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Acrimony persists after passage of NDO
QSanAntonio, September 20, 2013

In the two weeks since the passage of the city's nondiscrimination ordinance that added protections for LGBT citizens, there is still much resentment and acrimony among opponents who are intent on exacting revenge from Mayor Julian Castro and the city council members who voted for the measure.

On September 18, voters in District 1 opened their mailboxes to find a postcard from their city councilman Diego Bernal. The mailer explained what the newly enacted nondiscrimination ordinance does and does not do.

Even after the ordinance's passage, Bernal continues to try to get the message to his constituents because conservative opposition groups and Christian extremists have started collecting signatures in an effort to recall him and using misinformation in order to get voters to sign the petition.

Brandon Burkhardt of the River City Tea Party and Weston Martinez of the Bexar County Conservative Coalition

The move to recall Bernal is spearheaded by Weston Martinez of the Bexar County Conservative Coalition and Texas Freedom PAC, and Brandon Burkhardt of the River City Tea Party Patriots.

“We agreed that it would be best to go after the head of the snake rather than the tail, so we agreed on Mayor Julian Castro and District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal,” Burkhardt told the Washington Times in an interview this week.

In that same article, Martinez said the groups already collected 3,200 of the approximately 6,000 signatures needed to put the recall on the ballot. “There were 150 signatures collected last Sunday in only one-and-a-half hours,” Martinez told the Washington Times. “This is a steady progression — not a quick hit.”

A posting this week on the Bexar County Conservative Coalition's Facebook page urged followers: "On your way home Stop by & Sign recall petitions tomorrow for Diego Bernal and Mayor Castro. Petitions for the rest of the Gang of eight are available. Pull in on Vance Jackson and turn right into side Street that circles right back to the access road on I10. Address is 1310 Vance Jackson." The location is a SAFD fire house.

Pastor Charles Flowers of the Faith Outreach Center

On September 5, the day the ordinance was passed, Pastor Charles Flowers, one of the the measure's most vocal opponents, spoke during the Citizens to be Heard session where he threatened the City Council, saying "the fight begins today" if the ordinance passed.

On Thursday, September 19, Flowers invited "African American, Anglo and Hispanic" pastors from around the city to his Faith Outreach Center for an "Advancing the Kingdom" conclave to determine "the actions required to return righteous rule to our city" after passage of the ordinance.

Flowers, who in 2007 was arrested for dragging a teenage girl behind a truck at his Christian bootcamp, told the invitees in an email, "May I humbly submit that I believe that the church in San Antonio in standing in the midst of a kairos (opportune) moment. We have been presented with a unique opportunity to join forces and work together for the advancement of the kingdom of God in our city."

In his email, Flowers said that his legal expert, Allan Parker, would give advice on the matter. "You need to be accurately informed on how to proceed with whatever our future actions will be," he wrote.

Betty Eckert with then-candidate for mayor Julian Castro and then-candidate for City Council Chris Forbrich at the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio's endorsement meeting in 2009.

Members of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio were taken aback recently when they learned that one of their former members, Betty Eckert, was opposed to the ordinance and was helping with Councilman Bernal's recall.

On Sunday, September 15, Eckert was at Holy Spirit Catholic Church collecting petition signatures.

She told Brian Chasnoff of the San Antonio Express-News, “We're doing recall on the mayor and all the council people who voted wrong. We're concentrating on the guy who wrote the ordinance. We're going to take him out first, the mayor second, and then we're going to go one by one. We're going to try to help those districts to take out the ones that didn't know how to vote.”

Eckert is secretary of the Olmos Park Terrace Neighborhood Association and represents a committee position on the Joint Commission for Elderly Affairs for the City of San Antonio and Bexar County.

"I am very disappointed to see Betty Eckert involved in this as she used to be a member of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio and was a supporter of Chris Forbrich, an openly gay man, in his two unsuccessful campaigns for City Council, District 1," wrote CAUSA co-chair Dan Graney in a Facebook post. "I wonder what happened that turned her away and into the waiting arms of the fundamentalist bigots."

The most troubling aspect of the efforts by opponents of the ordinance is the misinformation that is being spread locally and across the country through anti-gay media outlets.

On Thursday of this week, televangelist Pat Robertson falsely reported that having a "biblical view" on sexuality has been "criminalized" in San Antonio. “This means that if you speak out about your deeply held religious beliefs they will put you in jail or brand you some kind of a class 3 felon," Robertson said on his television program.

“This whole thing is outrageous and that city council should be replaced,” Robertson added.

“I’m confident in saying I’ve moved my district in the right direction,” Bernal told the San Antonio Current. “If these people want me out of office simply because I want to treat everyone in this city fairly and equally, it says more about them than it does about me.”

Since the ordinance passed, the LGBT community has rallied behind Bernal. CAUSA is urging its members and allies is to donate money to the councilman's re-election campaign.

On September 27 at 6:30 p.m., the San Antonio chapter of the Human Rights Campaign is hosting a fundraiser for Bernal at Sparky's Pub, asking those who attend to "bring their checkbooks."

"As you know, Councilman Bernal was the author and champion of our recently passed non-discrimination ordinance that protects LGBT people from discrimination," reads the invitation from HRC. "Because of his stand for our equality, he now faces a recall effort to remove him from office. We are not going to allow this to happen!"

In one unsurprising development, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot backed off his threat to sue the city over the ordinance. “Our office not unlikely to file suit,” Lauren Bean, Abbott's deputy communications director, wrote in a statement.

“His refusal to litigate is a prudent decision,” Mayor Castro told the Express-News. “His comments on the entire matter always struck me as the hustle of a politician not the judgment of a responsible attorney general.”