Mike Kueber's Blog

May 21, 2013

San Antonio’s proposed anti-bias ordinance

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 10:51 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This past Sunday, I had a wide-ranging conversation with City Council candidate Ron Nirenberg.  During that conversation, I suggested to Ron that the most likely partisan issue in the next two years is likely to be Mayor Castro’s ongoing effort to incentivize the movement of people and offices to the Downtown.  That effort, in my opinion, is not supported by the majority of people who live near Loop 1604 because (a) they don’t want to subsidize people who prefer living Downtown, and (b) they don’t want to commute downtown for their job.   

The Decade of Downtown may be a bigger long-term partisan issue, but Ryan Loyd of Texas Public Radio reported today on a short-term partisan issue that appears to be quickly headed for the City Council’s front-burner.  According to an article by Loyd, Councilman Diego Bernal from District 1 is pushing an anti-bias ordinance that is surely going to create a partisan divide on the Council. 

Anti-bias laws are becoming common throughout America in liberal jurisdictions, much like laws that enable same-sex marriage.  Traditionally, all jurisdictions in America prohibit discrimination based on race, sex, and religion, and anti-bias laws extend the protection to members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) communities. 

Incidentally, Councilman Bernal appears to be attempting a cynical, crass strategy in San Antonio by including expanded protection for members of the military and veterans.  Huh?  Vets need protection?  Members of the military and vets, if subject to any discrimination, benefit from favorable discrimination.  There are a plethora of programs and benefits that are available only to military people and vets.  President Obama just had a national conference with business leaders who were going to make an effort to hire more vets.  When I wrote to reporter Loyd and questioned Bernal’s strategy, Loyd responded that even the San Antonio City Attorney did not know if there was currently a problem for vets.  Why not then, if we are addressing non-problems, add “mothers” and “orphans” to the list.  And policemen and firemen? 

Loyd agrees that the real issue is protection for LGBT individuals and that will be controversial.  Same-sex marriage may be the direction of the country, but it will take time for it to get everywhere.  Further, an anti-bias ordinance is not as simple as same-sex marriage because they are several sub-issues that must be decided.

Councilman Bernal seems to be focusing on applying the ordinance to city contractors and sub-contractors, and he mentions the possible application to housing and transportation.  When I was campaigning for the Council, I received a questionnaire from the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, and they wanted to know if I favored an anti-bias ordinance that extended to a broader list, including the following:

  • City employment;
  • Benefits to city employees, including FMLA;
  • Appointment to Boards and Commissions;
  • Public accommodations;
  • City Contractors, and benefits to employees of city contractors;
  • Housing; and
  • Any non-city employment in San Antonio.

The consideration of each of these areas requires a balancing of the governmental interest in protecting individuals in the LGBT communities while recognizing the right of others to not associate with individuals in the LGBT communities.  Four of the seven areas are easily disposed of.  Clearly, the City of San Antonio has the right to hire the employees it wishes and provide employee benefits that it wishes (subject to the Abbott constitutional matter) without infringing on the rights of anyone else.  The city also can control the composition of its Boards and Commission.  And most people who provide public accommodations understand that their business is subject to reasonable regulation of this type.

The more problematic areas are city contractors, housing, and any non-city employment in San Antonio.  Of these, the city contractors have the closest relationship with the City and thus are susceptible to more regulation by the City.  Thus, I am inclined to say that extending an anti-bias ordinance to city contractors is reasonable, even though this is being quite pro-active and is a close call that would benefit from constituent input.  As a practical matter, enforcement against small contractors would be difficult. 

Housing and non-city employment do not have close relationships with the city, and some rental owners or employers may not want to have a business relationship with members of the LGBT communities.  I think they should have that right.   

That’s my two cents on the subject.


  1. I wonder why you fail to mention that San Antonio is the only major city of its size both in the United States and Texas, that does not have these inclusions in its non-discrimination policy, and that some of the cities in Texas that included this in their policy did it as long as ten years ago … As Mayor Castro stated at the Governance Meeting just yesterday in Council Chambers, San Antonio, as usual is playting ‘catch up’ to other class cities …

    Comment by Sammy — May 22, 2013 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

    • Sammy, thanks for your comment. I don’t think you win an argument by saying that San Antonio should emulate a city just because it is larger than us? Or just because a Texas city did something ten years ago. That doesn’t speak to the merits of your argument, which, by the way, you never made. What are you wanting the City Council to do – everything? If so, tell me what you don’t buy about my rationale. If a person’s religion thinks homosexuality is sinful, shouldn’t that person be free to hire an employee or rent his house to someone who is not a homosexual?

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 23, 2013 @ 12:41 pm | Reply

  2. If I understand Kueber’s logic, it is okay in his way of thinking for a white person to refuse to rent to someone LGBT but it not okay to refuse to rent to a black person or a religious minority. His point seems to be that that would be forcing someone to have a business relationship with someone they don’t want to associate with. Even now I am sure you can find many people who do not want to associate with people in one or more of the protected groups but that is why a non-discrimination policy is needed. We cannot change attitudes quickly. They change over time and with exposure to the feared or hated. The only way we can achieve that is to legislate behavior. That is what the City is endeavoring to do with the the Human Rights Ordinance. The military is leading the way. I am offended by Kueber’s comments about adding “mothers”, “orphans”,” firemen”, and “police” to a non-discrimination policy. It smacks of those ignorant folks who compare homosexuality to sex with animals or worse. My question to Kueber is, What was your answer to the Stonewall Democrat’s survey? In the negative I am sure.

    Comment by Nancy Russell — May 22, 2013 @ 7:23 pm | Reply

    • Nancy, thanks for your comments. Last question first – I recently blogged about my failure to complete the Stonewall survey, and the posting you are commenting on was really a belated attempt to answer the survey.

      You accurately point out a flaw to my post that I noticed yesterday – i.e., it failed to distinguish between LGBT discrimination and racial/religious discrimination. The distinction is that the vast majority of Americans believes it is sinful to discriminate on the basis of race or religion. That is why America won’t tolerate any such discrimination. By Americans are still divided on whether discrimination against LGBT is sinful or, ironically, whether it is sinful to be LGBT. I agree that Americans are evolving, with same-sex marriage being a leading indicator, but I also think it is a reasonable compromise for now to allow people who think homosexuality is sinful to be able to decline to rent their house to or to decline to hire a person who is a homosexual.

      A representative democracy shouldn’t get too far in front of its people.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 23, 2013 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

      • Mike- If you had attended the Governance meeting you would know that the panel took religious beliefs into consideration and stated that the policy would not infringe on people’s religious beliefs. I would also point out that prior to Civil Rights legislation of 1964, most people though that racial discrimination was okay and even today there are those who think that way. Only by making discrimination against any group illegal will people begin to change their behavior. The way we change attitudes, as I stated earlier, is by changing what is acceptable behavior. Once a person gets to know a member of a minority group they begin to see how irrational their feelings and beliefs are. I do not think that allowing discrimination against homosexuals on religious grounds makes any more sense than allowing discrimination against blacks on the basis that the Bible taught that slavery was okay. You do not believe that a landlord should be allowed to refuse to rent to a black person based on their religious beliefs but you defend their right to refuse to rent to a homosexual based on their religious beliefs. Your logic is very flawed.

        Comment by Nancy Russell — May 23, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

  3. Actually, Nancy, I am not aware of any significant religious belief that argues for discriminating against black people. If there is, the position of American is that that is not a religious belief that we are willing to tolerate.

    Comment by Mike Kueber — May 24, 2013 @ 1:32 am | Reply

    • My you have a log in your eye. The Bible was used routinely to keep blacks in their “place”, which was working the plantations for the white landowners. Religion taught the slave the Christian value of hard work for the Master and masters encouraged their slaves to attend church for that reason. The black churches helped the slave owner to control their slaves.
      In reality there is no religious justification for discriminating against homosexuals except in the minds of those who are taught that the Bible condemns homosexuality and who take literally some passages which are understood by today’s Bible scholars as meaning something else entirely than what the King James version of the Bible is translated from the Greek to say/mean. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality at all. In both the case of blacks and other minorities as well as homosexuals, it is a case of some white people always needing someone else to be inferior to themselves.

      The bottom line remains that attitudes are changed when people get to know that which they hate or fear by making their unacceptable behavior illegal in a civil society.

      Comment by Nancy Russell — May 24, 2013 @ 3:33 am | Reply

  4. […] couple of days ago I blogged about San Antonio’s proposed anti-bias ordinance, and a discerning reader noticed that I […]

    Pingback by More on San Antonio’s proposed anti-bias ordinance | Mike Kueber's Blog — May 24, 2013 @ 1:40 am | Reply

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