Artist: Esperanza Center
Confronting Bodies: San Antonio City Council
Date of Action: September 11, 1997
Specific Location: Esperanza Center, San Antonio, Texas
Description of Artwork: The Esperanza Center is an organization that promotes social justice through cultural arts programming and advocating on behalf of people of color, women, lesbians and gay men, the working class and the poor.
Description of Incident: On September 11, 1997 the San Antonio City Council voted to eliminate all city funding to the Esperanza center. The Council made its decision following a campaign that characterized Esperanza as "pro-homosexual," "pro-abortion" and anti-"family values." Esperanza was scheduled to receive over $62,000 and was the only arts organization to be entirely defunded, though city funding to the arts was cut 15% across the board.
Results of Incident: Initially, Esperanza continued its programming with private funds and subsequently proceeded with litigation. In May 2001, Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the City of San Antonio had violated the First Amendment rights of the Esperanza Center. He found that Esperanza was penalized for expressing its viewpoint-namely the promotion of social and economic justice-through its arts program. The City's decision to remove the group's designated funding from the 1998 budget violated the Constitution's guarantees of freedom of speech. The City's decision to selectively take away all funding from Esperanza, while city funds for other arts organizations were cut only by 15%, violated the equal protection clause. Judge Garcia also found that the city violated procedure while making its decision.
Source: NCAC, www.esperanzacenter.org
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