Candidates Running For City Council Associated With City Benefits Battle

Deadline To File To Be Candidate Is Monday, March 14

El Paso, Texas - Monday is the last day to file to run for El Paso City Council and ABC-7 has uncovered that in every race there is a candidate affiliated with the movement that took away the health insurance benefits of gay and unwed partners of city employees through a ballot measure this past November.

In District 1, local minister Manny Hinojosa, who is challenging incumbent Ann Morgan Lilly, has been a common fixture at City Council meetings. Hinojosa has spoken against health benefits for gay and unwed partners of city employees.

"I've got God and the Holy Spirit on my side and if you ever get on your knees and pray you'll find out," Hinojosa said at City Council in November.

Hinojosa also tried to make the sexual orientation of some city staffers part of the public discourse.

"And the reason there's a conflict of interest is that some of you have the lifestyle we're discussing today," Hinojosa said in November.

Another District 1 candidate is local family attorney, Lyda Ness, who has butted heads with Hinojosa in the same City Council meetings.

"We can recall there was a time when interracial couples were not allowed to marry, and people supported that and it was the will of the brave and the few and the people who stood for what is really justice," Ness said.

Ness started the group, El Paso For Equality, as a reaction to the group, El Pasoans For Traditional Family Values, and that group's efforts to abolish health benefits for domestic partners of city employees.

Sonia Brown, one of the leaders of El Pasoans For Traditional Family Values, is a candidate for City Council in District 5. The seat is currently held by Rachel Quintana, who announced in January she was not running for re-election.

"I've seen that City Council has a lot of power with the traditional family ordinance, that they were contemplating rescinding and I didn't like that," Brown told ABC-7 last week. "I believe City Council has been dishonoring the voice of the voters. I want to give back the power to the voters."

If elected, Brown plans on introducing the Voter Rights Amendment, which would keep any ordinance passed by a majority of the voters from being rescinded by City Council for two years.

Zulema Lazarin, a candidate for Eddie Holguin's seat in District 6, told ABC-7 she's been active in the movement to take away the health insurance of domestic partners.

In November, 55 percent of voters voted to support traditional family values and take away health insurance benefits from gay and unwed partners of city employees.

Some city employees, fearing they'll lose their health insurance, are challenging the ordinance in federal court. Judge Frank Montalvo is expected to make a decision on the case in April.

Both Brown and District 8 candidate Malcolm McGregor are defendants - in that lawsuit.

The election is May 14.

Related Link:Link:Candidates For May 14, 2011 Election

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