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.