SAN ANTONIO — Anti-bias protections for gay and transgender citizens in San Antonio passed Thursday over the disapproval of top Republicans in Texas and religious conservatives who packed the City Council chamber and sometimes shamed supporters for comparing the issue to the civil rights movement.
Steering the City Council to an 8-3 vote was Democratic Mayor Julian Castro, a top surrogate of President Barack Obama. Castro has called the ordinance overdue in the nation’s seventh-largest city, where there is a stronger current of traditionalism and conservatism than other major Texas cities that already have similar gay rights protections.
Nearly 180 U.S. cities have nondiscrimination ordinances that prohibit bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Supporters in red shirts and opponents in blue sat on opposite sides and packed the ornate council chamber. Church leaders vowed petitions to recall council members, and the shouts of protesters outside City Hall often carried through the stone walls of the century-old building.
The local proposal roiled conservatives nationwide and was opposed by big-name Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott, who is running for governor, predicted a lawsuit over religious freedoms but has not said the state will challenge the ordinance.
San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard told the council the ordinance would apply to most city contracts and contractors. It prohibits council members from discriminating in their official capacity and forbids workers in public accommodation jobs, such as at restaurants or hotels, from refusing to serve customers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Opponents say the ordinance would stifle religious expression and does not have the support of most city residents.
The measure passed by the council amends protections already in place for discrimination based on race or gender.
Dallas, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso are among the Texas cities that already have expanded anti-bias ordinances.