San Antonio, Texas councilwoman Elisa Chan has refused to apologize or retract the comments she made during a secretly recorded staff strategy meeting designed to map out her opposition to a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance. Chan, who can be heard in the original audio calling gay and transgender people “disgusting,” has defended her comments as her “First Amendment right.” She also refused to recuse herself from voting on the ordinance, which would add LGBT people and veterans to the city’s list of protected non-discrimination classes of people.
Chan, during that May meeting, had also said she believes homosexuality is a choice, that gay people “take hormone shots,” and that gay people should be “banned” from adopting or raising children.
But now, Chan is facing increasing backlash and calls for her resignation after new audio has been released revealing additional portions of that May 21 staff meeting. In the new audio, below, Chan expresses her derision about the marriage of former San Antonio councilwoman Leticia Ozuna.
“In the recording, Chan discusses Ozuna’s family life. Ozuna, who lost re-election in May, is married to Sophia Parafina, a transgender woman; they have two children,” Brian Chasnoff, the Express-News reporter who published the original audio, now reports.
“That lady was born a man. So that marriage is still valid in the state of Texas,” one of Chan’s aides says in the new audio.
“So what kind of marriage is that?,” Chan responds during the meeting in her San Antonio, Texas city council office.
Chasnoff adds his paper “had previously withheld that portion of the recording to protect Ozuna’s privacy. Ozuna agreed this week to address the portion regarding her family.”
“I am terribly saddened to learn that me and my family were used as subjects of ridicule and criticism by Elisa Chan and her staff,” Ozuna said in a statement.
“No words can adequately express both the anger and sadness our family feels as we deal with this disclosure. She has unequivocally disrespected all LBGTQ families, including mine,” she said.
“We wholeheartedly believe that the public trust has been compromised,” Ozuna continued. “I believe that Elisa Chan should no longer remain in a position of making prejudiced, ill-informed decisions that could cause irreparable harm to the good people of San Antonio.”
Chan, finally, has released a statement offering an apology — but only directly to the former councilwoman, not to the LGBT community.
“I apologize profusely to Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna and her family for referencing their lives in our private conversation,” Chan’s statement reads.
“I did not address the withheld minute of the recording earlier because it was never my intention to hurt anyone.”
And in fact, Chan lied when she told reporters earlier this week that her comments surrounding the word “disgusting” were only related to “pedophilia and bestiality,” as local San Antonio news reporter, KENS 5‘s Jeff Goldblatt, explains:
Chan singled out the word “disgusting,” claiming she was not specifically referencing homosexuality, as originally reported.
“Many of the comments reported in the newspaper have been taken out of content,” Chan said. “An example is the word ‘disgusting.’ I made that comment in reaction to pedophilia and bestiality.”
In the May 21 recording, Chan participated in the following exchange:
Staffer No. 1: “If a woman who’s bisexual, like, that’s fine. Even though she’s bisexual, but that’s OK.”
Staffer No. 2: “Anything goes.”
Chan: “So disgusting.”
Staffer No. 2: “No morals and values.”
What San Antonio citizens should be asking themselves now is not only do they want to support a homophobic, transphobic councilwoman, but do they want their tax dollars to pay for this type of rhetoric and discourse during the work day. San Antonio citizens should ask themselves how they would feel about working alongside someone like Elisa Chan. What if Elisa Chan were their boss? Even if they hold the same views as Chan, do they really feel her attacks on another woman’s marriage are appropriate for the workplace? Do they really want to be paying for this?
In “No way to run a meeting,” Rick Casey, writing at the same paper that originally published the audio of Chan’s remarks, points to Chan’s martyrdom and First Amendment claims, and posits:
But here’s a history question for Councilwoman Chan: When the founding fathers, having thrown off the yoke of British tyranny, wrote the First Amendment, do you think it was mainly to protect the speech rights of government officials, or of the citizens who seek to criticize them?
Casey writes that it “is not my intention here today to criticize Councilwoman Elisa Chan for the comments she and her staff made during a secretly taped closed-door meeting last May.”
I’m here to criticize her for the quality of the team she hired and for her appalling lack of skill at running a productive meeting.
At a news conference Tuesday, Chan referred to the session in her office as a brainstorming session. I invite you to listen to audio. A brainstorm? As Chan and her staff trod the well-worn path of anti-gay prejudice, it feels more like slow-rising sludge than an electrical event. I’ve been in Irish pubs at closing time that featured more logical, disciplined conversations.
There are so many good reasons for the citizens of San Antonio to say they want to be represented by someone better.
San Antonians should ask themselves, “what if she were talking about me?”
Image via Elisa Chan campaign
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