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Op-ed: San Antonio Mayor Needs to Protect Her LGBT Constituents

Op-ed: San Antonio Mayor Needs to Protect Her LGBT Constituents


LGBT people are in the fight of their lives in Texas, but San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor says that's all just a waste of time.

When more than 20 anti-LGBT bills attacking marriage equality, transgender equality, and existing nondiscrimination protections were introduced in the Texas legislature this year, the mayor of San Antonio, Ivy Taylor, recently explained why she voted against expanding San Antonio's nondiscrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity when she was a City Council member two years ago.

"I did not feel we should have even been debating that issue," she said. "I thought it was a waste of time."

Despite that full-frontal assault against LGBT people taking place in Austin for all the world to see, Mayor Taylor seems oblivious to the discrimination LGBT people face on a daily basis. It wasn't too long ago that San Antonio had a pro-LGBT mayor in Julian Castro, who signed the city's nondiscrimination measure into law against the objections of politicians like Taylor.

Taylor has since apologized for her remarks -- sort of. According to Taylor, it was never her intent to "insult or demean" LGBT people and she is "sorry for the pain and confusion my words have caused." At a time when Taylor is in a heated fight for reelection after being appointed mayor this summer, those words ring hollow. But if Taylor is serious about smoothing over the backlash from her calling LGBT nondiscrimination protections a "waste of time," then we need to see more than words. We need to see action.

As good as San Antonio's LGBT protections are -- especially for a city in the heart of Texas -- they don't go nearly far enough. If Taylor truly has the back of LGBT people, she must call on the City Council to expand the current law to protect all LGBT San Antonians from employment discrimination, not just city employees and those who do business with the city.

In addition, the current law, which also covers housing and public accommodations, must be implemented with vigor and with the full support of the mayor. As Mayor Taylor criticizes public officials for their lack of focus on implementation, she too bears just as much responsibility for implementing the ordinance. Unfortunately, we haven't seen that yet under Mayor Taylor, and the Human Rights Campaign has joined Equality Texas in calling for better enforcement of the law and the creation of a mechanism for receiving and handling complaints. Mayor Taylor should immediately continue the implementation of the city's nondiscrimination ordinance by completing the development of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as well as allocating the necessary funds for hiring the proposed staff person to head up that office. That's how Mayor Taylor can prove to San Antonians and the entire LGBT community she's serious when she says she's "sorry for the pain and confusion" her words have caused. To do anything less would be a disservice to her constituents.

With marriage equality now back before the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, now more than ever is it important to turn our focus to what's beyond marriage. Those Texas weddings are long overdue, and they're coming soon. But if we are truly created equal, it's time our laws reflect that, including in Texas. San Antonians who get married on Sunday shouldn't be able to be fired from their jobs Monday morning simply for posting a wedding photo on Facebook.

Beyond marriage, we need to send a message to those elected officials who still choose to cement their feet on the side of discrimination, folks who in this day and age refuse to see the urgent need for these protections: If you won't stand with us on the right side of history, we'll replace you with someone who will.

Times are changing, and it's time for Mayor Taylor to catch up.

CHAD GRIFFIN is the president of the Human Rights Campaign.

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