LGBT advocates expressed their frustration over the lack of support for an equality resolution Wednesday morning at a Dallas City Council meeting.
Mayor Mike Rawlings was absent during the meeting, though he was not considered absent while in South America last week, preventing Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano from using her power as acting mayor to place the equality resolution on the agenda.
The resolution supporting marriage equality and statewide LGBT-inclusive workplace protections, authored by Councilman Scott Griggs, was slated to be voted on Wednesday but never made the agenda after Councilmember Delia Jasso surprisingly withdrew her signature from a memo last month to require a vote. Jasso remained silent during the meeting. During the accusations from council members that the method of bringing the measure forward was misguided, Griggs also remained silent.
Tensions ran high after speakers addressed the council, resulting in several audience members walking out, turning their backs on Councilman Dwaine Caraway and even shouting at council members during the meeting.
Lesbian activist Cd Kirven said she expected more from council members and that they should support civil rights.
“You, as a municipal representative, should always represent those ideals and are a critical part of freedom’s foundation,” Kirven told council members. “Again the LGBT community is disappointed by officials who claim to be allies.”
She then asked the few dozen audience members wearing red in support of marriage equality to stand to show the strong presence of the LGBT community.
Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, blamed the equality resolution’s demise on a failure to lead, a lack of courage and minimizing the issues it addresses.
“To say that one supports the LGBT community and a life of employment equality and marriage rights, but then to take no action on these issues, is not leadership. It is passivity. It is nothing,” Cox said. “We need leadership and courage around this horseshoe.
“Time and time again we heard this is not an appropriate use of council’s time,” Cox continued. “Those are statements attempting to minimize the lives of me and my partner and my son and the army of red and the hundreds that could not be here today. … We will not be minimized and you do not define us.”
Activist Elias Cantu refereed to the irony of the holdup of the resolution happening during Pride month, which the city is recognizing with a number of scheduled events.
“This is June and according to the city, it’s LGBT pride month, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It sure doesn’t feel like it by the way we are being kicked around,” he told the council.
Activist Michael Lo Vuolo said the LGBT community makes Dallas a better city by bringing in revenue with events. He said the attention this issue has brought the city has shown how little support the city actually provides its LGBT citizens.
“We will warn our brothers and sisters that this city really isn’t the one that you portray it as. You’ve proven this past week that you’re welcoming ways are a smokescreen,” he said. “Be prepared for a fight. We are not backing down.”
Lo Vuolo added that council members who didn’t support the resolution shouldn’t bother showing up for the Pride parade in September.
Outgoing Councilwoman Angela Hunt thanked the speakers and those who attended to support the resolution, saying she was “truly disappointed” it didn’t come before the council before the new council is sworn in June 24.
“It will come before this council and it will pass. I just regret I won’t be able to vote on it,” Hunt said. “There are many of us on this council who stand with you on these important, important civil rights issues.”
Councilman Jerry Allen, who has said he would vote for the resolution, said he thought the matter was “handled poorly” and suggested that it be sent to a council committee.
Councilwoman Carolyn Davis said she was hurt by the words of activists who blame her for not supporting the resolution.
“I support your community, and I have always supported it,” Davis said. “That is not fair to put us in this situation and make us the bad guys.”
She said she wanted to see the resolution go to a committee before coming before the council.
“I ask you please work with us. We hear you. I hear you,” she added. “But we have to do things right. And this was not handled right.”
Caraway angered activists in the audience when he began to lecture them on how the item could’ve been brought to any committee and said it was wrong to hold one issue against council members.
“You’re going to hold us hostage on this one vote, I take resentment to that,” Caraway said. “What I feel that we should do is that when we’re taking about quality of life issues have a collective number of equality issues. This is not the only equality issue that we should be addressing, in my opinion.”
Some audience members then stood up and turned their backs on Caraway while a few shouted out that he should understand.
“If you’re going to shut me out that’s not a fair discussion,” Caraway said in response. “We listen to you, but you don’t want to listen to us.”
Councilman Sheffie Kadane, who attended last week’s City Hall Pride reception, was the only member who spoke out against the resolution, saying he didn’t think it was fair to support it when his whole district likely wouldn’t support gay marriage. Instead, he suggested that Dallas citizens vote on the resolution.
“I look at this as a moral issue,” Kadane said. “I believe the Bible states and I know it states that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that’s my belief.”
After the remarks by council members, some in the crowd again shouted out and walked out of the meeting. Griggs said afterward he thought the memo was the most effective way to bring the measure forward because resolutions are never discussed in committees.
Activist Omar Narvaez was one of the people who turned his back on Caraway. He said he didn’t like the tone he took because he was talking down to activists. He was further frustrated because after the speakers and the council’s response, there was no way for any of the activists to respond.
“I stood up and turned my back because he was starting to talk down to the community as if we were not part of the discussion,” he said. “It really hurts being a person of color being lectured by another person of color on my civil rights. I’m a person of color as well and I happen to be gay. I’m no different than that man is.”