Ivy Taylor, mayor of San Antonio, Texas — criticized by some locals for her past anti-gay stances — is due to speak at a Women for David Howard campaign event in Charlotte on Tuesday.
Taylor, the first African-American woman elected to lead a city of a million or more residents, served on the San Antonio City Council before being appointed to mayor and later winning election to the seat this year.
While she was a Council member, Taylor voted against San Antonio’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, a measure similar to one defeated in Charlotte in March. Howard, who voted for a compromise version of that ordinance, is currently running for mayor.
Howard’s event to celebrate women
Howard and Taylor are personal friends.
“She’s just not another mayor. She’s a really good friend of mine,” Howard said Tuesday morning. “I’m proud of her. She’s the first African-American female mayor of a city larger than a million people and that’s something we should be celebrating. I’m ecstatic for her. The first time she heard anybody say, ‘Ivy, you ought to think about running for mayor,’ was from me.”
Howard said Tuesday morning that his event’s sole purpose is to speak with women — “how they achieve and how they overcome the status quo,” he said.
The event being held this morning and afternoon, “Redefining the Status Quo: Women on the Move,” also features two other speakers: human resources and career strategist Dr. Lisa Lindsay Wicker, and Columbia, S.C., City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine. In 2008, Devine spearheaded Columbia’s own effort to pass LGBT-inclusive public accommodations protections.
“I don’t want this one to spin in the wrong direction. That’s not what it is,” Howard said, adding that he’s had women’s campaign events for years to give him an opportunity to hear from them.
“One of the things I’m clear on is that if I want to talk to women, I don’t want to tell them what I think about what they should think,” Howard said. “I want to hear from them what their issues and concerns are. Being a husband and a father, you want to hear more from them. Today is about women talking to women and me having the opportunity to sit in on the conversation and then for a brief moment share with them what I believe, what my response would be and how I would serve as mayor.”
Howard: Anti-gay stances no reflection on me
Taylor’s past anti-gay controversies bear no reflection on Howard or his campaign, he said.
“No , I don’t. Not at all actually,” Howard responded when asked directly if he thought Taylor’s appearance and past record would reflect badly on his campaign.
“How would it? No more than … the fact that the LGBT community endorsed Dan Clodfelter and the fact that his integrity’s been questioned,” Howard said.
Howard’s remarks are a clear jab at Clodfelter’s endorsement by the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC), as well as claims that Clodfelter once said he would not run for mayor after being appointed to fulfill former mayor Patrick Cannon’s term. Clodfelter did later jump in the race. Clodfelter has said he never promised not to run and that he would take a “wait-and-see attitude,” according to the Observer. At the time, the Observer reported Clodfelter saying, “I have said I don’t have long-term plans to do this.”
Howard added, “You can’t be married to every statement and every decision somebody makes and she has the right to feel the way she does.”
Taylor voted ‘no’ on San Antonio ordinance
Taylor voted “no” on San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance in September 2013, though it ultimately passed 8-3. At the time, she cited her personal religious beliefs for voting against the measure and said she “couldn’t overcome concerns that it would stifle individual religious freedoms,” according to local media.
She also told media: “I have sacrificed a lot to serve in this role on city council, but I will not sacrifice my core values and beliefs for political gain or to be in alignment with a particular platform. And if that was the expectation for me as a black woman, [you’ve] got the wrong sister in this seat.”
Taylor later riled local and national LGBT activists earlier this year when re-addressing the ordinance she called the debate on LGBT protections a “waste of time.”
Local outlets reported Taylor received “raucous applause” for her comments opposing the non-discrimination ordinance at a “faith forum” at a local church:
“I did not feel we should have even been debating that issue. I thought it was a waste of time,” Taylor said at the event. “We should have been focusing on those critical issues that you’re concerned about — streets and roads, and police and fire, libraries and parks,” she said. “There was no way that we in those council chambers could change hearts of men, and what I felt I was being asked to do was provide tacit approval to something I didn’t feel comfortable with, and to also demand that people who do business with the city do that same thing. And so I voted ‘no,’ I voted my conscience and I stand behind my vote.”
Taylor later met with her LGBT advisory council and apologized. Some, including the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio, called her apology a “step in the right direction,” but others were remained incensed.
“Encouraging but it comes across as damage control more than a genuine change of heart,” said Dan Graney, a former Community Alliance co-chair. “Unless and until Mayor Taylor issues an apology for her ‘no’ vote on the [ordinance] in 2013, she will not have experienced true transformation.”
The national Human Rights Campaign called her apology statement a ‘Sorry How It Made You Feel’ Non-Apology. They also slammed the mayor for not reviewing a plan to fully implement the new ordinance.
HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said at the time:
“While Mayor Taylor may have issued something intended to be an apology, her actions speak far louder than words. If she truly supports the LGBT community in San Antonio, she should not only fully-implement the current law, but urge the City Council to expand the law to protect all LGBT San Antonians from employment discrimination, not just city employees and those doing business with the city. HRC joins Equality Texas in calling for better enforcement of the NDO and the creation of a mechanism for receiving and handling complaints.”
The San Antonio non-discrimination did pass, even without Taylor’s vote. It’s similar to what was proposed in Charlotte — adding sexual orientation and gender identity, among other characteristics, to the city’s public accommodations and other non-discrimination measures.
David Howard himself has only partially supported the ordinance. Howard voted for a compromise version of the ordinance that strips out protections for transgender residents, after unsuccessfully floating another idea that would have proposed adding requirements for gender-neutral restrooms to building codes. He said in an LGBT candidate forum on Aug. 12 that he would not work to oppose or veto a fully comprehensive version if he were mayor.
I’ve reached out to MeckPAC, Equality North Carolina and the Human Rights Campaign for comment. They’ve not yet issued comments. The three organizations are currently running the TurnOUT Charlotte! get-out-the-vote campaign. Collectively, they endorsed a slate of at-large City Council candidates.
So far, only MeckPAC has released a mayoral endorsement. Equality NC released their endorsements on Tuesday afternoon. Read more about them here.