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Two San Antonio congressmen persist in rejection of LGBT issues
QSanAntonio, March 28, 2014

On March 18, nearly every Democratic member of the Senate and 148 Democratic members of the House of Representatives signed a letter urging President Obama to issue an executive order prohibiting workplace discrimination against LGBT federal workers. Missing from the signatories on that letter were two Democratic congressmen who represent San Antonio.

Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) and Pete Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), who both have constituents in San Antonio, were among the three Texas Democrats in the House who did not sign the letter and neither has endorsed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

"We are writing to urge you to fulfill the promise in your State of the Union address to make this a 'year of action' and build upon the momentum of 2013 by signing an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. As you have said before, 'now is the time to end this kind of discrimination, not enable it,'" says the letter.

Cuellar and Gallego are a thorn in the side of San Antonio LGBT activists. Neither has ever sought the endorsement of the Stonewall Democrats or shown any interest in courting LGBT voters much less supporting their issues.

The BEAT AIDS Cuellar flap

In 2006, Cuellar was one of 34 Democrats in Congress who voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment. The FMA was a discriminatory proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to deny marriage protections to gay and lesbian couples and their children. Fortunately, despite Cuellar's vote, the measure fell far short of the two-thirds vote required to pass a constitutional amendment. A similar measure also failed in the U.S. Senate.

That same year, Cuellar was chosen as the keynote speaker for the BEAT AIDS annual charity banquet.

Dan Graney, ex-officio board member of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio and then-group leader of the Soulforce San Antonio chapter, voiced his concerns in a letter addressed to BEAT-AIDS’ then-vice chairman of the board Joseph Scott, Jr. and executive director Michele Durham.

“I do not understand how BEAT-AIDS can embrace as its featured speaker a man who votes in favor of discrimination,” Graney wrote in a letter he shared with the press. “By voting in favor of discrimination against same-gender couples, Cuellar is also signaling his willingness to discriminate against those who are infected with HIV/AIDS. These issues intersect.”

BEAT AIDS feared a boycott of their banquet and sent then-board member Ron Clarke to speak at a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats.

In a statement defending their choice of Cuellar, BEAT AIDS said, ". . . the GLBT community is not the only community that we serve. We serve the entire San Antonio and surrounding area and quite literally everyone in this community who is affected by HIV/AIDS in some way or another . . . Congressman Cuellar remains committed to providing funding to HIV/AIDS resources . . . providing direct support to the GLBT community by assuring continued funding to HIV/AIDS organizations.”

Given the state of AIDS funding at the time, BEAT AIDS could ill-afford to insult Congressman Cuellar by rescinding his invitation to speak. In the end, there was no boycott but Graney's publicly-voiced concerns put the spotlight on Cuellar's record.

Gallegos: Same-sex marriage not a national issue

In a February 9, 2012 interview with the Texas Tribune, then-State Represenative Gallego, who was running for Congress in the 23rd District, said that same-sex marriage is a state issue, one that he will not encounter in Washington if he's elected.

"I don't think it will come before us," Gallego told the Texas Tribune. "I think it will remain a state issue. The state gets to rightfully make those determinations as to what happens."

When pressed for a more concise answer to the question Gallego added: "I think what happens in Texas is what people in Texas want. I'm one of those who believes the legislature really is a microcosm of Texas."

When the Tribune interviewer asked Gallego what his vote would be should the issue come before Congress, Gallego replied, "I don't have a vote on this issue. It's not an issue that's going to come before Congress."

Pressing on, the Tribune interviewer asked Gallego what he would tell gay San Antonians who want to know where he stands.

"My answer to gay San Antonians . . . would be that it's a state issue and were I a still a member of the state legislature then I would say here's what I think and here's what I think you should do and how you should approach it."

Gallego went on to beat Republican incumbent Francisco "Quico" Canseco for the congressional seat but he did so without seeking votes from the LGBT community, even after the Texas Democratic Party added a marriage equality plank in the party platform that year.

A photo circulating on Facebook urging voters to contact Congressman Gallego about the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

Local activists are urging LGBT residents of San Antonio who are in Cuellar and Gallego's districts to make their voices heard. "We need to bombard them with our message," says Graney. "We need to tell them to stop acting like Republicans."

Click here to contact Congressman Gallego

Click here to contact Congressman Cuellar