It’s becoming clear that Dallas’ LGBT community doesn’t plan to let Mayor Mike Rawlings off the hook over his refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.
Five LGBT advocates spoke during public comments at the start of today’s regular City Council meeting, calling on Rawlings to sign the pledge — and asking the City Council to formally back pro-equality state and federal legislation.
“I’m here to ask Mayor Rawlings to do something, and I’m here to ask you as council people to support him in signing the pledge for marriage equality,” said Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, the first of the speakers. “This is a matter of standing for justice. Pure and simple, that’s what it’s about. ”
Cox noted that Rawlings has argued that marriage equality doesn’t fall within the mayor’s duties.
“When one stands up for justice, it requires courage,” Cox said. “It requires going outside the regular rules and the regular lines, and that’s what I’m here to ask for today.”
Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, spoke next and called for the City Council to pass a resolution in support of a statewide ban on employment discrimination against LGBT people. Fink noted that the city’s employment nondiscrimination ordinance, which includes sexual orientation, will turn 10 years old in May. However, she said no one has ever been prosecuted under the ordinance, which she called “toothless.”
“Employment nondiscrimination is something we desperately need in this state,” Fink said.
Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, also called on the council to support pro-equality legislation. Coleman pointed to poll results showing that 64 percent of Texans support civil unions, 46 percent support marriage equality and 75 percent support employment nondiscrimination for LGBT people.
“Mayor Rawlings, in your recent meeting with the LGBT community, you said signing the pledge was not really doing anything, and you wanted to support the LGBT community in some concrete way,” Coleman said, adding that the city of Fort Worth recently empowered its lobbyist to advocate for marriage equality and employment nondiscrimination.
“I ask you and the City Council to go one step further, not only to empower your lobbyist to advocate for ENDA and marriage equality, but also to ask other cities to join you in this fight for equality,” Coleman said, adding that equality is “good for business.”
Daniel Cates, regional coordinator for GetEQUAL Texas, said he takes Rawlings at his word when the mayor says he personally supports marriage equality.
“I believe you when you say that you believe in equality, but we are here to remind you today that when civil rights are concerned, there is no such thing as a neutral position,” Cates said. “To quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ‘When you remain neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ Mayor Rawlings, when good men like you remain silent, the sexists, homophobes and racists of the world win.”
Rawlings didn’t respond to the five LGBT advocates who spoke, other than quietly noting that they represented all geographic areas of the city. Councilwoman Delia Jasso was the only member of the council who addressed the speakers, thanking them for missing work to attend the meeting.
“You have an advocate here,” Jasso said. “All of you, the entire GLBT community, gives back to the city tenfold, not only with your sales dollars, but with your advocacy, your volunteerism, your support for all of the things good that are happening in the city, so I just wanted to reinforce to you that I’m here as an advocate.”
Rafael McDonnell, a spokesman for Resource Center Dallas, said Councilman Scott Griggs is the one who initially invited LGBT advocates to address the council concerning the marriage pledge, following a rally in front of City Hall on Jan. 27.
The Dallas Morning News has posted video of the speakers here.