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Arts & Culture

Just Happens to be LGBT: The NDO’s lasting impression

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DeeDee Belmares

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LGBT San Antonians have much to be thankful for. With the San Antonio City Council’s non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) passed, we can rely on the knowledge that our city has our back when it comes to equal protection under the law. Aside from some religious exemptions, no one in the city can deny gay, lesbian or transgender people from access to a place of business or fair housing. The City has ensured—like the vast majority of Fortune 500 companies—equal employment opportunity. Although this column is more about community than about politics or policy, it’s worthwhile to continue digesting the NDO vote’s impact.

We’re here. We’re queer. Get over it. Let’s find a way to live together. If there’s anything the NDO process demonstrated, it’s that LGBT people don’t hide under rocks. Now, I’m not a fan of the “get over it” mentality because it automatically comes off as divisive. Instead, let’s find a way to understand one another better.

Granted, that’s difficult. There has been no real dialogue between the LGBT groups and allies who supported the ordinance and the religious entities that opposed it. This point was made on the day of the vote by Councilman Diego Bernal, who also bemoaned the fact that he had better discussions with outside groups than he did with some of his own colleagues on City Council.

If we can’t find ways to have open, honest, non-judgmental discussion on both sides, then the NDO vote is only a good thing, not yet a great thing. If you or someone you know is already working on bridging that divide, please email me. That’s tough work worth focusing on.

Transgender folks are also here. And here to stay. When the coalition group CAUSA started on the journey to add both gender identity and sexual orientation to the NDO, the decision was made from the beginning to leave no one behind. That decision was a proud day for many, because trans people have often been left out of the equality equation. Thank goodness for District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña’s friendly amendment to the NDO on September 5 that altered the less-than-desirable language about the possible prohibition of bathroom use by people of the opposite sex. Now, the language bars people from entering “any sex-segregated space for unlawful purpose.” (Stay tuned for my article in our October 30 issue, focusing on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.)

What you don’t know can hurt you. As we all know, ignorance of the law does not prevent us from being subject to it. But that doesn’t just mean that we may accidentally break laws we’re not aware of; it also means that we may be protected by laws that we don’t know of. Although the vast majority of people I know are quite aware that the NDO now protects them, I’ve encountered a small number of LGBT folks who don’t even know that it exists. (OK, so maybe some LGBT people DO live under rocks!) Spread the word about LGBT equality now being the legal expectation, not just a mere exception, in our city.

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