The QueQue: Ramen noodles, Bexar County, and wage theft, LGBT discrimination and SA city codes, Bernal driving out the moneychangers
Published: June 27, 2012
Worried that the city's non-discrimination provisions don't fully protect gay, lesbian, and transgender residents, a coalition of LGBT community activists joined forces last summer to get five words added to five different sections of city code. By inserting "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the sections covering non-discrimination, public accommodations, fair housing, city contracts, and the appointment of board and commission members, San Antonio would catch up to other major Texas metros, all of which have already added similar language, said Richard Farias with Equality Texas.
"Really, where we're at now is we're the last major city in Texas that doesn't have any kind of LGBT protective language in its ordinances," Farias said. Austin and Fort Worth have some of the state's most progressive and inclusive ordinances. "San Antonio has nothing."
Downtown councilman and one-time civil rights attorney Diego Bernal talked openly about the need to change that when running for office last year, gaining support from much of San Antonio's gay community. Farias said the coalition that came to be called the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio — made up of the local Human Rights Council, Equality Texas, Stonewall Democrats, the LGBT-inclusive Metropolitan Community Church, and others — has always eyed him as the council member to carry the ordinance changes through City Hall.
But just about a month and a half after the group started meeting last summer, SA City Manger Sheryl Sculley diverted the group's focus by granting gay city employees domestic partner benefits with the release of her proposed city budget. The group switched focus, moving instead to drum up loud support for Sculley. "We had to divert our attention, jump onto something that already had traction."
By November Farias and others were back on track, meeting with Mayor Julián Castro and Bernal to discuss the prospect of strengthening SA's non-discrimination policies. "We basically wanted to make sure they were on board with us to try to gather support in the community," he said. "They were."
City Hall insiders say it could be a tough sell. Some worry the language covering non-discrimination in awarding city contracts could get the hardest push-back from business and development groups, who might view it as an unnecessary burden. Others wondered whether the votes are there. However, a number incidents over the past four years illustrate the need.
In early 2009, a Bexar County Sheriff's deputy on duty at the Rolling Oaks Mall arrested two 22-year-old women for trespassing. The reason? He didn't want them kissing in the mall.
In 2008, Taco Cabana backed out of catering a Gay Chamber meeting when it learned that it was an LGBT gathering, QSanAntonio reported. In 2010, Plaza de Armas broke news that the San Antonio Police Officers Association lobbied council members in an attempt to derail or delay the appointment of Ruby Krebs, a tough transgender-rights activist who had pushed for changes in the department. Last summer, the Northside's Wild West country bar kicked out two gay men for trying to dance with each other. "It's not abstract. We think these policies are really needed," Farias said.