Equal rights in San Antonio

On September 5, 2013, San Antonio, Texas’ City Council voted to expand its non-discrimination ordinance to cover the LGBT community. This means that discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be treated by the city in the same way as racial, gender, religious, and other kinds of discrimination.

Although the ordinance passed in an 8-3 vote (including Mayor Castro), opponents of the measure have promised to force recall elections against City Council members who voted to expand protections to the LGBT community.

What does the proposed law say?

You can read the full non-discrimination ordinance here. This is section 2-550:

(a) It shall be the general policy of the City of San Antonio to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, as set forth in the Divisions following, unless exempted by state or federal law or as otherwise indicated.

(b) A religious corporation, association, society or educational institution or an educational organization operated, supervised or controlled in whole or in substantial part by a religious corporation, association or society does not violate the non-discrimination policy by limiting employment or giving a preference in employment to members of the same religion, as determined solely by the religious corporation, association, or institution.

(c) Nothing in this Ordinance shall be construed as supporting or advocating any particular lifestyle or religious view. To the contrary, it is the intention of this Ordinance that all persons be treated fairly and equally and it is the express intent of this Ordinance to guarantee to all of our citizens fair and equal treatment under the law.

(d) Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring any person or organization to support or advocate any particular lifestyle or religious view, or advance any particular message or idea.

What are people saying about the law?

Despite the fact that similar measures exist in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso, the proposed changes to the ordinance have been controversial.

Unfortunately, some opponents of equality for the LGBT community have been spreading disinformation about the law on conservative news outlets such as Fox News. Media Matters recently documented the problems with many of these arguments:

Right-wing media outlets have smeared a proposed measure in San Antonio to expand the city's non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity, falsely claiming that the revised measure would limit free speech and religious liberty.

However, following some updates to the language of the ordinance, influential evangelical Pastor John Hagee announced that the ordinance does not infringe upon religious rights, according to the Express-News:

“All of the previous language that infringed upon the freedom of speech, the freedom of exercise of religion and the ability for people of faith to serve on City Council has been expunged,” Hagee told the Cornerstone audience, prompting a standing ovation at the first Sunday service.

Councilwoman Elisa Chan revealed that her opposition to the measure stems from a “disgust” for homosexuality in comments secretly recorded by an aide and shared with the Express-News:

“This is my philosophy, guys,” [Chan] says. “Whatever you want to do in your bedroom is none of my business, but do not impose your view on other people, especially becoming policy ... because personally, I think it's just disgusting just to even think about.”

State Senator Leticia Van De Putte recently wrote an eloquent op-ed in the Express-News supporting the changes:

As chairwoman of the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, I was blessed to meet Staff Sergeant Eric Alva. In 2003, this San Antonio native became the first Marine to be seriously injured in the Iraq War, when he stepped on a land mine and lost his right leg.

He fought for us. He fought for you. He very nearly died for our country, and still suffers for it every day. And yet, here in his home state and his home city, he can be denied or fired from a job just because he is gay. It's not right that a man who fought to protect this country is not protected at home — that a man who loves his country is discriminated against because of who he loves.

On August 27, the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced support for the measure:

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber proudly supports the proposed Non-Discrimination Ordinance. We stand behind all efforts to protect all San Antonians from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

In 2012, The Williams Institute, a think tank within the University of California, Los Angeles, released a study of 61 non-discrimination ordinances in the United States which cover sexual orientation and/or gender identity:

Local agency experiences with implementing and enforcing contractor non-discrimination and affirmative action ordinances indicate that these ordinances have value in providing workplace protections for LGBT people.... In sum, the findings of this survey indicate that ordinances that require contractors to adopt non-discrimination and affirmative action policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity result in widespread compliance, with little resistance by contractors or disruption to government operations or activities. For contractor non-discrimination and affirmative action policies, no locality reported additional administrative burden or increased costs.

How can I spread the word?

We are encouraging supporters of LGBT rights to:

  • Share this page with your friends, using the #ndo4sa hashtag on Facebook and Twitter
  • Change your profile photo (aka avatar) on social media sites to the first image below (click for a larger version)
  • Share the map below with friends to help them contact their City Council member (click for a larger version)
  • Share this petition on any social media sites you use

How can I contact my City Council member?

City Council members need to hear from you and your friends about San Antonians’ support for equality. If you’re not sure who represents you on City Council, click the map above. Contact information for City Council is below (members in green supported equality, while members in red voted against it). In addition, consider signing this petition.

District 1: Diego M. Bernal


District 2: Ivy R. Taylor


District 3: Rebecca J. Viagran


District 4: Rey Saldana


District 5: Shirley Gonzales


District 6: Ray Lopez


District 7: Cris Medina


District 8: Ron Nirenberg


District 9: Elisa Chan


District 10: Carlton Soules


Who made this site?

This site and the associated social media campaign were launched by Ben Judson, with lots of helpful input from friends. The push for an expansion of the non-discrimination ordinance came from Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) and its partners, and has been championed by Councilman Diego Bernal. This site is not affiliated with CAUSA, any of its partners, or Councilman Bernal’s office — we just wanted to lend a hand.