San Antonio's leaders adopt disputed gay rights measure
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - San Antonio's leaders Thursday approved anti-bias protections for gay and transgender residents, over the disapproval of top Texas Republicans and religious conservatives who packed a City Council hearing and occasionally shamed supporters for comparing the issue to the civil rights movement.
The 8-3 City Council vote in favor of the ordinance was a victory for gay rights advocates and for Democratic Mayor Julian Castro, a top surrogate of President Barack Obama. Castro has called the ordinance overdue in the nation's seventh-largest city, where there is a stronger current of traditionalism and conservatism than other major Texas cities that already have similar gay rights protections.
San Antonio joins nearly 180 other U.S. cities that have nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibit bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio," Castro said.
Supporters in red shirts and opponents in blue sat on opposite sides of the ornate council chamber Thursday. Church leaders vowed petitions to recall council members, and the shouts of protesters outside City Hall often carried through the stone walls of the century-old building.
More than 700 people registered to speak Wednesday during a marathon session of citizen testimony that stretched past midnight.
Dee Villarubia, 67, said she's a former Air Force officer whose landlord at a San Antonio apartment evicted her two years ago because she is gay.
"When I say the pledge of allegiance, I say 'justice for some' because there's an asterisk that means not me," Villarubia said. "Today, I would take that asterisk away and finally say 'justice for all.'"
The local measure roiled conservatives nationwide and was opposed by big-name Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Attention intensified after City Councilwoman Elisa Chan was caught on tape calling homosexuality "disgusting" and arguing that gays should not be allowed to adopt. Chan has defended her comments.
San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard told the council the ordinance would apply to most city contracts and contractors. It prohibits council members from discriminating in their official capacity and forbids workers in public accommodation jobs from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Opponents say the ordinance - which takes effect immediately - would stifle religious expression and does not have the support of most of the city's residents.