About halfway through Thursday's marathon throw-down on whether the city of San Antonio should extend benefits to domestic partners, including gays and lesbians, I lost track of all the statements I found offensive.
There were the pedestrian, too-cute-by-half clichés, such as the one about how God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
There were presumptuous and wrongheaded forays into science, where people said homosexuals can't choose their race but can choose their lifestyle, or that science proves that having gay parents harms children.
And there were hateful combinations of every sort.
One pleasant-faced woman named Nancy Goettman, who carried a sign to the lectern that said “1 man + 1 woman = marriage,” started by saying she's related by blood to William Bradford, one of the pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact.
She described it as an agreement between people and God that had been restored at Gov. Rick Perry's prayer event in Houston last month.
I stopped listening briefly while I tried to wrap my head around that one. I snapped back to reality just as she was describing a miracle at some other religious event, and how “we prayed over this young lady who was a dyke, and she was delivered and healed.”
The buzzer went off and her time was up. Right on time — or maybe a few seconds too late.
Finally, there was a bizarre convergence of incompatible notions about why these folks thought the City Council shouldn't commit taxpayer dollars to this. On the one hand, several said, it's a moral issue. On the other, they argued, you should put it to a vote.
Since when do we put moral issues to a vote? By that logic, maybe we should have a vote on whether murder should be legal.
In the spirit of charity, however, I need to pull back from what offended me and acknowledge that some of the folks who opposed the benefits probably took offense at things said on the other side, too.
The other budget question they raised, about where the line is drawn between art and blasphemy, isn't trivial. Maybe the city shouldn't underwrite the San Pedro Playhouse when some of its productions offend large portions of the taxpaying public — although not going to the shows seems like a viable option.
But it wasn't until City Council members got their turn to speak that I realized this wasn't about who was offended, or by whom.
In brief but eloquent remarks, Councilmen Diego Bernal and Rey Saldaña crystallized that one for me. It's early, to be sure, but both council newcomers continue to display breathtaking potential as leaders, the kind that makes you think they're capable of bigger things in their political careers.
Bernal said he wanted to “broaden the discussion just a little bit.” San Antonio, he said, is “a good city full of good people.” Many of those who had spoken were a part of that, he said, and it was reflected in the budget approved Thursday.
But the budget, he said, also included a provision “that treats a small segment of the city employees the same as all of the other city employees.” In keeping with the rest of the budget, he said, the extension of benefits “reflects the values and charity and good will of the city.”
Saldaña went further.
First he acknowledged the obvious passion for and against extending benefits, then said it wasn't his job to convince people who truly believe something that they're wrong.
His job, he said, “is to do what I truly and deeply believe is in the best interest of the city.”
With that in mind, he said, “my vote is to take care of people.” By doing so he was sending “a message of respect” to employees working side by side with other employees, a message that they're valued equally.
If some choose to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or a matter of choice, they can hold that view. If I or anyone else finds that offensive, it really doesn't matter much in this case.
This debate never had to be about that. And in the end, it wasn't.
Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/news_columnists/article/Council-newcomers-recast-debate-over-domestic-2173437.php#ixzz1Y9WEXIfQ