

  • SoberMoney

    In this article, SA Councilwoman Chan was quoted as saying:

    “I’m disappointed that the power of political correctness has prevailed over the freedom of speech.”
    In her case, the comment was a distorted justification for her homophobia than anything else.

    Yet yesterday I wrote a supportive and valid comment in here about getting the SA ordinance passed. Yet for the same absurd political correctness reason that Ms. Chan defended herself, the Observer deleted my comment because I humorously used the innocuous Asian cooking reference “wok” in my comments.

    Clearly, mindless political correction is unfortunately rampant in too many circles of politics. Hence, The Observer is just as guilty of sacrificing freedom of speech for mindless political correctness, and only for a very minor humor reference to Ms. Chan’s major social blunder.

    In the end, it is too bad that the crazy right wing sometimes end up being correct about liberals, simply because liberals are often no less boringly self-righteous with their rhetoric and abuse of power than the right wing.

    Mort Saul once said: “In every liberal there’s a fascist trying to get out.” Hmmm!

    • Editors

      We deleted your comment because, like most blogs and news sites, we have a policy against slanderous, abusive, hateful or racist language. Replace “wok” with other ethnic food stereotypes and perhaps you can see why it might be offensive. We appreciate your understanding and encourage you continue to comment on our site.

      • http://www.dogsagainstromney.com dogsagainstromney.com

        Wow, we really need you to come to clickondetroit dot com. Or at least try and school their “editors”.

  • Dr. Marjorie Coppock

    I was pleased to see my posters on display. I guess the poster honoring prudent behavior in love referred to both common sense and scripture. The other poster quotes data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

    The previous week I had testified before the City Council to the fact that non-discrimination ordinances have already created freedom of speech casualties within the universities. At a prominent San Antonio university I was teaching a class entitled ‘Death and Dying in America’. In the chapter related to lifestyles related to death I presented statistics from the CDC related to AIDS. A young man spoke up loudly saying, “You can’t teach that because you’re making the homosexual students uncomfortable with their lifestyle.” I said I was giving him data to help him make decisions to survive and thrive. After class he came up to apologize, saying he was grieving because he had lost three friends to AIDS.

    The word reached the Dean. I was called into the office and dismissed in the middle of the semester from continuing to teach the class. This was an egregious violation of both my academic and personal freedoms as well as a violation of the student’s right to know.

    I extend my thanks to Texas Observer for (finally) allowing this information to be presented to help in making decisions to survive and thrive.

    I wish you well.

    • http://www.dogsagainstromney.com dogsagainstromney.com

      Trinity University doesn’t qualify as “prominent”. More like indoctrination for weak minds!

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  • knotwoods

    The Scritpures could not be true if Christians are not persecuted for following God’s laws and principles, not man’s. Christians, stop whining – what did you expect? See 2 Tim 3:12,13 for example. Simply ignore this evil law and its consequences, which is your duty. Do not be afraid of the LGBT and the depraved political class that they control (or vice-versa). Reject their muzzle. Do not be afraid to infringe upon their “rights” by speaking out. In fact, avail yourself of the opportunity affforded to you by God to speak out against evil and be persecuted for it. Indeed, the consequences are there for our benefit in terms of rewards in heaven. The more the LGBT and its political class affiliates hate us, the more we know we’re right.

    Is it time yet? See Luke 17:26-30

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