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DOMA, Prop 8 Rulings Bittersweet for Local LGBT Community

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Locally, activists believe the high court ruling may help influence the passage of the city’s own non-discrimination ordinance, a hotly debated proposed measure that grants the LGBT community equal protections for employment, public accommodations, fair housing, city employment, contracts, and appointments of board and commission members by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to part of municipal code prohibiting discrimination. A vote on the ordinance is expected in August.

“I’m hoping it’s a wake up call for those city council members that might still be undecided [about the ordinance],” said Belmares. “I hope they see it as a general change in the way the country is treating LGBT people. More states and cities are looking at equality across the board.”

And while some couples in San Antonio are able to enjoy domestic partner benefits today, those protections are relegated to city employees and came after a long battle that pitted equal rights activists against right-wing faith leaders.

Adam Greenup, city hall’s LGBT community liaison, expressed enthusiasm about the progress made nationally, but also cautioned the victory’s flipside.

“There seems to be a sense that it’s a giant leap forward, and it is, but it’s nothing to rest our laurels on, especially here in Texas. It’s hard not to think about the competitive advantage other states have now. What’s worrisome is that it’s going to be more difficult to make the case that LGBT people should work and live here when they can be protected in other states.”

For instance, couples that wish to relocate from same-sex marriage protected states like New York, Washington, and Iowa may be granted federal marital benefits – like social security, healthcare, and hospital visitation rights – but will not be recognized in Texas and won’t be awarded any of those rights by the Lone Star state itself, less than alluring for gay and lesbian couples nationwide. And even obtaining those federal benefits could pose an obstacle, as some governmental agencies determine who receives marital perks based on where you live not where you got married.

Chuck Smith with Equality Texas told the Current “For legally married couples living in states that do not recognize their marriage, there are still many questions about when they will be equally able to share in federal protections, responsibilities, and programs. This is because the federal government typically defers to the states in determining whether a couple’s marriage is valid.” Smith did note that employees of the federal government will receive benefits no matter which state they currently call home.

“It’s exciting to see the changes happening,” said a still-optimistic Greenup. “I’m hopeful that we’re going to keep working to achieve that level of quality here to ensure people don’t make the decision to leave.”

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