Two of the three major candidates for Dallas mayor said Monday that they opposed Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.
During a forum at Cityplace sponsored by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, City Councilman Ron Natinsky said he couldn’t remember whether he voted when the amendment was on the ballot in November 2005. But Natinsky added that if he did vote, he voted against the amendment.
“I can’t remember what I did last week,” Natinsky said, after seeking clarification about the date of the election. “I’m pretty sure that I voted. Assuming that I voted, I did not vote for that, but ’05 is eight years ago. I wouldn’t have voted for it, let’s put it that way, if I voted.”
In response to the same question, former Parks Board Chairman Mike Rawlings said he votes in every election.
“I was against the amendment if I understand the way it’s all on the ballot,” said Rawlings, who also sought clarification before adding, “I voted against it.”
Former Police Chief David Kunkle said he recalls being at a Democratic meeting on election night in November 2005 but was unsure why he didn’t vote on the amendment, which he pointed out passed by a wide margin.
“I don’t know why I didn’t vote,” Kunkle said. “I remember it was a very rainy night and a rainy day, but I don’t’ know about voting.”
In somewhat of a departure from their previous positions, Natinsky and Rawlings also said they would now support the establishment of a council-appointed Human Relations Commission made up of representatives from the LGBT and other minority communities. Their statements in support of a Human Relations Commission came in response to a question listing several issues facing the LGBT community in Dallas, including the city’s failure to prosecute discrimination complaints and high rates of violent crime in the Oak Lawn area.
Natinsky previously said he opposes an LGBT commission due to the cost of staffing it, but he said Monday that he would support a broader-based Human Relations Commission.
“We need to make sure we’ve got adequate methods of communicating back and forth to the citizenry, and that is a vehicle I certainly would support as long as it’s put in place the right way,” Natinksy said.
Rawlings previously said he opposes an LGBT commission because it would amount to needless bureaucracy.
“I said no at that time, because I felt that we don’t need more commissions, and we’re talking about tax dollars and where we’re going to cut, and at times we get buried to death, I think,” Rawlings said. “But this is an example where if a large community is feeling really disenfranchised and that’s the way to make them feel enfranchised, I would do it, and I think it’s the right thing to do.”
Kunkle, meanwhile, reiterated his support for a Human Relations Commission similar to those that are in place in Austin and Fort Worth.
The candidates were also asked what they could say to convince people they won’t betray the LGBT community in the same manner as former Mayor Tom Leppert. Leppert pledged to support the community during his campaign for mayor but later joined the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas and came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions. The candidates were asked what they can point to in their record that indicates they’re not just reaching out to the LGBT community because they’re running for mayor.
“I’m Jewish, I’m not sure that First Baptist would even want to have me down there,” Natinsky said, delivering perhaps the best one-liner of the night.
He added that he has regularly attended both gay Pride and the Black Tie Dinner during his six years on the council.
“I’ve been a longtime friend and supporter of this community. I think that’s proved by your actions,” he said, also pointing to his endorsement from the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.
Rawlings referenced his work as the city’s homeless czar, which he has done repeatedly during the campaign when discussing LGBT issues. Rawlings said he opposed a panhandling ban because he felt it was a civil rights question.
“I just think it’s an amazing thing to think about that someone can … turn like that,” Rawlings said, referring to Leppert, “But it’s just tough for me to respond to because I’d never do it.”
Kunkle pointed to his endorsement from Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and mentioned that he took a lot of flack for appearing at gay Pride as police chief.
“I never anticipated I would be running for mayor,” Kunkle said. “Nothing I’ve done in my life was done to try to present me as a certain way to a specific voting group. I’ve always been very supportive of the the GLBT community.”