San Antonio, TX - The City Council voted 8-3 Thursday to approve adding sexual orientation andgender identity to the list of classes protected from discrimination in San Antonio. Council chambers erupted with emotion — red-clad supporters of the updated nondiscrimination ordinance applauded and offered a standing ovation, while blue-shirted opponents sat silently. People from both factions quickly began exiting chambers. Supporters, some draped in rainbow flags,broke out in a "SI SE PUEDE" chant as they headed to Main Plaza in celebration. Because there were eight affirmative votes, the ordinance takes effect immdeiately. The council voted 9-2 to add similar protections for veteran status. Councilman Ray Lopez moved to split the vote to avoid accusations that nondiscrimination ordinance supporters used veterans to leverage votes. Council members Elisa Chan, Ivy Taylor and Carlton Soules voted against adding LGBT protections. Chan and Soules voted against adding veteran status protections. The council listened to more than three hours of public input Thursday before taking a vote. Councilman Diego Bernal, who spearheaded the effort to update the city's policies, said the ordinance is not going to take away anyone's right to free religion or free speech. "This ordinance does ensure that everybody in our community is created equally," Bernal said. Mayor Julián Castro dispelled notions that the proposal hadn't been vetted enough and said it garnered support from all corners of the city. "This ordinance fundamentally is about ensuring whether you're white or black, Christan or Jew, straight or gay, this city belongs to you," Castro said. "This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio." After Bernal finished his address to those attending the meeting, supporters gave him a standing ovation while opponents sat silently. Earlier in the day, he endured threats from opponents that they would recall him and anyone else who voted in favor of the measure. Councilman Ron Nirenberg said passing the NDO makes sense. "The heart of the debate has centered on whether or not sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran's status should be added to the list of protected classes that currently includes race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability," he said. "Each of those classes, it would seem, deserves protection from discrimination because of past oppression or a high potential for bias."
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