Opponents of a plan that would extended
benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees of
the city of El Paso, Texas showed up at City Hall Tuesday to fight
the plan, the El Paso Times reported.
In a 6 to 1 vote Thursday, city leaders
added the plan to the city's budget.
During Tuesday's City Council meeting,
about a dozen citizens came forward to condemn the city's actions
during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Most who spoke said they objected to
the plan based on religious grounds.
“If our government starts passing
laws that are against guidelines in the Bible, it starts to
contaminate the spiritual water of our people … What does God say
about homosexuality? He says it is an abomination,” said Barney
Field, servant of El Paso for Jesus.
Activist Lisa Turner responded to the
protesters: “These are the people that are preaching hate. You
tell me where in the Bible does it say to preach hate? Forty years
ago they were using the same arguments against Black people.”
Due to city rules, council members are
not allowed to respond to public comments. That did not stop several
lawmakers who decided to take the debate outside.
Outside City Hall, Representative Beto
O'Rourke explained his backing on the issue to about 40 angry people.
“I think it is incredibly unfair to deny people – who are born
gay and have entered committed relationships that have spanned years
and who are hard-working city employees – benefits, given their
effort to make this a better city.”
But the crowd was not allayed and
demanded the council put the issue to a vote.
“You are a representative of the
people, but you are voting based on your heart, not on the will of
the people,” one person said.
“You made the decision on this
controversial issue before an election year. Why didn't you vote on
this during an election year?” another person asked.
Last month, the
city was thrust into the national gay rights debate when two men
refused security guards' request to leave a Mexican fast-food
restaurant because they were kissing. The men sought help from the
police, who backed the guards, saying the men could be cited for
their unlawful behavior. The police department attempted to pass
off the threat of citation as a rookie mistake, and not
discriminatory in nature.