by Mary Tuma
Religious leaders and LGBT veterans, like Eric Alva, expressed their support for the city's proposed LGBT equality ordinance during a Wednesday press conference outside City Hall. Photo by Mary Tuma.
“We think God’s justice reaches out and includes all people
our LGBT brothers and sisters have a right not to be afraid of someone terminating them from a job because of their sexual orientation. That is clear and that is why we stand here today,” said Travis Park United Methodist Church Associate Pastor Dale Tremper.
The meeting follows yesterday’s press conference by council member Elisa Chan, who took the opportunity to finally respond to the anti-LGBT comments she made during a recently exposed secretly recorded conversation with staff. Chan defended her remarks under the First Amendment and stopped short of an apology.
Eric Alva, the first solider wounded in Iraq, highlighted the hypocrisy of Chan’s words, saying that while the council member uses free speech as a defense, she is shutting out her constituents from dialogue.
“I am here to today to express, as we’ve heard the last few days, my freedom of speech, which I feel I have earned when I lost my right leg on the first day of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Alva, a native of San Antonio. When delivering testimony in support of the LGBT equality ordinance during a recent city council Citizens Heard meeting, those in the crowd who opposed the measure booed the disabled gay veteran, attracting national criticism.
“Elisa Chan is right, she is entitled to her freedom of speech, as well as anyone else in this country, I will never dispute that. But what about the freedom of speech of her constituents that are asking Ms. Chan for her support of this ordinance? She is not taking any meetings from anyone, no one on her staff is taking meetings, so I ask you– what about their freedom of speech?” said Alva.
“When this ordinance passes, because it will, I will never have to worry about getting fired from a job, getting denied employment from a job or even being banned from an establishment for who I am,” he continued.
Jennifer Ingram, a transgender combat veteran asked the community to imagine being denied a hotel room or medical care after having served your country in war. Joedy Yglesias, a veteran and state chapter leader of OutServe, a military service for the LGBT community’s veterans and their families reiterated the thought.
“Texas and San Antonio has hundreds and hundreds of active duty LGBT service members and I think it’s a shame that people like Elisa Chan don’t believe that we are entitled to the same rights and protections that we are prepared to lay our lives down for,” said Yglesias.
Representing U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, LGBT veteran Guillermo Villarreal, vocalized his frustration with the double standard, as well.
“I find it disturbing and I hope my fellow San Antonioians find it disturbing that while we are good enough to die for these rights we are certainly not good enough to be afforded protection that these rights come with,” he said.
Jody Newman, owner of local business The Friendly Spot and self-proclaimed conservative Catholic, also chimed in her support. “Eliminating the possibility of discrimination empowers all employees to focus on their work, their families and their communities,” she said. Responding to Chan’s free speech defense, Newman said, “I’m not a legal expert but I just don’t think it makes you a good person to say something like that, it doesn’t matter if you’re legally able to say it [
] it does not make her a good steward of the community.”
DeeDee Belmares, co-chair of CAUSA, closed by saying Chan has the right to express her views but that as an elected official she should be held to a higher standard. Belmares called her comments, “ignorant, bigoted and hurtful” especially to Chan's LGBT constituents and that her homophobic remarks clearly demonstrated the need for the non-discrimination ordinance. Belmares noted that Chan did not offer an apology and has yet to respond to calls to meet with the LGBT community.