UPDATED: Rawlings won’t attend neighborhood meeting due to threat of LGBT protest

Posted on 23 Jan 2012 at 2:25pm

Daniel Cates

The fallout continues over Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed today that the mayor may cancel a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Kiest Park on Tuesday night, after LGBT activists threatened to stage a demonstration at the event.

Last week, Rawlings angered many in the LGBT community when he said that although he “personally” supports same-sex marriage, he won’t sign the pledge because his policy is to avoid social issues that don’t directly impact city government.

Dallas is the largest city in the nation whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge unveiled by the national group Freedom to Marry during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

“It doesn’t need to be a demonstration, it needs to be conversation,” Blackmon said. “He’s willing and he’s open to sit down and talk about it, but he doesn’t want it to be done in an atmosphere that’s not constructive.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, said Blackmon contacted him this morning and offered a meeting with Rawlings if the group called off the demonstration.

Cates said he’s interested in meeting with the mayor, but when he refused to cancel the demonstration, Blackmon rescinded her offer.

“Preconditions are not acceptable,” Cates said. “We’ll meet him at Starbucks at midnight if that’s what it takes, but we’re not going to cancel a demonstration in order to have a meeting. [The LGBT] community is pretty outraged by this, and I think they have a right to express that. We’ll call off the demonstration if he signs the pledge.”

Blackmon said when it became clear that Cates wouldn’t settle for anything less than Rawlings signing the pledge, she decided it would be better to pursue a meeting with other LGBT leaders. “The mayor is not going to sign the pledge,” she said.

Blackmon added that it was still “up in the air” whether the mayor would cancel the Kiest Park meeting.

Cates, who’s also launched an online petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge, said if and when the Kiest Park neighborhood meeting is canceled, he’ll call off the demonstration. However, he said GetEQUAL will look for other opportunities to demonstrate, possibly outside City Hall.

“We are determined to escalate this if they continue to refuse to cooperate,” Cates said.

UPDATE: Blackmon confirmed this afternoon that Mayor Rawlings will not attend the Kiest Park community meeting.

She said residents who plan to attend the “Meet the Mayor” meeting want to talk about things like potholes and loose dogs, and it would be unfair to subject them to an LGBT demonstration.

“He just does not want to put them through that, so he plans to meet with them on a more individual basis,” Blackmon said.

She added that City Councilwoman Delia Jasso and Councilman Scott Griggs still plan to attend the Kiest Park meeting. She also said the mayor is reaching out to other LGBT community leaders to set up a meeting with them. However, she said it’s doubtful that the meeting with LGBT community leaders will be open to the media.

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