SAN ANTONIO -

Hundreds braved Wednesday's high heat to weigh in on the city's hotly contested nondiscrimination ordinance.

Many of the people who arrived for Wednesday's council meeting at City Hall chambers had been downtown since early Wednesday morning. Nearly 200 people had signed up to speak during the "citizens to be heard" portion of the meeting.

The ordinance would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Supporters of the ordinance dressed in red and say the law is about equality. Opponents were decked out in blue and say it violates their first amendment rights.

"I think it takes away our religious freedom it, I guess, possibly persecutes the church, or sets it up for that," said John Cope, who opposes the ordinance.

Marizol Cortez supports the ordinance and said, "I see the hurt and the suffering that people growing up gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual in society. I see what they're suffering (and) that's not right so that's why I'm here."

For military veteran Michael Mason, he said the day is about the democratic process and being able to address city leaders directly. Mason opposes the ordinance.

"I went to Iraq, I went to Haiti, I fought for this country, so my voice should be heard just like everybody else's voices should be heard," said Mason.

"We're lagging, not leading in this area, so it's time to catch up with the rest of the world and get these protections in place so that we can have fairness and equality in this city," said Dan Graney, with the Community Alliance for a United San Antonio.

Security increased at city hall

Security outside city hall was tight, as security staff searched through purses and other personal items.

“Just due to the fact that there was a larger crowd than usual anticipated we did increase our presence of officers," said San Antonio police Sgt. Javier Salazar. “It’s been a well-behaved crowd. They want to come down here to see what’s going on and to be heard and that's understandable.”

Once inside, the crowd took their seats, filling up the chamber's lower level in only a few minutes. The remaining audience members were forcing others to head upstairs to the mezzanine area.

The San Antonio Fire Department expected a much larger crowd and formulated a safety plan.

“The (fire prevention division) chief did walk around prior to the event to work with security to determine how many people we can have because it is going to be standing room-only upstairs. We're only going to have two people deep, so they don't crowd into the exit ways,” said SAFD public information officer Christian Bove.

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