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Activists seek community's help with DP benefits push
QSanAntonio.com, August 27, 2011

GLBT activists are fanning out across the city in a campaign to rouse the community into helping support the push for domestic partnership benefits for city employees, including same-sex couples.

The initiative, which is included in the city budget, will have to be approved by the City Council which means that Council members have to be lobbied and contacted to show there is solid support.

Reports from district budget meetings being held across the city show that an organized effort to derail the initiative is being mounted by local conservatives, mostly for religious reasons.

At the District 7 budget meeting on August 24, former City Councilwoman Elena Guajardo reports that there were five people who spoke against the benefits including one man identified as Rev. Flowers who said that a vote for domestic partnership benefits was a vote against marriage.

In District 9, which held its meeting on August 25, the five people spoke against the initiative received applause, the five who spoke for it did not.

At the meeting, District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan received a loud round of applause when she stated, "We need to make sure this does not promote abuse. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman but that is my opinion and others have their opinions. I believe in equality and nondiscrimination, but I do have questions about the benefits that are being offered."

In conservative District 10, staffers for Councilman Carlton Soules are replying to emails he's received on the issue by writing back, "At this time, he has not made a decision on supporting this proposal and will not be able to until he has seen the details and the financials of the proposal."

In District 1, the budget meeting saw only two people speak against domestic partnership benefits and several who spoke in favor. In a reversal from District 9, those who spoke in favor of the initiative were applauded.

In a report sent to QSanAntonio by activist and blogger Randy Bear, he writes that perennial gadfly and self-professed homophobe Jack Finger said at the District 1 meeting that a vote for domestic partnerships was a vote for people "shacking up."

"Attorney Bill Goodman and activist Gilbert Casillas both gave great responses," writes Bear. "Bill told Finger 'Sorry Mr. Finger, but it’s not a shack, it’s a home' followed by applause. Bill then gave a personal testimony about his late partner and how they worked to build a home. Gilbert reminded Finger that Texas supports common law marriages which are what Finger calls 'shacking up.' So if Finger disapproves he should take that up with Governor Perry.' More applause. "

Activists say that the only way to insure that the passage of domestic partnership benefits is by members of the GLBT community contacting their individual City Council members.

One way they hope to do this is with postcards that ask the Mayor and City Council members to vote yes on domestic partnerships. Activists hope to have the community fill out as many cards as possible so that they can be presented at the City Council meeting prior to the budget vote on September 15.

Distribution of the cards will begin this weekend with activists hitting the Main Avenue strip where they hope to get people at the bars and clubs to take a moment to fill them out. (Sample card shown above.)

Sparky's Pub will become a distribution point for picking up the cards or dropping them off.

Besides the bars and clubs, activists are asking anyone who's attending an event or meeting, gay or straight, to take cards with them so that friends and family can fill them out.

Anyone needing 50 or more cards can contact Elena Guajardo at 210-681-6798 to arrange for a pickup.

Guajardo is also seeking donations to help defray the cost of printing the cards. She said anyone who'd like to contribute can send a check to: DP Benefits, Stonewall Democrats, P.O. Box 12814, San Antonio, Texas, 78212. Checks should be made out to the Stonewall Democrats with "DP benefits" in the memo line.

Guajardo says that if individuals cannot get hold of a card they should contact their City Council representative by phone or email and ask them to support domestic partnership benefits for city employees. Or you can send an email to Guajardo at elenaguajardo@stonewallsanantonio.org with your name and address and a card can be filled out for you.

"This is an opportunity our community is being given by City Manager Sculley," says Guajardo. "It would be a shame if we did not do everything possible to make this initiative a reality."

Click here for contact information for the Mayor and City Council.

City proposes to extend benefits for domestic partners
WOAI-TV, August 25, 2011
City manager Sheryl Sculley proposed benefits for city workers should include domestic partners, regardless of their sexual orientation. It comes with a price tag of about $300,000 to $400,000. J. Lynn Armstrong, who has been in a domestic partnership for more than 20 years, says the move is long overdue.

Jack Finger at budget hearing
TV4SA, August 26, 2011
City Council gadfly and self-professed homophobe Jack Finger speaks at the 2011 City of San Antonio budget hearings on same-sex domestic partner benefits and the play "Corpus Christi" at the San Pedro Playhouse. This clip was for San Antonio Public Access TV, TV4SA PATV.

Friends with (and without) benefits in SA
PlazaDeArmasTX.com, August 25, 2011
As budget hearings go, the first hour of Monday’s gathering on the East Side was pretty upbeat, even jovial at times. Then Gerald Ripley walked up to the microphone. Ripley, the longtime pastor of the evangelical Abundant Life Church, brought a touch of gloom to the room by denouncing Sculley’s proposed initiative to offer benefits to domestic partners of municipal employees. Ripley said he was speaking on behalf of a group of 85 local pastors who all adamantly oppose the plan.

DP benefits proposed in city budget not a sure thing
QSanAntonio.com, August 18, 2011

Last week City Manager Sheryl Sculley unveiled a new budget that included extending domestic partnership benefits to City of San Antonio, CPS and San Antonio Water System employees, including same-sex couples.

While this is a historic first for the city's GLBT community, activists warn that the question of domestic partner benefits is far from a done deal. Even though the initiative is supported by Mayor Julian Castro, it could get derailed in district budget meetings being held across the city. At these meetings citizens can speak out against specific budget items.

Last Friday, District 10 City Councilman Carlton Soules, a conservative Northside politician, told the San Antonio Express News, "I need to know what it means from a financial perspective, what guidelines they're following. What's the definition of a domestic partner?” he said. “At this point, with me personally, I don't see that it's going to be a major issue in our district. But obviously, this is why we have public hearings and our meetings."

On the following Monday at the District 10 budget meeting, six people spoke out against domestic partner benefits even though City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who was at the meeting, gave several good reasons why the city should offer them. How those six dissenting voices will affect Councilman Soules' vote on the initiative is hard to gauge.

At the District 5 meeting on Thursday, August 18, a local pastor spoke out and said he was organizing other religious leaders to oppose the domestic partner initiative. He urged Councilman David Medina to vote no. "We were not counting on Medina's support, " says Elena Guajardo, co-chair of the Stonewall Democrats. "However, this only confirms that we must act and not be silent."

One source at City Hall says the Mayor and City Council members have all received negative phone calls regarding domestic partnership benefits. That is why GLBT activists are asking the community to attend the budget meetings in their respective districts. Some of these meetings have already taken place, others continue through August 29.

At one gathering of activists attended by QSanAntonio participants were told that monitoring any opposition voiced at the district meetings was crucial in order to determine what parts of the city were most resistant to the initiative and which council members need to be lobbied prior to the budget vote.

There are two primary talking points that the Mayor and activists are giving in support of offering the benefits:

1) By providing benefits for domestic partners, regardless of sexual orientation, the City of San Antonio remains competitive in hiring and retaining valuable human resource talent and establishes it as a world-class employer.

2) Providing benefits, regardless of sexual orientation, demonstrates that the City of San Antonio does not regard any individual as a second-class citizen and provides the same benefits for all employees.

Speaking at the meeting of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio on August 15, District 1 City Councilman Diego Bernal urged the community to contact their city council members to express support for the initiative and to attend the district meetings.

Below is a listing of upcoming district budget meetings.

Thursday, August 18, District 5, Senior Center, 2701 S. Presa St.
Monday, August 22, District 2, S.J. Davis Middle School, 4702 E. Houston St.
Monday, August 22, District 6, Alice Trevino Lopez Senior Center, 8353 Culebra Rd.
Tuesday, August 23, District 8, University Methodist Church, 5084 DeZavala Rd.
Wed., August 24, District 7, St. Mary's University -University Center, 1 Camino Santa Maria
Thursday, August 25, District 1, TriPoint YMCA, 3233 N. St. Mary's St.
Thursday, August 25, District 9, Parman Library, 20735 Wilderness Oak
Monday, August 29, District 4, Miller's Pond Gyn, 6175 Old Pearsall Rd.

Click here for contact information for the Mayor and City Council.