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San Antonio passes non-discrimination ordinance

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The City Council, over stiff opposition by conservative Republicans and Religious Right ministers, voted today to approve a fully inclusive non-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance adds sexual orientation and gender identity protections into city ordinances governing city employment, contracting, housing and public accommodations. The City Council passed the updates by a 8-3 vote, and despite an ugly smear campaign mounted by anti-LGBT activists that included harmful propaganda directed particularly at transgender San Antonians.

“The San Antonio City Council did the right thing today in updating their ordinances to reflect the basic value that all city residents deserve to be treated equally under the law,” Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said. “Mayor Julian Castro’s support and leadership on getting this done shows his real commitment to making San Antonio a world-class city where all citizens are treated with dignity and respect. Today’s vote is a victory, but the attacks we saw from our opposition in the run-up to this - particularly the transphobic messaging - remind us of the ruthless tactics they use to promote discrimination against LGBT people.

San Antonio joins Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and other major Texas cities in making it illegal to discriminate against the LGBT community.

The City Council chambers were packed with supporters and opponents, creating a tense situation. Supporters work red shirts and opponents wore blue shirts.

The nation's seventh-largest city -- a fast-growing community that recently overtook San Diego in population -- joins almost 180 other American cities, including San Diego, that have passed similar laws.

San Antonio became a lightning rod for the anti-gay forces over this ordinance, largely because Texas is heating up for statewide elections. While conservative Republicans and Tea Party favorites hold every major statewide office, the big cities in Texas are all leaning Democratic and progressive. So the ordinance became a line in the sand for many politicians and religious figures.

The gay community in Texas has won several major political victories: Houston, the nation's fourth-largest city, is run by lesbian Mayor Annise Parker; Dallas County has re-elected lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who burst on the national stage at last year's Democratic National Convention, is considered a rising political star in Texas. His twin brother, Joaquin Castro, represents the San Antonio area in the U.S. House of Representatives.

HRC officials said they havebeen on the ground in San Antonio with strategic support and field resources since January to organize support for the ordinance updates, and was proud to partner with the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) in bringing the updates to a successful council vote.

San Antonio Councilman Diego Bernal was the sponsor of this bill, and the ordinance updates also enjoyed the strong backing of Mayor Castro. The mayor’s LGBT Liaison Adam Greenup was instrumental in the success of this ordinance. In addition to CAUSA, a number of other groups contributed to today’s victory, including Equality Texas, the San Antonio Gender Alliance, Transgender Education Network of Texas, and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. HRC San Antonio Steering Committee Members Chad Reumann, Anna Perez, Gilbert Casillas and Jennifer Ingram played pivotal roles in shaping today’s success.

San Antonio scored 48 out of 100 points on the HRC Foundation’s 2012 Municipal Equality Index, and HRC officials said they expect that score to improve dramatically this year as a result of Mayor Castro’s leadership. The MEI is a nationwide evaluation of municipal laws affecting the LGBT community. It examines the laws, policies and services of municipalities from across the country and rates them on the basis of the inclusivity of LGBT people in the city’s laws and policies.

Meanwhile, GetEQUAL Texas organizer Jennifer Falcon celebrated the victory.

"Today San Antonio made great strides in the worldwide movement for LGBT equality. I am proud today to thank our Councilmembers and the CAUSA coalition for their hard work, and I'm proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of San Antonio who supported this ordinance after months of debate and long hours of testimony. Today is a very, very proud day."

"Today our community took a bold stand in demanding that all be protected," said Jay Morris-Spriggs, a lead organizer with GetEQUAL Texas. "The united voices of our community could not be silenced and we stand not only with a new city ordinance protecting all of the LGBT community, but with a new-found sense of community that will continue forward on the path to full equality."

David Cisneros, a San Antonio organizer with GetEQUAL Texas, stated, "We are filled with pride in our city, its leaders, and those who poured countless hours, weeks, and months into working toward this ordinance. As someone who is descended from the founding families of San Antonio, I can honestly say I've never been prouder of this city and its people."

"Texas is on the front lines of a national movement for civil rights and social progress," said Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL. "From immigration to LGBT equality to reproductive justice, all eyes are on Texas. As a native Texan, I'm proud that GetEQUAL Texas has put a stake in the ground there, ensuring that the Lone Star State will become the home of an intersectional movement for justice. Though the work ahead of us continues, today I'm proud of the innumerable LGBT and allied Texans who came forward, shared their stories, and created an unceasing drumbeat for justice."