Planning a trip to the Alamo anytime soon? Nationwide, people are remembering the city where it’s near but not for positive reasons.
LGBT grassroots social justice organization GetEQUAL Texas recently issued a travel advisory warning for queer people wanting to visit San Antonio. In its official statement, the advisory includes a warning that, “The city of San Antonio does not currently protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (“LGBT”) people from being legally ejected from their hotel rooms or other places of public accommodation.”
The reason is twofold. The first came after attendees at a city council meeting on August 16th booed a gay marine for advocating for a non-discrimination ordinance that is in front of its council for consideration.
Eric Alva, a gay Marine and a Purple Heart recipient who lost his leg during combat in the Iraq War, spoke in front of the San Antonio council that Friday. He testified that the seventh largest city in the U.S. was the only major city in Texas and the country without a non-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in city employment, public accommodations, housing, city contractors, and appointments to boards and commissions. An audience of around 300 people booed and hissed Alva after he said, “Without this ordinance I can be denied from applying for a job or thrown out of an establishment, regardless of if I’m a purple heart recipient or a wounded warrior.”
Alva was shocked and upset at the reaction of the crowd. Opponents to the ordinance demonstrated outside of the city hall before the measure, riled up after radio talk shows and webpages claimed that the ordinance would be used to discriminate against Christians who opposed same-sex unions and homosexuality on religious reasons. After the crowd’s negative reaction, he exclaimed, “To all you people that preach the word of God, shame on you because God loves me, like the day I laid bleeding on the sands of Iraq and that’s why he saved me!”
The second reason comes from secretly recorded anti-lgbt comments made by San Antonio Councilwoman Elisa Chan released just after the meeting.
In a May 21 meeting, a former aide to the councilwoman recorded a conversation of Chan where she called homosexuals “disgusting” and said they shouldn’t be able to adopt children. Chan has made her views clear from the start that the recording was an infringement of her First Amendment rights, that the meeting was closed-door and meant for freedom of expression, but that hasn’t alleviated peoples’ concerns of the city or its reactions to lgbt issues.
Alva and others have disagreed with the travel warning, saying that the city as a whole is welcoming to lgbt individuals and that it is a safe place. Mayor Julián Castro said that, “This advisory unnecessarily stands to hurt the city. The fact is that San Antonio always has been and remains welcoming to all.” Some say that the alert doesn’t mean much, that visitors will still go to the city and it won’t affect their travel plans. Supporters of the alert cite discrimination at the hands of the city council and their unwillingness to meet with lgbt groups and talk about political issues.
The city’s non-discrimination ordinance will be put to a vote September 5th, and the travel alert will expire September 6th, although GetEQUAL Texas assures that it could be extended.
As long as you avoid angry-looking conservative Christians and aren’t someone who’s sacrificed body parts for the freedom of this country, you’ll be more than fine on a romantic vacation to the Alamo.