LGBT Liaison in Castro's corner
Published: January 23, 2013
When the Human Rights Campaign released its 2012 Municipal Equality Index, San Antonio scored a 48 out of 100, compared to Austin's and Dallas' scores of 91 and 76, respectively.
As a reaction, Mayor Julián Castro last week appointed senior policy advisor Adam Greenup to act as an LGBT liaison for his office. When we sat down for lunch last week with Greenup, he told us he had plenty of time working with the LGBT community as chief of staff for former D1 Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros, meeting with bar and business owners on how to improve the Main Street strip and working with SAPD on LGBT-sensitive policing.
First on Greenup's list of priorities is working with City Council to amend five non-discrimination provisions of the city code to include protections for "sexual orientation and gender identity/expression." But beyond that, Greenup says he hopes to boost opportunities for LGBT business owners and possibly even establish a local human rights commission to hear complaints of discrimination in the city. Here are some excerpts from our conversation with Greenup.
What did the HRC index show the Mayor's office about LGBT equality in San Antonio?
I think the HRC equality index shows we have a lot of opportunity for improvement. We had been looking at updating our non-discrimination ordinances prior to the HRC index even coming out. We're looking at best practices in other cities, and Texas is actually fortunate that we have a number of cities that have already moved in that direction. We have models to follow. We've reached out to Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin, and they're telling us how they did it. We're just trying to find a way to implement it here in a way that makes sense.
Here, [City Manager Sheryl] Sculley already issued an administrative directive ordering the city to do much of what we're asking be codified in an ordinance. So, I think that shows the olive branch has already been extended. There's not this overwhelming need to act right now in response to some terrible event. But the city attorney's office, city manager, and Council District 1 are all already involved with this, trying to figure out a timeline that works best. We're targeting probably sometime toward the end of this year.
The areas that Sculley's administrative directive does not extend to relates to non-discrimination in public accommodations, public housing, and board and commission appointments. There is a need for fixing that. And the fear with any administrative directive is that it can be changed at any time. Were a different city manager to come in and change it, we'd be starting back again at square one. If we codify the ordinance, I think that goes a long way. It's something that's on the book and something that's going to stay.
Do you suspect that will be controversial when it goes before Council, much like when Council approved domestic partner benefits for city employees?
There's always going to be a group of people who has a negative reaction to these issues. They're going to be vocal and come out just like they did with the domestic partnership benefits issue. But I think with a lot of people, the issue they had with that is it seemed like marriage. This [updating non-discrimination ordinances] is really about ensuring discriminatory practices are prevented from happening for a group of people. We already have protected classes when it comes to race, nationality, gender, and such. This would be extending the same protective status to another group of people that's been long maligned.
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