From the Rivard Report:
Members of San Antonio’s lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community want the city’s next mayor to follow the lead of Dallas and Houston and expand the 2013 non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) to include private companies.
The NDO now extends to city employment, public accommodations (restaurants, stores, public events), public housing, city contracts, and appointed officials, boards and commissions. There are significant religious exemptions to the rule. Unless they have an internal policy, private companies that operate outside the realm of public accommodations can fire an employee for being gay or choose not to do business with someone because of their sexual orientation.
The push to extend the NDO comes less than two years after then-Mayor Julían Castro and City Council voted 8-3 to pass an updated non-discrimination ordinance that extended greater protections to the LGBTQ community and to veterans. That vote, however, was not followed by any specific action.
This month, Mayor Ivy Taylor answered her critics by directing city staff to establish what is now called the Office of Diversity and Inclusion that will enforce the NDO and act on any complaints of it being violated. The updated NDO now covers sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status along with race, color, religion, national origin, sex, and disability.
Taylor voted against passage of the NDO in 2013, but since becoming interim mayor she has pledged to uphold the ordinance.
Taylor and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte are in a June 13 runoff for mayor, with early voting June 1-9. The Rivard Report reached out to both candidates to ask for their views on the subject of including private companies in the ordinance and related topics.
Robert Salcido, an Equality Texas field organizer and the local LGBT Chamber of Commerce board vice president, said putting real “teeth” to the NDO is a major goal, meaning it needs to be enforced and it needs to be expanded.
To date, only three complaints have been filed with the City based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation discrimination. Two have been dropped due to technicalities. One complainant backed out to pursue a civil suit.
Taylor and others have speculated that the newly established Office of Diversity and Inclusion might now have the legal authority to actively enforce the NDO, something city staff might have lacked until now.
Salcido said he is encouraged by Taylor’s move but wants to see San Antonio’s City Council follow their counterparts in Dallas and Houston to amend the ordinance to include private companies.
Christina Gorczynski, the Texas Wins campaign director based in Houston, agrees.
“Waiting for Washington D.C., or waiting for Austin to resolve local issues like this will keep us waiting for too long,” Gorczynski said. “People find discrimination now, so let’s resolve discrimination right now with the powers that are available to the mayor and city council.
“Local officials are empowered by their charter to create ordinances like the nondiscrimination ordinance and they should be able to take full advantage of that and be able to protect the values of its community.”
It’s probably safe to say the highly contentious battle that ended with the 8-3 vote in 2013 is fresh enough in everyone’s memory locally that few officeholders would be eager to see the issue come up for another debate and vote.
The wording in that penultimate paragraph is a little misleading. Taylor’s full answer to the question whether she would support “either now or in the future – expanding the NDO to include private companies that operate outside of public accommodations?” was “I would not vote to further expand the ordinance”, while VdP’s answer was “No, not at at this time”, followed by a discourse on her record in the Senate. I’d prefer an affirmative commitment to expanding the NDO at some point during her Mayoral tenure, but at least “Not at this time” allows for that, while a flat “No” does not. Taylor to her credit created the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to enforce the NDO, but between her record and her pandering to anti-equality voters during the campaign, I just don’t trust her. Your mileage may vary. Early voting in the San Antonio runoff elections begins today, so those of you who are there, be sure and make your voice heard/
That brings up a point about Houston’s Mayoral race, since everything comes back to the Houston Mayoral race. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is now being enforced by the city. Yes, the opponents are appealing their loss in the lawsuit – they’re also requesting a new trial in the district court, because Andy Taylor has bills to pay – but as of Judge Schaffer’s ruling, the ordinance is in effect. It’s too early to ask anyone what they think of the process, since I doubt there’s been an opportunity to test it yet, but an opinion about how it was designed and what if anything they’d have done differently if they had been Mayor in 2014 would not be out of line. At some point, we will need to know how they think it’s working and what their level of commitment to it is. Doesn’t have anything to do with potholes, I’m afraid, but it is an issue the next Mayor will have to deal with.