Gay rights in San Antonio: simple quote, complex subject

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In San Antonio, a battle over a proposed ordinance to add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the city’s nondiscrimination code has dominated headlines the last few weeks.

The San Antonio Express-News has been all over the story, including a report last week by award-winning Godbeat pro Abe Levy (who has been tweeting about the debate) on black and Latino clergy rallying against the measure.

A GetReligion reader complained that one story this week contained this criticism with no reference to a statement by Roman Catholic Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller:

Some in the gathering lamented the lack of more vocal opposition by the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which has supported the proposal’s spirit but has joined other pastors in expressing concerns about religious liberty and free speech.

True confession: I have not read all the coverage or even a huge amount of it.

So I want to be completely open about what I am about to do, which is to nitpick two paragraphs in a single story — today’s front-page report on the ordinance’s passage.

But before I get to those two paragraphs, here’s the top of the story:

An issue that starkly divided San Antonio this summer was resolved Thursday when the City Council approved an ordinance that adds protections for sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to the city code.

In four separate public forums since mid-August, more than 1,500 people approached the dais at City Hall and addressed the council, speaking passionately in support of and against the ordinance that drew national attention. Final public comments were heard about three hours before the council took its vote.

In separate votes, the council approved adding veteran status 9-2, and approved adding LGBT protections 8-3.

“It’s a common-sense ordinance that’s going to treat everyone equally,” Mayor Julián Castrosaid after the vote. “Nobody will be a second-class citizen in San Antonio. Here, there will be basic fairness and common decency for everybody.”

When it was over, red-clad supporters of the policy walked victoriously out of the council chambers, waving rainbow flags. They spilled into Main Plaza shouting mantras of equality and justice.

And opponents, dressed in blue, left quietly in defeat, vowing to fight the ordinance in the courts and to unseat or recall elected leaders for ignoring their pleas to table or spike the measure altogether.

Now to my criticism.

These are the last two paragraphs of the story, quoting a councilman named Ray Lopez:

Lopez said he was hurt his personal Catholic faith was questioned. In supporting the measure, Lopez echoed Pope Francis’s position on gay priests.

“Who am I to judge? I keep coming back to that,” Lopez said. “It gives me a solid personal position. I will be able to sleep tonight.”

On such a complex subject, could a quote be any more simplistic?

Did Lopez really echo the pope’s position on gays?

Mollie did nice job in late July of highlighting exactly what Francis told the media and putting it into proper context. I wish the Express-News had done the same.

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • Reformed Catholic

    FWIW …not many in the MSM took the time to put the Pope’s thoughts in their proper context.

    I’m quoting from Fr. Jonathan Morris, a Fox News contributor and program director of the Catholic Channel on SiriusXM Satellite Radio:

    ” What Pope Francis really said, in response to a reporter’s question about homosexual priests who are living a celibate life was this: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

    The Pope is referring to those who experience same sex attraction, but who decide to fight those attractions in order to remain faithful to Christ. There is no affirmation in this response, just a reaffirmation of Catholic doctrine that all those who are sinners are redeemed in Christ.

  • FW Ken

    When this story first made the rounds, Christians complained that the ordinance barred anyone from appointed positions who had ever objected to same-sex behavior. This effectively barred a large class of person from working with (or for?) the city.

    So I went looking for the actual text of the article, but couldn’t find it in any of the news stories. The articles you cite make this seem like a garden-variety anti-discrimination ordinance (my city has one) and left me wondering what the excitement is about. I did get some parts of the text, with commentary from this pro-gay site:

    http://mediamatters.org/research/2013/08/02/debunking-the-lies-about-san-antonios-proposed/195186

    As it turns out, the part about prior “biased speech” and prior “discriminatory acts” has been taken out of the ordinance. It appears that once appointed to a board or commission (or a job? I’m not clear), that “biased speech” and “discriminatory acts” can be a problem.

    This NYT article takes on the whole mess, and does a better job of explaining the uproar.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/us/san-antonio-passes-far-reaching-antidiscrimination-measure.html

    But it still doesn’t link to the actual text of the ordinance.

    • Gail Finke

      I’ve been looking for the text too! I can’t find it and will call the courthouse myself today to get it.

  • Steve

    Whatever Pope Francis may have meant, what was reported is what people heard. Both the writer’s and Mr. Lopez’s comments make that clear. I wonder if journalists can sleep at night knowing they are the judge of what to report and how to say it?


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