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Elisa Chan

The Mayoral succession process starts in San Antonio

With the confirmation as Housing Secretary seemingly in the bag for San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, the process of naming an interim Mayor has begun. Not too surprisingly, there’s some conflict about this, though the issue at the root of the conflict may not be what you expected.

CM Ivy Taylor

City Council is set to approve Thursday a procedure to select a replacement for Mayor Julián Castro as pressure is building against the appointment of Councilwoman Ivy Taylor, the perceived front-runner for the interim seat.

A Taylor administration would be historic. If appointed, the councilwoman would be the first black person to hold the city’s highest office.

But she’s the lone member of the existing council to have voted against last year’s controversial expansion of the nondiscrimination ordinance, which added protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The prospect of a Taylor appointment is provoking concern in San Antonio’s LGBT community.

“I don’t think she’s representative of this entire city. She doesn’t support equality for LGBT people, and it’s very bothersome,” activist Daniel Graney said. “I don’t think she should spend one day in the mayor’s office because of it.”

Taylor joined then-council members Carlton Soules and Elisa Chan — who had infamously called gays “disgusting” during a secretly recorded private staff meeting — in dissenting votes.

At the time, Taylor said the vitriolic discourse from nondiscrimination ordinance opponents made her “cringe” but was also unhappy that supporters painted “anyone with religious objections as bigots hiding behind religion.”

Graney said the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community would likely reach out to council members and ask them to consider appointing Councilman Ray Lopez, who voted in favor of the ordinance in September.

Taylor said in an interview Friday that if she were appointed mayor, she would uphold the bolstered nondiscrimination ordinance and wouldn’t work to undo it.

“That ordinance passed, and it is the law of the land, and I don’t have an issue with upholding the law of the land,” she said. “We have other pressing issues. By no means would I be interested in reassessing that.”

It’s fine by me that Dan Graney and the LGBT community are pushing back on the possible elevation of CM Taylor, who had the chance to do the right thing last year but chose instead to stand in the way. Advocates of San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance worked with religious leaders to address their concerns. If CM Taylor was more unhappy with the rhetoric of some NDO supporters than she was with the vitriol of its opponents, that says something unflattering about her. It’s nice of her to pledge to uphold the law if she’s elevated to the Mayor’s office, but boy howdy is that a low bar to clear. I hope San Antonio City Council members give a lot of consideration to other alternatives. Lone Star Q has more.

Chan challenges Campbell in SD25

An awful candidate against an awful incumbent.

Two months after stirring national controversy by condemning homosexuality, Councilwoman Elisa Chan has decided to leave the council to run for the Texas Senate in 2014, challenging District 25 state Sen. Donna Campbell in the March GOP primary.

Chan, 47, is taking on a first-term incumbent from New Braunfels who has strong backing among tea party members and some Republicans. Without attacking Campbell, Chan contends her council service prepares her well for the Legislature, and she hopes to survive the withering criticism generated by her opposition to the city’s new nondiscrimination ordinance.

“I know a lot of people in this community agree with me; so I don’t foresee any problem, but I would never know until I go out there,” Chan said Friday.

“With my qualifications, my experience, my conservative views, what can I do to make the biggest positive impact to the community? I think this is a good opportunity for me,” she said.

Speculation about a Chan candidacy wafted across Central Texas since summer, with some pundits saying she was seeking a graceful exit from her embattled city role. Chan drew national attention in August when the Express-News reported her secretly recorded, anti-gay comments. Yet, the controversy also flushed out Chan supporters who backed her free speech rights and opposition to the ordinance.

[…]

Chan has represented District 9 on the North Side since 2009, winning in repeated landslides. The businesswoman was eligible to run for one more term in District 9 in 2015.

Also running for the GOP nomination in District 25 is San Antonio businessman Mike Novak. Democrat Dan Boone of Canyon Lake, plans to run for his party’s nomination. The final showdown would be in November 2014.

Campbell captured the seat in 2012 after upsetting former Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, in the 2012 primary. She won the general election with 66 percent of the vote.

See here, here, and here for a bit of background on the non-discrimination ordinance and Chan’s shameful role in it. Campbell is awful, but she did vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay bill that Rick Perry vetoed, so there’s that. I have no idea if there’s anything one can say about Chan that would mitigate a bit of her awfulness. I know nothing about Mike Novak, so I don’t know if he might present a somewhat less awful alternative. Sadly, after redistricting this district is sufficiently red that the only paths to less awfulness are Campbell becoming a better person or the GOP primary voters in SD25 accidentally electing a better person. The one positive thing is that San Antonio City Council has a chance to become a better place once Chan officially resigns. It’s not much, but it’ll have to do. BOR has more.

The aftermath of the NDO in San Antonio

The Council vote is over, but don’t expect the fight to be.

RedEquality

In four separate public forums since mid-August, more than 1,500 people approached the dais at City Hall and addressed the council, speaking passionately in support of and against the ordinance that drew national attention. Final public comments were heard about three hours before the council took its vote.

In separate votes, the council approved adding veteran status 9-2, and approved adding LGBT protections 8-3.

“It’s a common-sense ordinance that’s going to treat everyone equally,” Mayor Julián Castro said after the vote. “Nobody will be a second-class citizen in San Antonio. Here, there will be basic fairness and common decency for everybody.”

When it was over, red-clad supporters of the policy walked victoriously out of the council chambers, waving rainbow flags. They spilled into Main Plaza shouting mantras of equality and justice.

And opponents, dressed in blue, left quietly in defeat, vowing to fight the ordinance in the courts and to unseat or recall elected leaders for ignoring their pleas to table or spike the measure altogether.

The possibility of legal action, which is probably close to 100% at this point, was raised before the vote was taken. I’m sure you can guess who’s leading that parade.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott, a candidate for Texas governor, wrote a letter to Castro, warning the current draft was vulnerable to lawsuits.

Among his concerns were protections for religious expression, including city officials and residents who voice support for traditional marriage. He noted the Texas Constitution recognizes traditional marriage alone. The proposed ordinance does not address same-sex marriage.

That sort of detail, or the fact that NDOs like this exist all over the place have never troubled Greg Abbott.

Nearly 200 cities across the country have enacted ordinances in recent years that prohibit bias by municipal employees or in city contracts over someone’s race, sex, age, religion or sexual orientation. Houston, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth are a few of the Texas cities that adopted such measures.

Funny, I don’t remember such wailing and gnashing of teeth when those cities adopted NDOs. So what is this all about, really?

All of the major statewide elected positions are open contests in the Republican primary. And while voters do not head to the polls until March, many Republicans seeking statewide office have seized on San Antonio’s ordinance in what some see as a way to appeal to the grass-roots conservatives who make up the bulk of the electorate in the party’s Texas primaries.

“It is Republican statewide candidates signaling their base that they are true and trustworthy conservatives,” said Calvin Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “When you’re running for statewide office, you don’t control what the San Antonio mayor and Council do. So all you’re really doing is taking an ideological position that you then project toward the Republican primary electorate, so that they can see that you’re a social conservative and you are manning the ramparts against undesirable social change.”

There appeared to be other political reasons that the debate became closely watched.

Republicans sought to engage San Antonio’s mayor, Julián Castro, who supported the measure and has become one of the few Democrats in a Republican-dominated state with star power, political science professors said. A number of Democrats want Mr. Castro, who gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, to run for statewide office. The debate over the ordinance became as much about challenging Mr. Castro’s vision for San Antonio and his future ambitions as it was about gay rights.

“An issue that otherwise would primarily be confined to local media coverage and some protests by social conservatives has taken on a state and even national level scope, and that’s due to the fact that Julián Castro is involved,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

No surprise there. I can’t wait to see what clever nickname Erick Erickson comes up with for Mayor Castro. In the meantime, my advice for Greg Abbott is go right ahead, file suit. Let’s give the courts another chance to evaluate Texas’ retrogressive laws and policies. I for one do not fear that. As for the possibility of recall elections, apparently the efforts were already underway before the vote.

Several groups are now targeting Mayor Julian Castro for violating his duties according to the Constitution for supporting the proposed non-discrimination ordinance. The groups include the Bexar County Conservative Coalition, the San Antonio Family Association, and the Justice Foundation.

They are also collecting signatures to oust District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, who has been spearheading the issue, for the same reasons.

Opponent Gina Castaneda, who is block walking to collect signatures to oust Bernal from office, says the groups decided to launch a similar campaign against Castro. She said she and others believe Castro inappropriately signed off on the measure without receiving the proper number of signatures on the Governance Committee, which heard the proposal before it went to the full city council.

[…]

Castaneda said the groups need 70,000 signatures to recall Castro.

So far, she said, they have about half of the 6,000 signatures needed to recall Bernal.

As for future recalls, Castaneda said opponents to the ordinance are ready to recall any and all of the council members that vote in favor of the non-discrimination ordinance revisions.

Well, they’ve got their work cut out for them now. For what it’s worth, Mayor Castro got 66.5% of the vote this past May, in a really low turnout election, and CM Bernal got 63.5% winning a runoff two years ago. I’m not terribly worried about either of them, but if this goes through it’ll be up to everyone who supports equality to do what they can to help these two and anyone else who is targeted. Now is not the time to declare that we’re all done. Remember, as Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia points out, elections do have consequences.

For all the tireless grass-roots organizing and the passionate public testimonials by NDO supporters in recent weeks, their greatest victories during the process came June 15, when Ron Nirenberg and Shirley Gonzales won their runoff contests.

In a matter of hours, the pro-NDO cause gained two desperately needed council votes, because Nirenberg and Gonzales both faced opponents who opposed the ordinance.

In the case of Gonzales, the issue almost certainly salvaged her campaign against incumbent David Medina, a point that Gonzales acknowledged from the dais Thursday.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had endorsed Medina before the May 11 election, but they reversed themselves and decided to back Gonzales for the runoff when it became clear that Medina would be an obstacle to the NDO’s passage. The combined runoff support of the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio (CAUSA) and SEIU were absolutely crucial to her narrow 117-vote victory.

In the case of Nirenberg, he might have caught a break because his adversary — the deep-pocketed but scandal-prone engineering consultant Rolando Briones — didn’t fully realize how intense the NDO opposition would become.

Briones spent much of his campaign trying to convince conservatives in his North Side district that he spoke their language, and he might have pulled it off with an all-consuming, stretch-run attack on the NDO issue.

With Nirenberg and Gonzales on board, District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal — the chief council architect of the ordinance — had a secure majority behind him. Without them, he would have faced a 5-5 tie going into the final week, with everything hinging on the uncommitted Rebecca Viagran (who ultimately backed the ordinance).

The runoff saga is a useful reminder that elections have consequences. While we saw citizens line up to speak to the council about the ordinance, we rarely see comparable municipal-election lines at polling centers, where voters have a chance to put in place the council members who will decide issues such as the NDO.

If there is a recall effort, we might see that kind of turnout effort that could have swayed things the other way in June. If so, as Josh Brodesky wrote before the NDO vote was taken, the anti side might want to reflect on the fact that they are their own worst enemy.

The louder they have shouted against proposed protections for the city’s gay community, the more necessary the nondiscrimination ordinance in San Antonio has become.

They took something that was commonplace — such protections exist in towns and cities across this country — and elevated it into something extraordinary.

All along, this was about providing equal protections to another group of people, but opponents made it about themselves: their beliefs, their speech, their morality.

To raise concerns about morality, and exemplify their freedom of speech, they rallied around disgust. Just like City Councilwoman Elisa Chan, they were disgusted by gays. And just like Chan, they were exercising their freedom of speech to express this disgust.

“At a certain point, when you listen to some people speak, what they are saying is, ‘I want to reserve the right to not serve these people. I want to reserve the right to discriminate against these people, and you are taking that away from me,’” City Councilman Diego Bernal said.

“And my response is, ‘Well, yeah. If there is one right I am taking away from you, it’s your right to discriminate against this group.’”

In this sense, opponents to the nondiscrimination ordinance were just as tone deaf as Aaryn Gries, the Texas State University student whose bigoted comments on the reality show “Big Brother” drew national attention.

And in that sense, it’s good to see these folks let it all hang out. Let’s all be clear about who stands for what. Since Brodesky brought up the infamous CM Chan, let’s go back to the first story linked in this post for one more point to make.

During the course of public testimony, many speakers said the opposite, citing scripture as evidence of what they consider immoral acts.

Councilwoman Elisa Chan, whose secretly recorded May 21 staff meeting on the issue thrust the debate into the national spotlight, has alternatively become a pariah and a heroine.

Last week, when the council met to discuss the proposal, she was greeted by a standing ovation. Later, ordinance supporters chastised her for disparaging remarks she made in the secret recording about the LGBT community.

In it, Chan called gays “disgusting” and said they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children. On Thursday, Chan expressed disappointment in the process.

“Over the course of this debate, tolerance has separated itself from understanding and has become a dictate to agree. I have not heard a single person who said he or she agrees to any form of discrimination,” Chan said. “Just because I disagree with the lifestyle choices of the LGBT community doesn’t mean that I dislike them.”

No, Council Member Chan. You don’t get to be nice. You are working to deny other people their civil rights. You need to own that. If you were capable of hearing how your words might sound to someone who is directly affected by them, you might be able to understand that.

John Hagee drops opposition to San Antonio equality ordinance

Wow.

RedEquality

Television evangelist and pastor John Hagee on Sunday told congregants — and a national and international audience watching live — that he no longer opposes a proposed ordinance that seeks to protect the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in San Antonio.

He read a statement during his Cornerstone Church’s two morning worship services Sunday, reflecting confidence in the latest version of the ordinance, which is expected to go before the City Council on Sept. 5. And he claimed credit for a key wording change that ended his opposition to the measure.

At issue was a clause that would have allowed the council to consider whether candidates for city boards and commissions had discriminated against gay and transgender people in “word or deed” — which opponents saw as an invitation to consider their socially conservative views on homosexuality.

The proposal’s author, Councilman Diego Bernal, removed that language July 25.

“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.

[…]

Hagee said he got the city attorney and Bernal to agree to the revisions in writing when they met Tuesday.

Though Bernal said he had made the revisions almost two weeks before that meeting, he said Sunday that the agreement and meeting with Hagee underscored the benefits of respectful dialogue.

“I was happy to share the changes with the pastor and his son,” Bernal said Sunday, referring to Mathew Hagee, the executive pastor at Cornerstone, who was also present.

“The ability to speak face to face about what the ordinance does and doesn’t do has proven to me time and time again to be the most effective method,” Bernal said.

Hagee said he had denounced the earlier draft through his church’s email network “weeks ago” and sent a letter to the council and mayor asking to discuss it. He spoke against it from the pulpit Aug. 4 and again on the nationally syndicated Glenn Beck talk show Aug. 5.

Hagee said he changed course the next day, after meeting with Bernal and reviewing the changes with his attorney and the Justice Foundation, a conservative legal defense firm.

Let me check…yep, the Earth is still spinning on its axis. Fire and brimstone are not coming down from the skies, rivers and seas are not boiling, and reports of dogs and cats living together should be considered premature and unconfirmed at this time. I haven’t followed this closely enough to know why that particular language was a hangup for Hagee, but just the idea that a guy like that wouldn’t flat out oppose a pro-equality ordinance on principle strikes me as a big deal.

Of course, plenty of Hagee’s brethren in equality opposition remain opposed to this ordinance, so at least some things never change. As it turns out, another opponent is SA Council Member Elise Chan, in an ugly and spectacular fashion.

Chan describes LGBTQ people as “disgusting,” saying they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt and that homosexuality is “against nature.” Former Chan staffer James Stevens surreptitiously recorded Chan’s comments on his iPhone during a May meeting on the proposed ordinance. Stevens provided the recording to San Antonio Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff, who published a damning article today.

At one point in the recording, amid a tittering exchange about pansexual people, Chan interjects her opinion on the nature of homosexuality.

“You know, to be quite honest, I know this is not politically correct,” she said. “I never bought in that you are born, that you are born gay. I can’t imagine it.”

As the talk shifted back to pansexual people, whose sexual orientations encompass all gender identities, Chan asks, “How can that be?”

“I will say, ‘Strip down! What equipment do you have?’” she continued. “I’m telling you. Crazy. We’re getting to crazy realm.”

Stevens agrees that it’s “politically incorrect in some circles” to claim that people choose to be gay. “The newspaper will get to you,” he warned.

Chan was evidently aware that her homophobic remarks could get her in trouble politically, and vowed to keep them under wraps in public.

Clearly, the better strategy would have been to not be a despicable bigot, but perhaps that’s too complicate for some people. When John Hagee is a model of tolerance, you know things have gone a bit sideways. Concerned Citizens has more.