Dallas city officials, LGBT Task Force members kick off Pride Month events at City Hall

Councilwoman Delia Jasso addresses an audience of about 80 people during an LGBT Pride Month kick-off Wednesday in the Flag Room at City Hall.

The Dallas City Council and the city of Dallas officially proclaimed June Dallas’ LGBT Pride Month at a Pride kick-off event Wednesday.

About 80 people gathered in the Flag Room on the sixth floor of City Hall to hear council members speak about the LGBT community and the pride the city shares with them in the month of June.

Last year marked the first time Dallas held a reception recognizing LGBT Pride month, holding a one-day gathering for officials and community members to celebrate the city’s diversity.

This year a series of events will offer something every Wednesday in June, highlighting the importance of different accomplishments of the city’s LGBT community.

Councilwoman Delia Jasso spoke at the kick-off first and addressed the success of her LGBT Task Force, which she said has accomplished a lot in the three years since it formed. She said it has helped the Dallas police install a full-time LGBT liaison officer, worked on implementing LGBT sensitivity training for Dallas Fire-Rescue, and reviewed the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance complaints with a goal of helping improve the process.

“Perhaps the most significant accomplishment for the city is the embracing of the LGBT community.” Jasso said. “Not only do we embrace the LGBT community but we also celebrate and most especially this month.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings could not attend the kick-off because he was at a funeral, but he prepared a video message for the audience to view.

“Dallas is a city that really celebrates its diversity,” Rawlings said in the video. “I think it’s what makes us strong, it’s what makes us growing, it’s interesting. It’s a lot more fun. I think one of the strongest — strongest — communities we that have in all the diversity, a rainbow if you will, is the LGBT community.

“Thank you. I want to say, personally, thank you, for the coaching, the dialogue and the support that you’ve given me as my time as mayor,” Rawlings said. “I think we agree on so much. Sometimes we haven’t agreed. But you’ve stayed steadfast, talked about the issues that are important to you and treated me with a real honor and respect. Your style, your character, it’s truly something to be proud of. I love the way you advocate for your issues. I’m proud just to have you in Dallas.”

Rawlings also said he was proud to have the Pride flag in the Flag Room among the flags of the world for the entire month of June. A Pride flag also hangs in over a railing in the first-floor atrium of City Hall.

Council members who attended Wednesday’s kickoff were Jasso, Angela Hunt, Jerry Allen, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, Scott Griggs, Linda Koop, Monica Alonzo, Carolyn Davis. Other prominent city officials in attendance included City Manager Mary Suhm and Fire-Rescue Chief Louie Bright.

Hunt and Medrano also spoke briefly, along with task force members Omar Narvaez, Cd Kirven, Bright and Carter Brown, founder of Black TransMen, Inc.

Task force members read the proclamation that declared June LGBT Pride month in Dallas before the close of the event. (Watch the reading below.)

The Turtle Creek Chorale provided musical entertainment, singing “God Bless America” at the beginning of the kick-off and closed the gathering with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Look for an in-depth story about the Pride events in Friday’s Dallas Voice.

More photos and video below.

—  Dallasvoice

Mayor’s misstep on marriage pledge shows how far we’ve come

Laura Miller, who became LGBT icon, opposed gay unions during 1st campaign 10 years ago

David-Webb

DAVID WEBB  |  The Rare Reporter

The signing of a pledge in support of same-sex marriage by some 80 mayors attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recent meeting in Washington, D.C, represents a powerful, almost astounding stride in the LGBT community’s march to equality.

Only one big-city mayor created a controversy by refusing to sign the pledge, and that unfortunately was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who probably regrets the decision now.

His decision not to sign the pledge — even though he later claimed he personally supports marriage equality — set off a bone-jolting controversy in Dallas as LGBT activists reacted to the news.

Rawlings cancelled a planned appearance at a neighborhood meeting because of activists’ plans to demonstrate against him, and all of the city’s newspapers and television stations began covering the story. The Dallas Morning News, which is infamous for its conservative takes on many progressive measures, praised Rawlings for resisting pressure to sign the pledge.

As a result of Rawlings thwarting activists’ plans to confront him at the neighborhood meeting, GetEQUAL scheduled a “Sign the Pledge” rally at City Hall.

There was a time when LGBT activists would have given the mayor a pass on the marriage equality issue, but that has long since passed. In declining to sign the pledge, Rawlings used the excuse that he was practicing a policy of avoiding social issues unrelated to city government.

That excuse had previously worked for former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller when she chose not to address the issue of marriage equality. At the same time, she managed to achieve something close to sainthood in the eyes of Dallas’ LGBT community because of her support of a nondiscrimination ordinance addressing sexual orientation and gender identity passed in 2002.

When Miller first campaigned for mayor she and all of her opponents declared in a candidate’s forum that they opposed same-sex marriage, but they all declared support for the nondiscrimination ordinance. That apparently was enough at the time to gain the trust and support of LGBT activists, especially after it was learned she had a gay uncle and a lesbian stepsister she loved and supported.

Miller, who served as mayor from 2002 to 2007, later gave more support to the LGBT community’s pursuit of marriage equality by speaking out against Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that voters approved in 2005. She also began supporting marriage equality during her speeches at Dallas’ glittering Black Tie Dinner.

Today, Miller says that she “supports gay marriage 100 percent,” and she adds that “it will be legal nationwide sooner than later. Young people today don’t give it a second thought and support it fully.”

As the mother of two daughters and one son, Miller knows her stuff. She declined to comment on Rawlings’ decision not to sign the pledge, but it’s a pretty good bet that if Miller were in his shoes today she would have signed that pledge — policy or no policy.

Rawlings made a terrible error in judgment when he refused to sign the pledge along with the mayors of other big cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Boston, San Diego, Portland, Denver and the list goes on and on. What’s worse, Texas mayors from Austin, Houston and San Antonio signed the pledge.

If Rawlings had simply signed the pledge, it likely would have been reported by the Dallas media, there would have been a few stones thrown at him by conservative conscientious objectors and then it would have been forgotten. But now, it will continue to rage as a full-scale controversy for an undetermined amount of time.

At this point it seems like the best course of action for Rawlings to take would be to just sign the pledge, seeing as how he is already on record as supporting marriage equality. That action might stir up resentment among conservative constituents, but at least it would put Rawlings on the winning side of the debate.

The fact of the matter is that marriage equality will indeed one day be the law of the land, no matter how much that irks those who would prevent it if they could.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Sign the Pledge!’ rally set for Friday at City Hall; mayor to meet with LGBT leaders Saturday

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall last June.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL sends along word that a demonstration calling for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage, originally scheduled for tonight at Kiest Park, has been moved to Friday night in front of City Hall.

Cates said he rescheduled the “Sign the Pledge!” rally after Rawlings canceled his appearance at a neighborhood meeting in Kiest Park tonight to avoid the LGBT demonstration.

Meanwhile, Rawlings is setting up a meeting with LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas on Saturday to discuss his decision not to sign the pledge, according to the mayor’s chief of staff, Paula Blackmon.

Cates said GetEQUAL has agreed not to demonstrate during Saturday’s meeting at the Resource Center and will instead gather outside City Hall at 7 p.m. Friday.

“It’s just additional pressure, and we’re going to keep talking about it until he signs this pledge,” Cates said of the demonstration, adding that he also plans to participate in Saturday’s meeting. “We’re going to keep the pressure coming from all different angles.”

Rawlings has come under fire from some LGBT advocates for refusing to sign the pledge in support of marriage equality that was unveiled by Freedom to Marry last week during the U.S. Conference of Mayors Meeting in Washington, D.C. More than 80 mayors from across the country have signed the pledge, and Dallas is the largest city whose mayor hasn’t done so. Rawlings said he supports marriage equality but didn’t sign the pledge because he doesn’t want to get involved in social issues that don’t directly impact the city.

Blackmon said today that details of Saturday’s meeting at the Resource Center were still being finalized. Stay tuned to Instant Tea and Dallas Voice for more.

—  John Wright

Opponents of DP benefits in San Antonio warn of ‘demonic forces’ and ‘dark cloud of Satan’

Anti-gay protesters hold a sign outside San Antonio City Hall on Wednesday during a budget hearing where speakers focused largely on a proposal to offer domestic partner benefits.

Speakers from both sides dominate public hearing on budget; council to vote later this month

SAM SANCHEZ | QSanAntonio

In the hours leading up to the San Antonio CIty Council’s budget meeting on Wednesday, Pastor Gerald Ripley, the man who’s spearheading the campaign against domestic partnership benefits for city employees, posted on his web site that “Demonic forces are converging over S.A. for the purpose of establishing immorality as a right at the government level.”

The meeting, held in City Council Chambers, was convened expressly to discuss items from the proposed budget, which awaits a vote on Sept. 15.

Even though a few speakers addressed other topics, the majority of those who came to the podium were there to discuss DP benefits.

While Pastor Ripley’s rhetoric didn’t reach the same level when he actually addressed the council, some of his followers appeared to take a cue from his Internet posting.

One speaker said the “evil” of homosexuality is “eating us up.” Another, a woman holding a sign advocating heterosexual marriage, said that San Antonio would be under the “dark cloud of Satan” if DP benefits are granted.

One man said he used to work at a psychiatric hospital where there was a ward just for homosexuals and that giving these people DP benefits was immoral. One speaker admonished the City Council not to do the “politically correct thing but the morally correct thing.”

Activists from the LGBT community, the majority of whom got to speak early in the meeting, stayed on message. That message was that offering these benefits would make the city more competitive in hiring and retaining top talent, and that no employee should be treated like a second-class citizen.

One at time, each of the GLBT speakers made their case in addressing and debunking their foes’ other objections: Cost (less than 1 percent of the total budget); abuse of the program (two forms documentation will be required); and extending DP benefits isn’t an endorsement of same-sex marriage, as some religious extremists have suggested.

“Finally, offering these benefits is the right thing to do for the hundreds of city employees who serve us daily,” activist Randy Bear told the council. “For those city employees who could benefit by this, it’s the right thing to do to be able to look them in the eye and tell them we value them as much as their fellow employees.”

One religious leader who spoke in favor of granting the benefits was Rabbi Barry H.D. Block from Temple Beth-El, who came armed with a letter signed by more than 30 religious leaders.

“All of the undersigned are deeply committed to the sanctity of marriage. We are equally aware that not all members of our society have equal access to state-sanctioned marriage. Like the sanctity of marriage, equal rights and equal opportunity for all human beings and all loving couples are values we all hold dear,” read the text of the letter.

Protestors stood outside City Council chambers while Pastor Gerald Ripley denounced the DP benefits proposal.

Pastor Ripley, who admonished this reporter for trying to take his photograph, came to the podium and began by saying, “It’s been implied that 2 percent of our citizens are treated like second-class citizens. When homosexuals go to the Spurs’ game they can sit on any seat on the bus. They can drink from the same water fountains. They can go into any restaurant or any theater. They can buy a house in any neighborhood. Therefore, I say to you, there are no second-class citizens in our great city.”

Ripley went on to say using the term “second-class citizens” to curry political capital was unfortunate and beneath the dignity of those making the case. He also made the unsubstantiated claim that 70 percent of voters objected to offering the benefits.

What followed in Ripley’s address came almost word-for-word from a fact sheet with 14 talking points that had been posted on his web site in the days leading up to the budget meetings.

Two controversial characters followed Pastor Ripley in speaking out to the City Council against DP benefits.

The first was former talk show host Adam McManus, who was fired for budgetary reasons last year from KSLR-AM, a local Christian radio station. During his time on-air, McManus encouraged his listeners to speak out in 2007 against Police Chief William McManus and in 2009 against Mayor Julian Castro because they served as Grand Marshals for the Gay Pride Parade. In 2006, McManus tried to start a boycott of H-E-B because the grocery chain had contributed $300 to PrideFest.

Also present was Pastor Charles Flowers of the Love Demonstrated Ministries who was arrested in 2007 for dragging a girl behind a van after she failed to keep up during a running exercise at his Christian boot camp near Corpus Christi. In 2006, Love Demonstrated Ministries reported private and government contributions totaling $314,673 to operate the boot camp, with nearly 89 percent of the costs, $278,549, going for salaries.

—  John Wright

Tom Leppert is running for Senate, but Chris Heinbaugh will remain in the mayor’s office

In case you missed it, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate today.

Not long after Leppert’s video announcement (above) was posted to his campaign website, we spoke with his openly gay chief of staff in the mayor’s office, Chris Heinbaugh.

Leppert, who announced his resignation Wednesday, will remain mayor until 11:59 p.m. today, at which point Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will take over.

Heinbaugh declined to publicly comment on the Twitter message sent out by Leppert on Wednesday, in which he slammed President Barack Obama for ordering the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Heinbaugh, who is no longer handling media calls for Leppert, advised Instant Tea to contact the mayor’s Senate campaign office about the tweet. We left a message with campaign spokeman Shawn McCoy but haven’t heard back.

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

Heinbaugh did tell us that he plans to remain in the mayor’s office to help Caraway, who will serve out the remainder of Leppert’s term — until a new mayor is elected in May and sworn in in June. In other words, Heinbaugh will not be going to work on Leppert’s campaign.

“I’m gonna be here for a while,” Heinbaugh said from City Hall. “I’m just going to continue on in the office and do whatever I can to help Mr. Caraway. If I can make it a good, stable, smooth transition, then great.”

Heinbaugh said he won’t serve as Caraway’s chief of staff, and it’s still unclear what exactly his role will be. However, he said both Caraway and City Manager Mary Suhm have expressed a desire for him to stay on.

“We’ve got a lot of things going, and they don’t just stop if the mayor walks our the door,” Heinbaugh said.

We asked Heinbaugh about the challenge of working for Caraway, whose recent missteps have prompted concerns from other council members about him serving as mayor — even temporarily.

“Mr. Caraway is a good guy,” Heinbaugh responded. “I’ve known him for a long, long time. Ever since I moved to Dallas, I’ve known him. His heart is in the right place, and he will work very hard for the next four months.

“Over and over again he’s said, ‘I’m not going to start some new initiative — dig up Main Street and stick a river down it,’” Heinbaugh said. “We’re just going to continue the things that are already moving forward. I’m here to help him do that as long as he wants me here.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Tom Leppert, Broadway Baptist Church, Chris Colfer at the Golden Globes

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially won’t seek re-election this year, and instead likely will run for Senate in 2012. No surprise there, but our biggest question remains unanswered: What does this mean for Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh? Will he go to work on Leppert’s Senate campaign? Will he find another job at City Hall? Will he go back into broadcast journalism? As of last week, Heinbaugh officially wasn’t saying.

2. Southern Baptists simply can’t seem to get over the fact that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth treats gay members like human beings. Broadway Baptist has already been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention and left the Baptist General Convention of Texas over the issue. Now, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is going after the church, albeit indirectly. The seminary wants the Tarrant Baptist Association to vacate an office building it has long occupied on the seminary’s campus, in part because Broadway Baptist is one of the TBA’s members. The seminary also wants the building for a welcome center, but apparently believes the anti-gay excuse sounds more Christ-like.

3. As Arnold Wayne Jones pointed out below, the Golden Globes were about as gay as could be last night. Above is video of Chris Colfer’s acceptance speech.

—  John Wright

WATCH LIVE: Fort Worth City Council meeting

We’re not sure if or when someone plans to air their disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech during tonight’s Fort Worth City Council meeting. “Citizen presentations” are near the end of the council’s agenda. You can watch the meeting live by going here, but it sounds like there’s not much point in heading down to City Hall if you’re not there already. Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks reports on Twitter that the meeting is packed and that the fire marshal isn’t letting anyone else in. We’re sure many are there for other reasons, but it’s also possible that some didn’t heed the advice of Fairness Fort Worth, which earlier today encouraged people NOT to attend the meeting. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: It would appear that most of the folks in the audience are there to talk about an ordinance that would limit rooster ownership.

—  John Wright

Annise Parker won’t get her wish to confront the anti-gay and now former mayor of Moscow

In her exclusive interview with DV last week, Mayor Annise Parker said she wanted to confront Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov at an upcoming meeting in China. She will apparently not get her wish. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sacked Luzhkov for corruption on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

Luzhkov has been mayor of Moscow since 1992 and is credited with reviving and modernizing the city.

But he has also been notoriously homophobic. He has regularly denied permits for Pride parades, calling them “a satanic act.” Last weekend he jailed gay rights leader Nikolai Alekseev, who was arrested at a protest outside of city hall. Alekseev had filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights against Luzhkov for prohibiting Pride celebrations in the city.

Parker was to meet Luzhkov at a meeting in China later this year. Her city and Moscow are finalists for an international petroleum convention. While in Dallas, Parker said she hoped to confront Luzhkov about his human rights record.

—  David Taffet

Fort Worth council to finalize budget Tuesday; cuts could impact Human Rights Commission

The Fort Worth City Council will hold its regular weekly council meeting tomorrow — Tuesday, Sept. 21 — and a final vote of the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget is on the agenda.

The council meets at 7 p.m., at the budget hearing part of the session is No. 13 on what looks like a pretty lengthy agenda. You can go here to see the entire agenda.

Like most other cities — and counties, and states, and the federal government — Fort Worth’s income from property taxes has dipped considerably, thanks to the significant drop in property values that occurred when the real estate market bubble burst. And that has left the City Council struggling to find a way to maintain services without having an huge increase in fees or the tax rate.

Back in August, Fairness Fort Worth posted this notice, explaining that one of the possible budget fixes the council was considering was to “eliminate the Community Relations Department as we know it.” That possibility left the Fort Worth Human Rights Commission with “grave concerns” over the possibility that, although the city has ordinances protecting its LGBT citizens and other minorities from discrimination, the commission’s ability to enforce the ordinance and investigate complaints would be compromised, since the Community Relations Department was the city department that provided support for that purpose.

I’ve gotten no word yet on whether the Community Relations Department is still on the chopping block, but you can go here to read the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s article today on what’s happening with the budget.

If you can’t get down to Fort Worth City Hall to watch the proceedings in person, you can keep up with what happens by watching the council meeting streamed live on the Internet here.

—  admin