San Antonio, various groups react to councilwoman's alleged rant


by Gary Cooper & Freddy Hunt /

Posted on August 18, 2013 at 6:19 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 19 at 10:44 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- Several dozen members and supporters of the LGBT community took to San Antonio City Hall on Friday afternoon in protest of District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan and the anti-gay opinions she allegedly expressed to her staff.

"Equal right now! Equal rights now!" the crowd chanted.

Manuel Medina, chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, took the podium.

"Chan's comments are proof that discrimination still exists in San Antonio," he said.

According to a report from the San Antonio Express-News, an aide secretly recorded the councilwoman saying homosexuals are "disgusting" and that gays should not be allowed to adopt children. The comments were recording during a closed May 21 meeting on updates to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

"Personally, I think it's just disgusting," Chan can be heard saying. ... "They're going to be confused. You're going to see two men going into bedroom. You see two women kissing. Is that not confusing?"

Changes to the ordinance, as proposed by District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, aim to add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. Bernal told KENS 5 that Chan's comments are disappointing.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro also spoke out against the councilwoman.

"Councilwoman Chan's comments were hurtful and misinformed and they don't reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of San Antonians," Castro said. "San Antonio is a city where everybody belongs. We're a city that treats folks with respect and appreciates our diversity."

Chan, however, is drawing some support from The Justice Foundation and the River City Tea Party Patriots. According to statements from each organization:



"The Justice Foundation defends Councilperson Elisa Chan's statement which was attributed in the newspaper as being homophobic. These are natural reactions and legitimate points of view which as an American citizen, and as a Texan, she has a right to express and act upon."

"The River City Tea Party hereby expresses it support for our fellow Conservative, District 9 City Councilwoman Elisa Chan and her anti-homosexual stance."

RCTPP president, Brandon Burkhardt, also told KENS 5, "She has her opinion and she's entitled to her opinion and we think she should stand by it and we stand behind her."

The recording has added fuel to a fiery discussion around changes to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Archdiocese of San Antonio sent a press release on Friday to preview an editorial column from Archbishop Gustavo Garía-Sill er expected on Sunday. In the editorial, the archbishop will encourage city council and the mayor to remain open to dialogue with residents concerned by the proposed changes to the ordinance.

District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg said on Friday that one of his aides has been placed on indefinite administrative leave. Jeff Brazen had previously worked for Chan and could be heard on the recording.

"The tape recording made of Councilwoman Elisa Chan’s staff meeting revealed some very ignorant and disturbing comments, some of them made by Jeff Bazan, who has since become a member of my staff. I have spoken with Jeff, and he has apologized for those statements, which he says do not reflect his personal feelings," according to a press release.

KENS 5 also reached out to Chan for comment. Her staff said the councilwoman is out of town but will be releasing a statement later in the day.

Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff, who broke the story, told KENS 5's Deborah Knapp that Chan originally denied knowing the aide who leaked the recording. She eventually admitted that the name rang a bell but declined to comment on the recording itself before the report was publish on Friday.

"She didn't say much about the comments," Chasnoff said. "She told me that she had to hear the tape before she could comment to me. So I did ask her about it but she walked away before we could have a discussion."

The mayor also went public with his comments on his official Twitter account, pointing to the recording as proof that San Antonio needs to update its non-discrimination ordinance.