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."
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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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