Bexar County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to update the language of the County’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy to specifically name protections and benefits for its LGBTQIA employees and job applicants.

The County added a so-called “Plus One Qualifying Adult” policy in 2014 that extended employee benefit plans to unmarried partners, but it did not include language specifically naming same-sex relationships. Tuesday’s decision, prompted by Commissioner Paul Elizondo (Pct. 2), now designates equal opportunities regardless of “gender identity, gender expression, [and] sexual orientation.”

“We’re finally able to move this forward after all this time,” said Dan Graney, co-chair of the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio. “These are all important categories to include in policy.”

According to LGBTQIA advocacy group Equality Texas, Bexar County is the second county in Texas to update its policy to include such protections. The first was Dallas County. The City approved similar updates to its non-discrimination ordinance in 2013.

“Every citizen of Bexar County deserves to be treated equally in the workplace and be judged on job performance, not on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression,” Robert Salcido, Equality Texas’ statewide field coordinator, stated in an email.

Four people attended the meeting to protest the new language, citing familiar arguments used in the “bathroom bill” debate and religious stances.

San Antonio Family Association representatives argued that the policy would detract from “traditional marriages.” Patrick Van Dohlen, the conservative organization’s president, said the County should not be promoting “evil” and “unhealthy” lifestyles with taxpayer dollars.

Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3), the lone Republican on the Court, was suspicious of the policy update, but explained that his reluctance to approve stemmed from his beliefs on the role of government – not ideology.

“I don’t like this because I think its more about political pandering than I think it is anything else,” said Wolff. “While I don’t agree that this body should be delving into what is already federally mandated, I do understand the intent and I agree with the intent to try to provide as much protection as possible.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized evidence of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, said Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4), so the County needs to take actions subsequent to those findings.

“We’re at a point where the County must assure its in compliance with the highest court in the land,” Calvert said. “I take great offense to the obfuscation of the issues here.”

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he thought people had moved beyond prejudices based on sexual orientation.

“Apparently I’m wrong,” he said.

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.