Council passes comprehensive resolution, ending more than a year’s work and beginning the process for full city equality
HAPPY ENDING | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Resource Center CEO Cece Cox chat after the equality resolution passed Wednesday with a vote of 13-2. Allies and LGBT community members filled the room during the discussion and vote. (Photos by Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)
With Wednesday’s passage of a comprehensive equality resolution, 13 councilmembers assured the local LGBT community they support equality in city employment, living and tourism.
The resolution is a “comprehensive statement of support” that directs the city manager and staff to identify inequities in those areas and work to resolve them administratively and also through council approval.
Changes that require council approval will be brought to the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee first. Councilman Jerry Allen, committee chair, had openly gay city employees Theresa O’Donnell and John Rogers make three presentations on LGBT issues before the committee passed the resolution in February.
The measure easily passed the council 13-2 with Sheffie Kadane and anti-gay Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill voting against it.
Mayor Mike Rawlings came out in favor of the resolution Tuesday. His support was questioned after he delayed the vote a week by requiring the measure be discussed in executive session for legal concerns last week.
ACTIVISTS | Nell Gaither, left, Cd Kirven and David Mack Henderson chat after the city council vote.
“I am proud to have voted in favor of this,” Rawlings said after the resolution passed. “It’s very humbling to be mayor of this city. We have so many great communities. …There’s not a better community in the city of Dallas than the LGBT community.”
Rawlings angered the LGBT community in June after he blocked the previous resolution that addressed marriage equality and workplace protections from being added to the agenda. He had the city attorney declare him present so former Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano couldn’t place the item back on the agenda as acting mayor after former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her support from a memo requiring the item to be voted on. While he told supporters and Dallas Voice he supported those issues personally, he called the resolution a “misuse” of the council’s time.
He said this week he’s completely behind the current resolution and analyzing what the city leadership can fix moving forward. He even wore a red and blue striped tie Wednesday, which he said doubled as his support for Southern Methodist University and the LGBT community.
“I believe in the resolution, and I think it’s a good structure to come back to so we are prepared to make those decisions,” Rawlings told Dallas Voice. “We’ve done a lot of the hard work now. God’s in the details on this stuff. We need to look at each one of them, examine them and have those discussions, but I’m enthusiastic about it.”
As for the tension with the community after last year’s resolution failed, Rawlings said he’s ready to look past it.
“I never had an issue with the LGBT community,” he said. “I’m very proud of them. I love them. Now they may not like me, but I’m always a believer in turn the other cheek and be positive, love people and the rest will take care of itself.”
But LGBT activists and advocates have struggled to support Rawlings since his time in office began in 2011 when he failed to sign a pledge for Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. Followed by the resolution’s failure, advocates wondered if he would back any equality measures. GetEQUAL TX activist Cd Kirven said his support and his words about the LGBT community this week show a shift in his attitude towards the community.
“I’ve very proud of the mayor for getting behind this and championing our community,” Kirven said. “I’m just very proud of the progress he’s made.”
The resolution is the council’s most significant show of support for the LGBT community in a decade after the council approved domestic partner benefits in 2004. Two years before, the council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2002, barring discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Before that, the council approved a nondiscrimination policy for city employees to cover sexual orientation in 1994, which was later amended to include gender identity.
Councilman Scott Griggs, the author of the previous resolution, thanked the LGBT community for coming together and working with city staff, councilmembers and the city’s LGBT Task Force to bring the new measure forward.
“I can’t speak enough about your patience and your perseverance,” Griggs told the audience Wednesday. “It’s a real testament to the whole community. This is a wonderful landmark day for the city of Dallas.”
City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said he’s already begun discussions with city staff about employee pensions and other items.
However, he said anything with a financial impact would be brought to committee. He expected a report to be presented next quarter with a list of items and a timetable for implementation.
“That process has already begun, but I can’t give you an answer as to which one will be first,” Gonzalez said.
Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center, said she glad to hear the city manager’s office has already begun discussing possible changes, and she’s already spoken with Gonzalez. Cox said the center’s staff would prioritize changes into what can be done quickly and what can be done ,that has the most impact.
“I think it’s a start,” she said. “The resolution sets forth a whole lot of things that now need to be done.”
Some items the city’s LGBT Task Force plan to resolve fairly quickly are adding comprehensive transgender healthcare for city employees, making the pension plans equal for same-sex spouses and updating policies to improve the city’s score on the Hunan Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
Cox was among the more than 30 LGBT advocates wearing red in the audience Wednesday and clapped when the resolution passed. She said the work and input from many LGBT organizations to help the resolution succeed shows how significant its passage means.
“A lot of work went into this, so what was accomplished today was very significant,” Cox said.. “It makes me proud looking over 20-plus years of ordinances and resolutions and discussions. It’s significant.”
Wednesday’s Dallas City Council may be déjà vu for some LGBT advocates and allies when the gallery is full of red like it was in June for an LGBT equality resolution.
But this time LGBT advocates hope to encourage councilmembers to support a resolution and pass it, instead of express anger for the resolution that failed to go before the council last year.
The “Comprehensive Statement of Support” resolution passed committee last week and was slated to go before the full council for a vote Wednesday, but Mayor Mike Rawlings delayed the council vote because he wants to discuss legal implications in executive session before the full council votes on it.
The new measure directs the city manager and city staff to resolve the inequities in city employment for its LGBT employees, as well as help the city be an advocate for state and federal LGBT equality.
LGBT people and allies planning on attending the meeting are encouraged to show up to meet with Councilmen Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston at 8 a.m. on the fifth floor before the 9 a.m. council meeting on the sixth floor. If people cannot attend the meeting, advocates urge supports to contact their councilmember.
Meanwhile, GetEQUAL TX issued travel advisory Tuesday for LGBT people coming to Dallas. The statewide activist organization issued a similar warning in San Antonio during the summer when the discussion around a nondiscrimination ordinance divided the city.
“This alert has been issued based on the fact that Dallas — the 9th largest city in the country — has refused multiple efforts by the community to pass resolutions backing marriage equality, employment nondiscrimination, and most recently a comprehensive statement of support for the LGBT community,” GetEQUAL TX says in a press release.
Adam Medrano, chair for the city’s LGBT Task Force, and Philip Kingston, who both represent parts of Oak Lawn in two of Dallas’ most heavily LGBT districts, will pose in white shirts and duct tape.
Medrano’s spokeswoman Monica Huerta said he decided to take one of the iconic photos “because discrimination in any form is still inequality. Mr. Medrano agrees with the ideals of the N0H8 campaign and proudly supports the LGBT Dallas Community.”
NOH8 Campaign raises money for marriage equality and other LGBT issues like nondiscrimination.
After inquiring if Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to take a NOH8 photo, spokesman Samuel Merten said Rawlings is “out of town on personal business, so he is unable to participate.”
When asked if Rawlings would participate another time if he could, Merten said “I don’t know if he has ever thought about participating.”
Rawlings famously refused to sign a pledge for “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” in 2012 and even interfered in preventing a marriage equality resolution from going before the council because he disagreed with the city discussing the issue. But he has said he personally supports marriage equality.
Openly gay city of Dallas employees Theresa O’Donnell and John Rogers addressed the committee Monday about the benefits of marriage equality. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)
Several Dallas councilmembers called for a list of internal issues to be addressed where LGBT city employees are not treated equality compared to their heterosexual co-workers.
The request came Monday after two presentations before the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, one on the financial benefits of marriage equality and one on the city’s 2002 nondiscrimination ordinance.
Theresa O’Donnell, interim assistant city manager, touched on many of the 1,138 rights same-sex coupes are denied without marriage, including health, tax, estate planning and death benefits.
Some of those benefits, like military and veteran benefits, are granted to legally married same-sex couples regardless of where they live, including Texas, which has a constitutional marriage amendment. Others, like Social Security, are limited to the state where the couple lives.
Councilman Jerry Allen, who chairs the committee, asked how the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage complicated the issue by state.
John Rogers, assistant city attorney, said it complicates the matter greatly because for couples in different states “it’s going to be very, very confusing about what benefits and rights they can or can’t get” as the agencies over federal laws define what their policy will be.
“Marriage is a commitment but it’s a contract. It’s a commitment entering into a contract,” Allen said. “If you live in Texas, you don’t have the same rights that you would if you lived in Hawaii.”
Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano will chair the city’s LGBT Task Force, according to committee appointments announced by Mayor Mike Rawlings on Monday.
Former Councilwoman Delia Jasso chaired the Task Force since its creation in 2009. Its members then started looking for a replacement after Jasso lost her District 1 seat to Scott Griggs after redistricting placed them in the same district.
Last month, Task Force members discussed the application and interview process for selecting a new chair. At the time, Task Force members said they were not bothered by the possibility that Medrano is closeted. Medrano has declined to answer questions about his sexual orientation — despite widespread rumors that he’s gay as well as an arrest in 2000 in connection with homosexual sex in a public bathroom.
Medrano, who represents a heavily LGBT district that includes much of Oak Lawn, did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group in the process of distributing applications for a new chair when the mayor’s office contacted them about making it a priority of Rawlings’.
“They reached out to us,” she said.
Gerber said the group was assured it would continue to operate autonomously as it has in the past four years and people who work for the city, such as police and fire LGBT liaisons, would still be able to attend meetings.
“We’re really excited about the direction it’s taken and we’re really thrilled to have Adam as our chair and liaison,” Gerber said.
Pam Gerber, left, goes over the city’s HRC Municipal Equality Index score with members during the LGBT Task Force meeting in May. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)
Members of former Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force hope to find her replacement by August.
Jasso has chaired the Task Force since its creation in 2009. Its members have helped implement sensitivity training at for Dallas police and firefighters and began having city Pride events last June. Jasso lost her District 1 seat to Councilman Scott Griggs in May after redistricting placed them in the same district.
Several members met Tuesday night to discuss the process for selecting a sponsor and maybe a co-sponsor. The Task Force will email all council members a questionnaire about what they feel is the force’s role and what they envision as their role working with the group.
Those interested will then undergo private interviews before a new sponsor is selected. Council members return from summer break Aug. 7, so the Task Force anticipates selecting a new sponsor by mid- to late August. City staff won’t participate in finding Jasso’s replacement because it’s a conflict of interest. Several city employees, including the fire and police LGBT liaisons, often attend the meetings.
There was uncertainty about having one sponsor or co-sponsors, so members agreed to be open to the idea and see how the questionnaires and interviews go. When asked if Dallas Voice could attend the interviews, members said it would be better to have them be private so council members could be honest and frank. Discussion then arose about how the Voice began attending Task Force meetings. Jasso was asked if the Voice could attend last year and she agreed to open the meetings up to the press since this February.
Members then seemed uncomfortable that the Voice was present as press and not as a member of the group. They said when the group began that they didn’t want media present because Jasso and City Manager Mary Suhm would help change things in City Hall quietly and attention to that would have received negative attention from City Council. Members said it would fall to new leadership whether the paper would be invited to future meetings.
Members discussed the three council members who have expressed interest in taking over the Task Force: Griggs, Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano.
Candidates at the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s LGBT forum at Sue Ellen’s on April 14. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
Eight candidates vying for the LGBT community’s vote in the May 11 City Council election spoke about their support and advocacy during the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s forum Sunday.
LGBT allies and incumbents Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs, who are facing off in a redrawn District 1, attended, as did DISD Trustee Adam Medrano and openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld in District 2, Claudia Meyer in District 3, and Bobby Abtahi, Philip Kingston and Jim Rogers in District 14.
Several candidates addressed the need of the city to provide more funding and education on HIV prevention, especially among young minorities. Weisfeld and Abtahi said the city should spend more funds on educational programs.
“When you prevent one person from contracting HIV, it pays for the whole program,” Abtahi said.
Openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld is calling out opponent and DISD Trustee Adam Medrano for failing to appear at City Council District 2 candidate forums.
Wesifeld sent out an email today highlighting Medrano’s absence at an arts forum in March where organizers couldn’t reach Medrano’s campaign to confirm his appearance after hearing from volunteers that he’d attend. Medrano told the Dallas Morning News he had a scheduling conflict that night.
Weisfeld also mentions that Medrano didn’t attend a LULAC 102 breakfast to meet the candidates April 6, where only he and Ricky Gonzales were present.
“A conversation of the candidates before the community is a critical part of the democratic process for the voters to see the differences in each of the candidates running in this important election and in making their choice when going to the polls,” Weisfeld said in his email.
Contacted by Instant Tea, Medrano said Weisfeld was “running a negative campaign because his campaign is not going well.”
“Our campaign’s going great,” Medrano said. “I just have to stay positive and focus on my campaign.”
Medrano said he’ll be at the Deep Ellum Community Association’s event at 7 p.m. tonight at Kettle Art Gallery, 2714 Elm St.
Medrano said he also plans to attend the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s forum at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Sue Ellen’s.
From left, Herschel Weisfeld, Adam Medrano, Ricky Gonzales and Vernon Franko
Candidates in Dallas City Council District 2 will discuss their views for the arts within the district at a forum tonight.
Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition is sponsoring the forum and sent candidates a questionnaire asking them about their level of support for the arts, including if they are on any boards and how they would attract convention business.
Herschel Weisfeld, Adam Medrano, Ricky Gonzales and Vernon Franko are running to replace term-limited Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano in the heavily LGBT district, which includes most of Oak Lawn, as well as parts of downtown and East Dallas.
The forum is from 5-7 p.m. at KERA, 3000 Harry Hines Blvd.