Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings refuses to put resolution on council agenda after Delia Jasso pulls signature from memo that would force him to do so
The first of several planned protests was held Thursday as LGBT activists began to express their outrage over the demise of a pro-equality resolution before it could be heard by the City Council.
Councilwoman Delia Jasso removed her signature Tuesday from a memo to place Councilman Scott Griggs’ resolution on the agenda supporting marriage equality and LGBT job protections.
Mayor Mike Rawlings, who avoided taking a stance on the resolution for six months, had publicly announced earlier Tuesday that he planned to vote in favor of it even though he feels it is a “misuse” of council time. But after Jasso removed her signature, Rawlings said Wednesday he wouldn’t place the resolution on the council agenda because it no longer had the five council signatures needed to force him to do so.
Jasso signed the memo in April when she was running against fellow incumbent Griggs, who authored the resolution, in District 1. Griggs handily defeated Jasso May 11 after they were both placed in the same district when council maps were redrawn in 2011.
Jasso issued a statement Thursday afternoon, May 30, apologizing to the LGBT community for removing her signature.
“My decision to remove my signature from the memo did not totally represent me, and it certainly did not represent you,” she wrote. “I truly understand the pain, confusion and feelings of betrayal my decision has brought you, and I take complete ownership for causing these raw emotions.”
Despite Jasso’s apology, she cannot put her signature back on the memo.
Earlier Thursday, GetEQUAL TX gathered to protest Rawlings’ refusal to place the resolution on the agenda, during his appearance at Lakewood Country Club. The group also planned to bombard Jasso’s office with phone calls and emails demanding to know why she pulled her support.
As Rawlings was leaving the event shortly after 1 p.m., he walked over to greet the protesters. He began shaking hands with them when GetEQUAL TX’s Cd Kirven confronted him by asking how he can claim to be a supporter when he lets down the LGBT community every time.
Rawlings said that wasn’t true and it hasn’t been every time, but GetEQUAL’s Daniel Cates responded that it was.
“That’s when he threw up his hands and started walking away, and the entire crowd shamed him to his car,” Cates said, adding that the group was chanting, “Shame, shame, shame!”
“And he should be ashamed,” Cates said.
Rawlings later told the Voice that he’d been consistent in not wanting to address the resolution before the council and wouldn’t place the item on the agenda without the required signatures.
“People can think what they want. They can call and email, but I’m not going to change my mind,”
Rawlings said. “All I can do is say what I feel. It’s not the job of the City Council to debate that issue.”
When asked if he would place it on the agenda if Jasso changed her mind again, Rawlings said, “I can’t deal with ifs. I have to deal with facts.”
Rawlings said he would respect Jasso’s decision if she decided to support the measure once more, but he would need another memo with five council member signatures before it could be placed on the agenda.
He evaded the question of whether it was a waste of time to make the next council debate the issue instead of placing the resolution on the agenda during the current session, blaming the timing on Jasso.
“I’m not going to put it on the agenda without the process,” Rawlings added. “This council’s not going to be dealing with this issue. It was the decision of Ms. Jasso that the council not deal with this.”
Even if Jasso changed her mind again, her decision to remove her signature cannot be undone. Dallas City Secretary Rosa Rios said the whole process would have to begin again with a new memo and then the measure would be placed on the agenda within at least 30 days.
Advocates speculated that Jasso withdrew her support because of hurt feelings after she lost to Griggs, but others said it was true to her nature.
Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT ally who also signed the memo, said she was disappointed but not surprised by Jasso’s actions, which she called “a slap in the face.” Jasso launched an LGBT Task Force after taking office in 2009, but Hunt suggested Jasso’s support for the LGBT community was politically motivated.
Hunt, who will leave office at the end of June due to term limits, also said she still hopes the mayor will place the item on the agenda.
“I don’t know why this is necessarily a roadblock,” Hunt said. “It’s disappointing, but it shouldn’t be an impediment to our hearing the resolution before the end of this council session.”
The mayor or City Manager Mary Suhm can place an item on the agenda. Suhm did not return calls seeking comment. Items can also be placed on the agenda if five council members agree to it.
Omar Narvaez, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and a member of Jasso’s LGBT Task Force, said he spoke to her about her decision to remove her signature.
“All I can say is I have talked to her and her reason are her reasons,” he said. “I do not in any way or shape agree with those reasons. I completely disagree with those reasons.”
Both Stonewall and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance endorsed Jasso over Griggs in District 1.
Narvaez said he thinks Jasso truly believed in LGBT equality with her work over the years despite her “poor decision” recently.
“I do not believe the work done over the last four years was politically motivated in any way. I do believe Councilwoman Jasso is an ally and I do believe Councilwoman Jasso genuinely cares about the LGBT community,” Narvaez said.
He noted that, sadly, she will be remembered most for her last-minute betrayal.
“What her legacy is going to be is that she’s the one that caused the marriage equality/ENDA resolution not to be voted on,” he said. “That’s worse than losing a vote because we didn’t even get a vote.”
Others saw Jasso’s decision as a betrayal that can’t be undone.
“I am actually very disgusted and disappointed with all representation at City Hall right now,” Cates said.
“What they have proven really is that they’ve been playing politics with people’s lives.”
Cates said Rawlings “is not a friend to our community” and Jasso had proven that her support for LGBT issues was politically motivated.
Lesbian activist Cd Kirven, who worked with Jasso on the LGBT Task Force, said she was upset Jasso backed out of supporting the resolution. But she directed her anger more toward Rawlings and his decision not to place the item on the agenda.
“Mayor Rawlings takes every opportunity he has to kick the LGBT community in the face and scream at the top of his lungs by his actions that our families don’t matter to him,” Kirven said. “But soon, not only GetEQUAL TX but we as a community, will show him in a resounding response that we do matter and that his days as mayor are numbered.”
GetEQUAL TX is planning two more protests. Their marriage equality rally on June 8 at City Hall at 6 p.m. before Razzle Dazzle Dallas’ Main Event was intended to push for support in light of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in late June. But Cates said the rally is shifting focus to protest the lack of leadership and support for LGBT equality locally.
Another protest will take place at noon June 12 at City Hall, the day the resolution was scheduled to go before the council.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 31, 2013.