I climbed the steps of City Hall today for the first time in a couple months. I did not have a surplus of time, so I only got to peak my head into the very beginning of the public session. For those unfamiliar, the City Council is required by law to listen to members of the public on agenda and non-agenda items weekly. Anyone in the city may call the City Secretary and receive at least 60 seconds of speaking time before the Council. This week, the discussion centered unanimously around the non-discrimination ordinance being considered by the Council, which I have written about extensively in the past. In short, the ordinance codifies existing Federal regulations against discrimination into local law, as well as expand them to protect both sexual orientation and gender identity.
There were over 80 speakers on this ordinance, with over 4/5ths of them being supportive thereof. Elected officials, such as State Senator John Whitmire, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, State Representative Garnet Coleman and State Representative Carol Alvarado lent their support in person. Other elected officials, such as State Senator Rodney Ellis, State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Sylvester Turner, have also been quite supportive, but did not make an appearance in person. Another who did, however, was former Congressman Chris Bell, a likely Mayoral candidate in 2015 (along with Turner and, possibly, Garcia). A number of other stalwarts in the community spoke up today, though perhaps my favorite speaker was Sissy Farenthold. Simply put, she was Ann Richards before there was Ann Richards, serving at one time as the only female member of the Legislature and coming heartbreakingly close to winning the Democratic nomination for Governor in the 1970s.
Bryan Sky-Eagle, the President of the local Firefighter’s Union, also supported the ordinance. Among opponents of this measure, however, far fewer big names stood out. The key exception was Dave Wilson, a longtime gadfly in this movement as well as a trustee on the HCC Board of Trustees. Wilson went off about his moral opposition to homosexuality and desire to bring any ordinance passed before voters in a proposition. Frankly, he sounded like a closed-minded bigot, eerily reminiscent of the segregationists of a previous generation.
Other opponents presented the same, tired rhetoric on religious liberties being violated. As I have said before ad nauseum, one does not have a religious right to treat other human beings like second-class citizens, but I digress. Mayor Annise Parker handled these types somewhat well. The other main complaint centered around transgendered persons and bathrooms. You see, hysteria has a long history of being conjured up over talk of bathrooms. Idiotic scare-tactics over unisex bathrooms doomed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, so opponents hope that talk of transgendered persons using bathrooms that might not correspond with their birth sex will a catalyst for hatred.
A big number of Councilmembers appeared openly supportive, and none appeared openly hostile. The biggest bombshell of the day happened after business hours, when Councilmember Brenda Stardig sent out a press release announcing her opposition to the ordinance.
“This proposed ordinance does nothing more than duplicate existing laws, add bureaucracy and highlight the city’s endless overstepping of their jurisdiction,” Stardig said in a statement.
As far as I know, Stardig is the only open opponent of this ordinance, so the odds are that she will tag the ordinance at tomorrow’s meeting. What this means is that it will languish for one more week before final passage. At this point, that much seems likely.