The Brief: Texas Political News for Sept. 6, 2013

The Big Conversation

The end of a contentious fight over gay rights in San Antonio has put Mayor Julián Castro's political fortunes back in the spotlight.

After weeks of heated debate that sparked large protests and drew the attention of state and national politicians, the San Antonio City Council on Thursday approved an ordinance that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's nondiscrimination policy.

The 8-3 vote in favor of the proposal, which resembles existing policies in every other major city in the state, marked a victory for gay rights supporters, as well as Castro, who supported the ordinance.

"It's a common-sense ordinance that's going to treat everyone equally," Castro, one of Texas Democrats' brightest political prospects, said, according to the San Antonio Express-News. "Nobody will be a second-class citizen in San Antonio. Here, there will be basic fairness and common decency for everybody."

 

A raft of high-profile Texas Republicans — many of them running for statewide office in 2014 — voiced opposition to the ordinance on the grounds that it would violate the state Constitution and infringe on religious freedom. But the debate, as The New York Times writes, "became as much about challenging Mr. Castro’s vision for San Antonio and his future ambitions as it was about gay rights." 

As Mark P. Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, told the Times"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."

In San Antonio, opponents of the ordinance have threatened legal challenges, and as Texas Public Radio reports, some have also already mounted a campaign to recall Castro and at least one other council member who supported the measure.

As for the opposition from high-profile Republicans, Castro on Thursday continued to dismiss the criticism.

"It’s not surprising during campaign season that politicians from outside the city would chime in on an issue like this," he told the Times. "I respect their perspective, but we did what’s in the best interest of San Antonio."

Culled

•    Activists publish CSCOPE tests online (Austin American-Statesman): "A conservative blogger has published online the questions and answers for social studies tests available to hundreds of Texas school districts because she maintains they reflect a pro-Islam and anti-American bias. The public release of the tests could render them unusable and is the latest development in an ongoing saga over a curriculum system, formerly known as CSCOPE, that has inflamed conservative and tea party activists over the past year. Ginger Russell, half of the mother-daughter duo that sparked the CSCOPE controversy, posted the 10 tests on her website — redhotconservative.com — on Wednesday. Russell said she believed that parents needed to see the tests, which had been provided to her by teachers, though she could not point to specific problems with the tests that she posted."

•    More Texans in Congress say they’ll vote 'no' on authorization for Syria attack (The Dallas Morning News): "Texas Republican Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas, Kenny Marchant of Coppell and Louie Gohmert of Tyler have said they do not support military action in Syria. The three legislators are the latest in a growing list of House members who do not support limited military action as a means of punishing and preventing further chemical weapon attacks in the country."

•    Obama administration plans $12M ad buy to promote health law (Politico): "The Obama administration is readying a multimillion-dollar onslaught of ads in a dozen red states to encourage Americans to sign up for Obamacare insurance exchanges, media-tracking sources tell POLITICO. The Center for Medicare Services at the Dept. of Health and Human Services has reserved at least $12 million in airtime starting Sept. 30 in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Michigan."

•    A Growing County Fights for Every Resident to Be Counted (The Texas Tribune): "Armed with maps, photos and data, Hidalgo County officials say they are fighting to undo the consequences of what they see as a drastic undercount of the county in the 2010 census. In this rapidly growing, overwhelmingly Hispanic county in the Rio Grande Valley, where more than a third of residents have incomes below the federal poverty level, such population figures are crucial. They can translate into millions of dollars, as federal and state programs like Medicaid use population data to allocate money."

Quote to Note: "Just because I disagree with the lifestyle choices of the LGBT community doesn't mean that I dislike them." — San Antonio City Councilwoman Elisa Chan during Thursday's debate over the city's nondiscrimination ordinance

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