Dallas council candidate ran from officer investigating ‘homosexual conduct’ in Dillard’s bathroom, but won’t discuss his sexual orientation
DISD Trustee Adam Medrano is vying to represent one of Dallas’ mostly heavily LGBT City Council districts — but he won’t address rumors that he himself is gay.
Medrano, 37, has served on the Dallas school board since 2006 in District 8, and a majority of the council district falls into his school board district. During his time on the board, he’s been elected president three times.
Council District 2 covers most of Oak Lawn, as well as parts of downtown and East Dallas. Two of the other three candidates for District 2 are openly gay: Herschel Weisfeld and Vernon Franko.
But Medrano would not address his sexual orientation with Dallas Voice this week.
“I’m not going to discuss that,” he said. “I don’t think that sexual orientation is an issue in the race.”
Medrano was arrested for evading arrest in December 2000 when an officer tried to detain him during an investigation into “homosexual conduct” in the Dillard’s bathroom at NorthPark Center. Medrano declined to speak about the arrest, pointing to his comments from a 2006 Dallas Morning News story about the incident.
According to the police report, a store employee told an officer “three males inside the bathroom were possibly engaged in sexually (sic) activity in the bathroom.”
The officer “could hear low tone moaning sounds and could hear a plastic packaging noise behind the stall door.” After a few minutes, Medrano exited the stall “in a hurry.” The officer recognized both men from an hour before in another bathroom in the store where homosexual behavior was suspected, the report states.
When the officer tried to stop him, Medrano ran from the officer.
He was charged with evading arrest, a class-B misdemeanor, instead of lewd conduct, a class-C misdemeanor. He received a year of probation for deferred adjudication and performed 24 hours of community service.
Medrano denied the allegations that he was engaged in sexual activity in the bathroom in the Dallas Morning News article, published when he first ran for school board. He said he was using the restroom and exited the stall to find an officer ordering him to line up with several other men for homosexual conduct.
“I heard that and said, ‘Whoa,’” Medrano told the newspaper. “I was innocent. I did nothing wrong. I ran. That was the mistake I made.”
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas endorsed Medrano in the District 2 race. During the screening process, his sexual orientation wasn’t addressed.
Stonewall President Omar Narvaez said he doesn’t know if Medrano is gay, but added that Medrano discussed his arrest informally with the organization prior to the screening.
“I was aware of the story, but it wouldn’t have been a factor for me,” Narvaez said. “That’s not a factor.”
Narvaez said Stonewall doesn’t ask candidates about their sexual orientation and it would be wrong to ask only Medrano.
“In order to make orientation to be where it doesn’t matter, we’ve got to quit focusing on it as a question that we ask at some point,” he said. “I don’t think that a person’s orientation matters in whether they’re going to be a good councilmember or not.”
Stonewall political chair Jeff Strater said none of the members asked any candidate about their sexual orientation during the endorsement meeting. Medrano’s criminal record also wasn’t discussed.
“We heard him speak on Saturday and he presented his case for running for Dallas City Council and there was ample time for questions for all candidates,” Strater said. “People weren’t asking questions about prior arrests or records.”
Medrano resigned from his job in the Park and Recreation department in January in order to meet the qualifications to run for City Council to replace his aunt, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, who currently holds the seat but is term-limited.
Medrano said he decided to quit his job and run for office because he wanted to make a difference in District 2, where he grew up.
“I just felt that I could work downtown at City Hall to get things done for District 2, being a lifelong resident of District 2,” he said. “I was actually born and raised in Oak Lawn and that’s like the heart of District 2.”
Pauline Medrano told Dallas Voice this week she hadn’t heard the rumors about her nephew’s sexuality, adding that she believes his involvement in the community makes him the strongest candidate for her replacement.
“I’ve not heard that, but I think in District 2 people that have served as representatives are hardworking, they are people of their word,” she said. “I think that that’s what people in District 2 are accustomed to are people that put the needs of District 2 first and foremost to be a good, responsible leader and elected official.”
Dallas hasn’t had an openly gay council member since Ed Oakley resigned in 2007 to run for mayor.
Two past openly gay council members, Chris Luna and John Loza, have served District 2.
Loza said this week he wouldn’t discuss rumors about Medrano or the race. He said in general, running as an out candidate in Dallas doesn’t matter anymore.
“I just don’t think it’s something that people think is particularly relevant anymore,” Loza said.
Openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld has emphasized that his sexuality is a small part of who he is and adds to his diverse background to serve on the council.
He said Medrano should be honest about who he is and suggested that he and Medrano should debate city issues, including those facing the LGBT community.
“I believe that in America in 2013, it should be OK that we can stand up proudly and say who we are,” Weisfeld said. “Whether he’s gay or not, I think he needs to be open and honest about who he is, as I am.”
Denis Dison, spokesman for the Washington D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, said the organization has a coming out project that helps candidates come out and pairs them with politicians who have come out in similar situations.
“It’s important because we want people to be out,” he said. “We think that’s most helpful for them and for the LGBT community.”
Dison said when politicians and candidates come out it speaks to their honesty as an elected official or candidate, adding that each person has a unique situation surrounding their coming out.
“For a lot of people, it speaks to their honesty and their trustworthiness and when somebody who is gay is honest about that, what won’t they be honest about with their constituents?” he said. “It’s pretty easy to be honest about taxes and crime and other problems when you have shared with other people something that’s so personal about yourself.”
Senior editor John Wright contributed to this report.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 15, 2013.