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Cover 09/04/2013

The Biggest Little Gay Rights Battle in Texas: An NDO timeline

Photo: Photos by Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Photos by Mary Tuma

Throughout the summer, red-shirted NDO supporters have demonstrated outside and inside City Hall, as have blue-shirted NDO opposition groups

Photo: , License: N/A



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It's been a long, bumpy road for a seemingly simple rule update. The City of San Antonio has long had a non-discrimination ordinance in place, which protects citizens from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and handicap in dealings with City employees, City contracts and subcontracts, board and commission appointments and housing and public accommodations. Starting at least 15 years ago, the local LGBT community has sought to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to those groups protected from discrimination. Some similar protections offered by municipalities stretch as far back as three decades (Austin, which added gender identity in 2004) and even the relatively conservative city of Fort Worth had sexual orientation protections in place since 2000.

While two serious attempts (in 1998 and 2011) to get non-discrimination laws to cover members of the LGBT community failed in San Antonio, cities such as El Paso, Houston and even Waco made efforts to protect gay and/or transgender citizens from discrimination in public accommodations, city employment and city contract bids, among other criteria.

When the Human Rights Campaign released a dismal San Antonio score on their annual Municipal Equality Index, (48 out of 100, four points behind Houston, the second-lowest ranked Texas city) the Mayor's office renewed its efforts to reach out to the LGBT community, simultaneously re-igniting the non-discrimination ordinance debate. But the conservative community wasn't about to let the last major Texas hold-out on these ordinances go quietly, turning what ought to have been a minor, but symbolically significant, code update into a months-long battle royale pitting LGBT citizens and progressives against religious activists and social conservatives which stretched far beyond SA's geographic boundaries.

1998: The City of San Antonio makes its first attempt at protecting municipal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The measure was withdrawn before a vote due to public controversy.

Summer 2011: CAUSA (Community Alliance for a United San Antonio) forms to, among other things, lobby City Hall for LGBT issues. They begin talking to District 1 council hopeful Diego Bernal about including sexual orientation and gender identity in the city's non-discrimination ordinances.

Fall 2011: While the City passes domestic partner benefits for city employees, talk of protecting LGBT members from discrimination is tabled. Undeterred, CAUSA members resume NDO talks in November.

January 17, 2013: Mayor Castro's newly named LGBT community liaison, Adam Greenup, tells the Current one of his goals is to update the City's non-discrimination ordinance to include members of the LGBT community.

May 7, 2013: District 1 City Council member Diego Bernal, now running unopposed for re-election, announces that he will file a council consideration request to update the city's non-discrimination ordinances (NDO) to include "sexual orientation and gender identity." He believed he could have it up for a vote by mid-June at the latest.

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