San Antonio Adds LGBT Protections to Nondiscrimination Ordinance

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com September 05 2013 5:57 PM ET

After months of heated debate that often captured the attention of national news media, the San Antonio City Council voted 8-3 to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its existing nondiscrimination ordinance today, reports the Associated Press. The updated ordinance takes effect immediately. 

San Antonio, the nation's seventh-largest city, now joins nearly 180 other cities nationwide with laws to prohibit discrimination on the basis of perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations, housing, employment, and contracting. 

San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, a Democrat who was an outspoken supporter of the LGBT-inclusive ordinance, called today's vote a victory for fairness. 

"This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio," Castro told the AP. 

Those opposed to making the city's nondiscrimination ordinance inclusive packed City Hall all day Wednesday and on Thursday morning when the public was allowed to comment on the pending action, often citing religious beliefs as a reason why employers should have the right to fire people for being LGBT. Opponents also fixated on the proposed inclusion of gender identity among the protected characteristics, using scare tactics such as claiming that protecting transgender people from being denied housing will result in men rampantly barging into women's restrooms around the city. 

City councilwoman Elisa Chan, who voted against the ordinance today, caught national attention when a former staffer released secretly recorded audio wherein she called LGBT people "disgusting." Chan later defended her remarks as her personal beliefs, protected by the U.S. Constitution's promise of freedom of speech. Chan alluded to the controversy when she cast her vote today. 

"Just because I disagree with the lifestyle of the LGBT community doesn't mean I dislike them," Chan said before the vote, according to the AP. "Similarly, just because one opposes this ordinance does not mean one is for discrimination."

Supporters were also vocal, however, and rallied in force to attend the hearings earlier this week, wearing red shirts to indicate their support for equal treatment of LGBT people in San Antonio.