WATCH: Anti-gay protesters break out Prop 2 signs to fight DP benefits in San Antonio

Last week we posted this story from Sam Sanchez at QSanAntonio about how anti-gay forces are fighting San Antonio’s plan to offer domestic partner benefits to municipal workers. On Monday, a group called “Voices for Marriage” held a press conference outside City Hall to oppose the plan. And as you can see above, they broke out their six-year-old signs from the fight over Prop 2, Texas’ marriage amendment. KENS Channel 5 reports:

Extending benefits to city employees in same sex relationships would cost between $300,000 and $400,000 a year — a small fraction of the total $2.2 billion budget which would go into effect October 1.

The move would also put San Antonio in the same category as many other Texas cities and companies, including USAA and Rackspace that currently offer benefits to domestic partners.

However, a local group calling itself “Voices for Marriage” protested the proposed change on Monday outside city hall. The group, citing religious views and current state law, opposes any extension of benefits to domestic partnerships.

Pastor Gerald Ripley issued a “fact sheet” to those in attendance, listing 14 reasons why the group opposes the change. The document said, “We believe marriage is a legally binding relationship between one man and one woman” and “a vote for domestic partner benefits is a vote against upholding the institution of marriage”.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who backs the change, said the city needs to extend benefits to domestic partners in order to stay competitive with other cities and companies across the country that already offer similar benefits. The mayor dismissed oncerns by many protestors over the cost of benefits as “a smokescreen for their dislike of gays and lesbians.”

Watch video from the press conference below.

—  John Wright

Conservatives fight DP benefits proposal in San Antonio; LGBT community urged to get involved

Activists in San Antonio are asking people to fill out cards like this one in support of DP benefits.

Anti-gay speakers oppose plan at council budget meetings; city would be 5th in Texas to offer health insurance to same-sex partners

SAM SANCHEZ  |  QSanAntonio

LGBT activists are fanning out across the city in a campaign to rouse the community into helping support the push for domestic partnership benefits for city employees, including same-sex couples.

The initiative, which is included in the city budget, will have to be approved by the City Council, which means councilmembers have to be lobbied and contacted to show there is solid support.

Reports from district budget meetings being held across the city show that an organized effort to derail the initiative is being mounted by local conservatives — mostly for religious reasons.

At the District 7 budget meeting on Aug. 24, former City Councilwoman Elena Guajardo reports that there were five people who spoke against the benefits, including one man identified as the Rev. Flowers who said that a vote for DP benefits is a vote against marriage.

In District 9, which held its meeting on Aug. 25, the five people who spoke against DP benefits received applause, the five who spoke for it did not, according to reports.

At the meeting, District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan received a loud round of applause when she stated, “We need to make sure this does not promote abuse. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, but that is my opinion and others have their opinions. I believe in equality and nondiscrimination, but I do have questions about the benefits that are being offered.”

In conservative District 10, staffers for Councilman Carlton Soules are replying to emails he’s received on the issue by writing back, “At this time, he has not made a decision on supporting this proposal and will not be able to until he has seen the details and the financials of the proposal.”

In District 1, the budget meeting saw only two people speak against DP benefits and several who spoke in favor. In a reversal from District 9, those who spoke in favor of the initiative were applauded.

In a report sent to QSanAntonio by activist and blogger Randy Bear, he writes that perennial gadfly and self-professed homophobe Jack Finger said at the District 1 meeting that a vote for DP benefits was a vote for people “shacking up.”

“Attorney Bill Goodman and activist Gilbert Casillas both gave great responses,” writes Bear. “Bill told Finger, ‘Sorry Mr. Finger, but it’s not a shack, it’s a home’ followed by applause. Bill then gave a personal testimony about his late partner and how they worked to build a home. Gilbert reminded Finger that Texas supports common law marriages which are what Finger calls ‘shacking up.’ So if Finger disapproves he should take that up with Gov. Perry.’ More applause. ”

Activists say that the only way to insure that the passage of DP benefits is by members of the LGBT community contacting their individual City Council members.

One way they hope to do this is with postcards that ask the mayor and council members to vote yes on DP benefits. Activists hope to have the community fill out as many cards as possible so that they can be presented at the City Council meeting prior to the budget vote on Sept. 15.

Distribution of the cards will begin this weekend with activists hitting the Main Avenue strip where they hope to get people at the bars and clubs to take a moment to fill them out. (Sample card shown above.)

Sparky’s Pub will become a distribution point for picking up the cards or dropping them off.

Besides the bars and clubs, activists are asking anyone who’s attending an event or meeting, gay or straight, to take cards with them so that friends and family can fill them out.

Anyone needing 50 or more cards can contact Elena Guajardo at 210-681-6798 to arrange for a pickup.

Guajardo is also seeking donations to help defray the cost of printing the cards. She said anyone who’d like to contribute can send a check to: DP Benefits, Stonewall Democrats, P.O. Box 12814, San Antonio, Texas, 78212. Checks should be made out to the Stonewall Democrats with “DP benefits” in the memo line.

Guajardo says that if individuals cannot get hold of a card they should contact their City Council representative by phone or email and ask them to support domestic partnership benefits for city employees.

“This is an opportunity our community is being given by City Manager Sculley,” says Guajardo. “It would be a shame if we did not do everything possible to make this initiative a reality.”

Click here for contact information for the San Antonio mayor and City Council.

San Antonio would become the fifth city in Texas to offer DP benefits to city employees, joining Austin, Dallas, El Paso and Fort Worth. The El Paso City Council’s decision to begin offering DP benefits in 2009 has led to a protracted fight over the issue in that city.

—  Sam Sanchez

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Pride San Antonio

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM PRIDE SAN ANTONIO

Even though there was a fence around the Pride San Antonio Block Party in Crockett Park on Saturday it could not contain the sheer size of the celebration. The entire Main Avenue strip, from the Essence Bar on the south to the Silver Dollar Saloon at the northern end, was bursting to the seams with revelers.

Crockett Park was packed to the gills. Every parking lot in the neighborhood was full and by 7:30 p.m. folks with lawn chairs were picking out the good spots along the parade route.

It seemed to this observer that this could have been the biggest Pride Block Party and Parade since the tradition was restarted five years ago. By moving the Block Party to the park, Pride organizers managed to get more people not only into the festival but into the entire neighborhood as well.

In an interview with the San Antonio Express-News, Phillip Barcena, president of Pride San Antonio, estimated that 15,000 people would witness the Pride Parade, which began at West Dewey and ended at West Cypress.

At the corner of Dewey and North Main parade participants lined up at the starting point of the seven-block parade route. Many parade participants sought refuge from the heat and waited inside the Silver Dollar Saloon which was directly across the street from the parade lineup.

Among the marchers were two city councilmen: Diego Bernal (District 1) and Ray Lopez (District 6), more than in any previous parade. Perennial participants included State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte and State Rep. Joe Farias. There too was outgoing Director of Health Dr. Fernando Guerrera along with the new Director of Health Dr. Thomas Schlenker.

—  Sam Sanchez

Pride San Antonio on July 2

Photos via QSanAntonio

 

—  John Wright

Longtime San Antonio activist couple weds; Flores named chair of county Democratic Party

Roberto Flores, left, and Dan Graney were married in Vermont in October.
Longtime San Antonio activists Roberto Flores, left, and Dan Graney were married in Vermont in October. They’ve been together 35 years. (QSanAntonio.com)

It’s a crying shame that major Texas cities like Austin, Houston and San Antonio don’t have LGBT newspapers. But at least San Antonio is lucky enough to have a quality Web site, QSanAntonio, that’s dedicated to community news. The Web site, a largely volunteer project by activist Sam Sanchez, is definitely worth bookmarking on your browser. For example, today I noticed that the co-chair of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, longtime activist Roberto Flores, has been named interim chair of the Bexar County Democratic Party. Flores is the first openly gay person elected chairman of the party. Also, it appears as though Flores and his partner of 35 years, fellow activist Dan Graney, recently were married in Vermont. Graney currently serves as president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus. The wedding was part of a trip to the Northeast that included a visit to New York City and participation in the National Equality March in Washington. Congratulations, Roberto and Dan!

—  John Wright