In the days leading up to the San Antonio City Council vote on the proposed revisions to the non-discrimination ordinance, the steps in front of City Hall have transformed into a stage for supporters and opponents.
On Wednesday, two groups that disagree with each other had an event planned for the same time.
One of the groups, led in part by Patrick VonDohlen, a board member with the San Antonio Family Association, began a news conference at 11 a.m. to speak in opposition to a proposed non-discrimination ordinance revision. But members of the group stuck around from noon to 2 p.m. for a prayer vigil.
The problem some encountered was that another group, consisting in part by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, had planned a news conference of their own at noon on the same steps. The group supports the ordinance proposal, which would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status to the list of protected classes in San Antonio.
Watching the prayer service run into her group’s event, Nettie Hinton said leaders in favor of the measure asked the others to move.
“They refused to move,” she said. “So because Dr. King and others have told us that we must fight for our cause with dignity, we moved to the back of the building.”
VonDohlen spoke while helping hold up a sign that read, “One Man + One Woman = Marriage.” As a part of the San Antonio Family Association, which began in response to the city’s action to extend domestic partner benefits beginning in the 2012 budget year, has been vividly outspoken on the proposed ordinance as well.
But Wednesday, he calmly said his group’s event had been pre-planned.
"We had planned to have our prayer vigil a week and a half go to have it from 12 to 2,” he said. And so we stayed here to make sure that we had the main plaza."
Groups do not need to have permission from the city. It is their constitutional right to assemble.
A city spokesperson says typically, groups will let those at City Hall know about their event out of courtesy.