2013 Year In Review: 6. City Hall took on marriage equality

Posted on 27 Dec 2013 at 7:55am
Resolution

BACK TALK | LGBT activists turn their backs and walk out of a Dallas City Council meeting on June 12 during remarks from Councilman Dwaine Caraway about the equality resolution. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

 

What started as a measure to give LGBT Dallasites a voice in local government with an equality resolution supporting marriage equality and job nondiscrimination eventually turned into a political pawn this year.

Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs began work on two resolutions last December — one supporting marriage equality and one favoring workplace protections in the state — but he later combined them into one resolution. Without support from Mayor Mike Rawlings to place the item on the agenda, Griggs obtained a memo with five signatures on it, forcing the item to be placed on the agenda.

It was scheduled to go before the entire council June 12, during LGBT Pride Month. But a week before the meeting, former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her support and her signature, and the item didn’t make the agenda.

Jasso, a longtime LGBT ally who started the city’s LGBT Task Force, signed on as a co-author with Griggs. Reasons for why she backed out of pushing for the measure could’ve been anything from being upset Griggs beat her in May after they’d been redistricted into the same district to pressure from anti-gay council members who wanted it to fail.

Former Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano then intervened in a last-ditch effort to see the resolution come up for discussion when she tried to place it on the agenda as acting mayor. Rawlings was out of town on business in Brazil, but he interfered, contacting the city attorney’s office to be declared present so Medrano couldn’t add the item. Although he’d told Dallas Voice numerous times he supported the issues of marriage equality and workplace protections, he also said he disagreed with them being discussed at City Hall.

The only other option to have the resolution added to the agenda was through the city manager’s office, but former City Manager Mary Suhm said it wasn’t in her realm to add the item, as she would never add policy issues to an agenda.

LGBT activists then showed up in full force on June 12 to address the council on their lack of support for bringing the measure forward, during which Councilman Dwaine Caraway offended activists by saying they held members to one issue.

In response, audience members turned their backs on him and shouted out that he was wrong. In addition, other council members voiced support and encouraged the resolution to go before a committee.

But Griggs said resolutions never go before committees, and the earliest a committee could take it up was October. But advocates were determined to see the measure advance.

The Austin City Council passed a marriage equality resolution last year, and Denton activists tried to bring one before the Denton City Council over the summer, but they lacked support to pass it.

In September, the LGBT Task Force, now chaired by Councilman Adam Medrano, voiced support for the resolution’s success and decided to rewrite it.

The issue was brought up during a Budget, Finance and Audit Committee in early December when two openly gay city employees briefed the committee on LGBT equality. The committee will revisit financial questions about marriage equality in January before taking up the resolution in coming months.

—Anna Waugh

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 27, 2013.

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