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Domestic-partner benefits approved 8-3 by San Antonio City Council

September 15, 2011

Another day, another fight against City Hall for local resident Jack Finger, a Council Chambers regular.

Our circus of a budget season, marred with debate over everything from sidewalks to sodomy, is finally over. But Thursday’s vote may not be the last we’ve heard about domestic-partner benefits in the city.

With an 8-3 vote, the City of San Antonio churned out a budget granting domestic partner benefits to gay and straight city employees, capping countless hours of intense, fiery debate that roiled nearly every community budget hearing over the past month. LGBT advocates and several council members cheered the vote as a step toward equality, while opponents on the religious right decried the move, saying it marks San Antonio’s quick descent into moral decay.

David Medina (District 5), Elisa Chan (District 9), and Carlton Soules (District 10) were the only members to vote against the proposal. Chan and Medina both claimed constituents in their districts overwhelmingly disapproved of the measure, while Soules claimed to take issue with the process, saying the city rushed through the proposal without enough thought.

The city primed itself for a budget-season culture clash this year. The San Pedro Playhouse, with its staging of the gay-Christ-portraying Corpus Christi, started the fire, and many of the local groups deeply angered over the play, like the San Antonio Family Association and a group of local pastors calling themselves Voices for Marriage, latched onto the domestic-partner issue. The small but boisterous group of social conservatives hit nearly every public budget hearing, decrying the “blasphemy” of Corpus Christi and claiming City Hall was “pandering to the radical homosexual agenda,” effectively chipping away at the sacred institution of marriage.

Gerald Ripley, a local pastor with Voices for Marriage who helped drum up loud opposition to the measure, put out this rallying cry: “Demonic forces are converging over S.A. for the purpose of establishing immorality as right at the government level.”

The new policy comes at a miniscule cost to the city, according to estimates from the city manager’s office, and before voting for the budget Thursday, Mayor Julián Castro aptly noted, “We have a $2.2 billion budget. … It’s ironic, then, that we spend most of our time talking about an item that does equal .014 percent, or $300,000 for domestic partnership benefits.”

Still, heated rhetoric marred the entire public process. George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party, decried the city’s “liberal social agenda” before taking aim at Castro. “Mr. Mayor, this is nothing more than a stepping stone for political gain. We are tired of being a stepping stone. … We’re tired of Henry Cisneros wannabes, we’re tired of Hispanic liberals pushing their agenda on the rest of us.” With threats to spark a recall election drive, Rodriguez said, “There are morals and there is right and wrong. … The fact of the matter is that many of you are calling right wrong and wrong right.”

Local attorney Allan Parker with the conservative Justice Foundation even made an appearance Thursday, making veiled threats of possible legal action, claiming, essentially, that recognizing gay domestic partnerships would put the city out of line with the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage (some might remember the legal bitchslap federal judge Sam Sparks delivered Parker when he  tried to butt into a lawsuit over the state’s controversial sonogram law recently).

San Antonio joins four other Texas cities in offering domestic partnership benefits to gay and straight employees, none of which have been challenged in court for constitutionality. “This is not San Antonio breaking any new ground whatsoever, at all,” Castro remarked. “This is an old issue, and I believe that we should have done this quite some time ago.”

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  • jpinsatx

    Hmmm… 1) Do homeowners want to continue paying higher property taxes to provide free health care for the uninsured? “The cost of extending benefits to domestic partners… is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the city’s budget”. 2) Should government enforce the views of select religious groups? Pastor Gerald Ripley: “We believe marriage is a legally binding relationship between one man and one woman”… “a vote for domestic partner benefits is a vote against upholding the institution of marriage”. 3) Is a particular “Relationship Orientation” a requirement for citizenship? Mayor Julian Castro: “There are not going to be any second class citizens in San Antonio.”

  • Guest

    Where does the separation of  church and state end and begin? Good for you, SA.

  • Lindie

     Mayor, you have done yourself in by endorsing this type of behavior.  Sadly, you and those other misguided council people think they are being charitable and enlighten by voting for such measures. If history has shown us anything is that the road to perdition is fill with good intentions. San Antonio was built on moral Christian values but you have elected to ignore what many of your constituents believed in.  This measure will be a stepping stone to endorsing same sex marriage
    which in all likelihood you are probably ready to embraced.  St Anthony pray for us!

  • INeedAName

    You know the mayor was all for it. It must hit close to home for him…hehehehe

  • TJSTTR13

    Congratulations guys, for moving closer to the 20th century. Respect for all people despite our religous beliefs is a sign of maturity. Basic civil rights should be bestowed upon everyone, not just the heterosexual community.

  • TJSTTR13

    I suppose bigotry and prejudice are moral christian values. Even Jesus said what-so-ever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me. We will ultimately be judged by how we help eachother not help to hurt oneanother.

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