by Mary Tuma
District 9 council member Elisa Chan has yet to offer an apology after a secret recording exposed her anti-gay views. Photo courtesy of voteelisachan.com.
Despite the uproar her remarks ignited from LGBT supporters, Chan’s response fell short of an apology. It did, however, invoke her constitutional free speech rights and signal she would defend her words. The three-sentence statement, sent today by Chan’s director of communication, also took aim at the former aide who covertly audiotaped the conversation.
"The comments from the staff meeting on May 21st were and are my personal opinions and thoughts as guaranteed to me by the 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is unfortunate that a former member of my D9 Council team betrayed the trust of my staff members and me. I will fight, I will always fight for our freedom of speech, especially in a private setting."
Chan plans to hold a press conference regarding the comments later this week.
The recorded conversation, which centered around formulating a political strategy for opposing an upcoming vote on a municipal non-discrimination ordinance, showed Chan as confused, bigoted and unaccepting toward the LGBT community. At one point, Chan exclaimed “So disgusting!” in reference to bisexuality. Her remarks have drawn heat from several groups, including local gay rights organizations– who have called on Chan to resign– and the national Human Rights Campaign as well as city leadership. Mayor Julián Castro called Chan’s remarks “hurtful and ignorant.”
“They do not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of San Antonians. Ours is a city that respects and appreciates all people,” he wrote.
Statewide LGBT-advocacy group, Equality Texas, described the remarks as "appalling" in the "magnitude of homophobia and transphobia they convey" and in "the level of sheer ignorance and lack of understanding they demonstrate."
"Perhaps the most appalling thing revealed in these conversations is Elisa Chan's total lack of leadership," Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas said in a statement. "As an elected public servant, Chan owes her constituents, and all the residents of San Antonio, the decency of transparency and standing on principle. She has shown neither."
The group, who have actively lobbied for the local LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, say the lack of discussion about the actual merits of the NDO or its effects on constituents reveal Chan's, "sole focus was on political calculus and her aspiration for higher elected office."
Even social media celebrity and gay, Asian-American actor George Takei threw his two cents in. In a Facebook post, Takei writes:
“It's always disappointing when Asian Americans in leadership positions fall short. Personally, I find this woman's actions repugnant. San Antonio, it's time to dump your trash and make sure the likes of Elisa Chan are never reelected. The Japanese American Citizen's League was the very first minority civil rights organization to support marriage equality for LGBTs back in 1996. I call on Asian American leaders and organizations to condemn Chan’s behavior and her ugly political cynicism.”
In an accompanying post, he more bluntly writes, “To go along with my most recent rant against San Antonio's councilwoman Elisa Chan, here is a new favorite word of mine,” and features a photo with the word “Ignoranus: adj. Someone who is both stupid & an asshole.”