Posted on June 24, 2020 by Valerie Bustamante


JUNE 24, 2020   —   Stacy Speedlin Gonzalez,   an assistant professor in practice of counseling in the College of Education and Human Development, and Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, of Bexar County Court 13, are driven to making a difference in the field of social work and counseling.

Stacy Speedlin Gonzalez has worked as an addiction counselor for more than 10 years, while Judge Speedlin Gonzalez spent 17 years as a child welfare attorney and 11 years as a social worker before becoming a judge for County Court 13.

Together as spouses, the couple is working toward enacting policy change for the greater good of the Bexar County community while also helping Roadrunners grow into future leaders.

You are this powerhouse couple and active change makers in the community, but how did that get started? Tell me a little about your own story.

Stacy:   After I got my Ph.D. I was asked to be chair of a conference in San Antonio, and at the time the organization was called the Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender Issues in Counseling. They held their national conference here in San Antonio, and when I was the chair of the conference they decided they wanted to have a luncheon, where we would invite political figures so we could talk with them to find ways to essentially bridge the gap between what we do and what they do and better serve the LGBTQ community.

“We are both committed to serving our community and giving what is best in both of us to others for their benefit.”

I called my friend Judge Karen Pozza, who married the first gay couple after marriage equality and I said, “I don’t know any people in your profession. Can you help me with invites?” She asked me to send an email and she would send it to the right people. She did that and Rosie was one of them. Rosie was an attorney at the time and had run for judge twice. She ran for a juvenile court and lost, then she ran for County Court at Law 13, which is where she is now. But back then she had loss to the incumbent.

Rosie reached out to me and said she wanted to collaborate with me, since that was the theme of our conference. We had lunch together at La Fruteria, and I kept it very professional, listening to her talk about things she was interested in. That’s really how we met and we ended up going on dates and getting married. We actually got married at the same hotel one year later.

A big focus of the work you two do is in the domestic violence, substance and child abuse area. Why is this the area you two want to make a difference in?

Rosie:   We are both committed to serving our community and giving what is best in both of us to others for their benefit. Having said that, our community is in dire straits when it comes to domestic violence, drug abuse and child abuse.

We have some of the state’s highest numbers. We both bring professional backgrounds that are driven by work to stop and diminish the social ills that are a scourge on our fellow residents and families who have been traditionally underserved and removed from the conversation—the conversation that is so much needed to ensure that people have a hand in their own self-determination.

Stacy:   Domestic violence is a problem. In fact, here in Bexar County we are the deadliest county in the entire state of Texas when it comes to domestic violence and child abuse. People are safer on the streets here than they are in their own homes, which is kind of interesting and there’s a lot of variables that come into play for that.

Any problem you see in our society can be traced to trauma. It’s traced to violence and yet, as professionals, we do nothing to address the issue. Rosie and I are not ones to sit in our seats. We really want to make a difference. Our city is hurting and it’s a very sad thing when you get calls from people that the victim isn’t going to testify because she was murdered.

The two of you spearheaded HB 3529, which was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott last year. What is the reason behind the bill and why was it important?

Rosie:   HB 3529 was a bill that was thrown together over a period of a few very intense days. Those days came during the last legislative session when we were afforded time with Texas Rep. Roland Gutierrez, a very progressive advocate for San Antonio residents.

I had run on a platform that included drastic changes with what was the existing approach to domestic violence, which is very victim-centered and -driven. All the data and research has been and continues to point to the fact that as long as we do not address the perpetrator behavior, the behavior is doomed to recur indefinitely, which means the number of victims will continue to grow exponentially.

Our mindset was that if we could treat the perpetrator upstream, then we could lessen the flow of victims downriver. HB 3529 legislates the creation of a Specialty Court in Bexar County Court at Law No. 13 that will focus on accused perpetrators of domestic violence in which this is their first violent offense and whose offense was rooted in some level of substance abuse.

The program is a pretrial diversion program that will offer a drug-treatment component, intense supervision, trauma-informed care, participation in MP360 [a curriculum custom-designed for violent offenders with a history of substance abuse], drug testing, individual counseling and an opportunity to turn their lives around free of violence and drug abuse.

Stacy:   Rosie was a drug court attorney for many years and I’ve been a substance abuse counselor for many years. We felt it was imperative to have this bill. We believe we should not settle for the world we live in but should do everything in our power to fight for a world as it should be.

You co-lead a class together at UTSA called Child Abuse and Domestic Violence. How did that come to be? What’s the purpose behind the class?

Rosie:   When we met I was coteaching a class with Professor Ana Novoa at St. Mary’s University Law School: Child Welfare Law Seminar. Stacy knew my background and the work I was involved in. We started to talk about how it could benefit professionals coming into the fields of child abuse, family law, mental health, law enforcement, counseling services to know what they were getting themselves into and what would be expected of them upon graduating and jumping into these fields headfirst and blind.

Stacy:   I started out by guest-lecturing the first semester I came to her class and the students kept writing back in their feedback stories that they liked it better when we were together. We have good energy together and humor. I think they like the interaction we have with each other and the juxtaposition we have. She is an attorney and a judge. She definitely has the personality of both. I’m a counselor and I’m a little calmer where she’s very dynamic.

What’s the class like for students who take it?

Stacy:   It’s is an experiential course. We have master’s level students, undergraduate students and doctoral students. It’s a very interesting course because it combines people who are in varying stages of their education. For that reason, we really wanted to create a course that would meet the expectations for all involved. We spend five weeks talking about child abuse, we spend five weeks talking about domestic violence, and then we spend two weeks talking about human trafficking.

The thing we do that is unique is every week we have panels come in to talk to the students. We’ve had judges, attorneys, human trafficking officers, victims, survivors of domestic violence and child abuse come in. We even had a woman come in who lost custody of her kids and gained them back. It is really with the intent of bringing the community to the classroom so our students get exposure to people they wouldn’t otherwise meet. 

⇒   Explore research in the  Department of Counseling at UTSA.
⇒   Read more on the  special guest  invited by the Speedlin Gonzalezes to class.

What do you hope students take away from this course?

Rosie:   The goal is to prepare these students for the reality of working with a very difficult population on a very difficult issue over an extended period of time, making sure they are doing this work from a healthy perspective, with all the right intentions in order to serve the most amount of people possible.

Stacy:   We want people to think beyond simply the rubber-stamping of treatment planning and care. We want them to really examine the system and think of the way the system is broken and as future professionals how can they fix it.

This is Pride Month. What does Pride mean to you?

Stacy:   Pride represents a lot for us because visibility matters. I understand that there are many people, especially who are our age, who didn’t feel safe [being openly] gay. You just weren’t because it was very different back then. We had to do a lot of work to understand that while being visible is to our detriment, it’s essential to the survival of our community. Pride Month is our month. It’s our community’s month. It’s the time we get to celebrate who we are and the progress we’ve made.

— Valerie Bustamante