WATCH: Mayor Mike Rawlings says ‘baloney,’ I say ‘malarkey’

When CW33′s Doug Magditch said he wanted to talk about Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas’ “It Gets Better” video on this week’s “The Gay Agenda,” I was happy to oblige him.

That’s because I’m among those who feel pretty strongly that Rawlings recent appearance in the “It Gets Better” video is no substitute whatsoever for supporting the LGBT community in other ways — including signing a pledge in support of marriage equality and backing two pro-LGBT resolutions introduced by Councilman Scott Griggs.

In fact, Rawlings has said repeatedly since he refused to sign the Freedom to Marry pledge almost exactly one year ago that he wants to focus on substantive things he can do to support the LGBT community, not symbolic ones. But it doesn’t get much more symbolic than an “It Gets Better” video, which also ultimately sends a mixed message to LGBT youth.

LGBT youth commit suicide in part because they are constantly told by society that they are less than equal — including that they can’t get married. So when the mayor of Dallas refuses to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality, it reinforces that message — and thus the mixed one.

Don’t get me wrong: City leaders and especially gay employees deserve credit for the “It Gets Better” video, which is a powerful statement. But if Rawlings thinks he’s going to win over LGBT voters in 2015 by merely appearing in this video and at gay Pride, I think he’s sorely mistaken.

To make matters worse, a few days after the IGB video was released, Rawlings stood at a press conference and said pledges like the ones he’s been asked to sign on gun control and marriage equality are “baloney.” Really? Standing up for civil rights is baloney? I think that’s malarkey, which is what I told Magditch. And you can watch it below.

—  John Wright

Dallas Gay Basketball Association revs up with two events this week

With all the sports leagues in the LGBT community here, we’ve long been without a basketball one — until now. As one of the organizers of the new Dallas Gay Basketball Association, Steven Coleman has been helping to get the word out on the new league. The interest is there. Coleman guesstimated about 40 people showed up to DGBA’s open gym session last week at Reverchon Rec Center.

“This is something we need here,” he said.

DBGA’s mission as posted on their Facebook page reads:

The Dallas Gay Basketball Association was founded in 2012. This league was created for LGBTAQ men and women to create an atmosphere for athletes. In hopes of strengthening a community and providing alternative option for socializing within the gay community. The league invites all skill levels, and encourages new members.

According to Coleman, they’ve been in talks with DIVA citing their structure as a direction DGBA may borrow from. That makes total sense seeing how successful the volleyball association is in expanding its membership practically each new season. DGBA will serve as a co-ed league for teams. Whether Reverchon will be the only location for play was not mentioned.

DGBA gets social tonight (Wednesday) by hosting a meet and greet at Woody’s at 6 p.m. Organizers will be there to answer questions and encourage enrollment. They follow up with another open gym session on Thursday at Reverchon where interested persons can sign up with the league. The only requirement at this point is to have a card issued by the rec center (city of Dallas) to play.

Coleman provided pics from last week’s open gym. See those after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Annise Parker now co-chair of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” Austin’s Leffingwell joins

Lee Leffingwell

Austin's Mayor Lee Leffingwell

Houstini reported yesterday that Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker was scheduled to appear at the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” press conference in Washington D.C., and that she was the only Texas mayor to participate. This morning we found out that Parker, along with New York’s Michael Bloomberg and L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa, is serving as co-chair for the effort. Additionally Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell has joined the effort.

So that makes 2 of Texas’ 1,215 mayors with the bravery to stand up for what’s right, leaving the citizens of 1,213 citizens with the task of persuading their mayors. In Dallas Daniel Cates of GetEqual has started an online petition encouraging Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign on which currently has 216 signatories. The Dallas Voice reports that Rawlings claims to personally support marriage equality, despite his unwillingness to join “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry:”

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday… “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, told the Voice “the mayor does not plan to publicly support any social issues but would rather focus on the policy issues that impact Dallas,” adding “we have not signed onto other similar requests.”

—  admin

Rawlings ‘personally’ supports marriage

Dallas mayor won’t sign pledge but says gay couples should have the right to wed

Rawlings.Mike

Mike Rawlings

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Although he declined to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage this week, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings declared Thursday, Jan. 19 that he personally supports the right of gay and lesbian couples to wed.

Rawlings has elected not to join a group of more than 75 mayors from across the country who’ve signed a pledge circulated by the group Freedom to Marry in conjunction with the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting this week in Washington, D.C.

Under fire from the LGBT community for not signing the pledge, Rawlings explained that since becoming mayor last year, it has been his policy to avoid partisan political issues or social debates that don’t directly impact city government.

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday in an exclusive interview by phone from Washington, where he was still attending the conference. “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, responded that if Rawlings really supports marriage equality, he should sign the pledge, which was set to be formally released at a press conference Friday morning, Jan. 20.

“I think he’s doing the same thing that a lot of politicians do, and that’s saying what he needs to say to get the LGBT vote,” Cates said.

After Dallas Voice reported on its website Wednesday night that Rawlings didn’t plan to sign the pledge, Cates launched a Facebook page and an online petition encouraging people to contact the mayor by phone, email and fax, and ask him to change his mind.

Cates said he may also organize a marriage demonstration outside City Hall in February — but was still hoping Rawlings would reverse course and sign the pledge on Friday.

“If he supports us, we need him to put his money where his mouth is,” Cates said. “Otherwise what he’s proving to me, personally, is that he supports us when it’s going to get him votes or money.”

Rawlings.Pride

SIGN OF SUPPORT | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings throws beads while riding on the city float in the 2011 gay Pride parade. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

During his campaign last year, Rawlings said during a candidate forum that he voted against Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning both marriage and civil unions. But before Thursday, the closest Rawlings had come to publicly endorsing same-sex marriage was in an interview with Dallas Voice during his campaign, when he said he felt the issue was “irrelevant” and “we should get beyond it and let people do what they want to do.”

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said Thursday afternoon that 50 to 60 people had contacted the mayor’s office about the marriage pledge, with the vast majority saying he should sign it.

“People are communicating with us,” said Blackmon, who compared the public response to outcry over the city’s handling of the Occupy Dallas protests.

Rawlings said in addition to the LGBT community, he was getting pushback from his son and daughter, who he said were raised to reflect his personal beliefs about marriage equality.

“I’m catching a lot of grief in my family right now, just so you know, so I respect how people are feeling about this issue, and I understand it,” he said.

Other mayors who’ve signed the pledge include Michael Bloomberg of New York, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Annise Parker of Houston, Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for Freedom to Marry, said the full list of mayors who’ve signed the pledge would be revealed during Friday’s press conference to kick off the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

However, Yodashkin told Dallas Voice that as of Thursday, Houston’s Parker and Austin’s Lee Leffingwell were the only ones from Texas who’d signed the pledge. About 20 mayors from Texas, including Fort Worth’s Betsy Price, pre-registered for the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to the website.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

DCCCD: No protections for gender identity

Community college district officials say trans people are already covered under sexual orientation; RCD encourages supporters to contact board members

Rafael_McDonnell

Rafael McDonnell

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas is calling on LGBT equality advocates and allies to contact Dallas County Community College District officials and ask them to schedule a vote during the DCCCD board’s Dec. 6 meeting on adding protections based on gender identity to the district’s nondiscrimination policies.

RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said the center decided to issue the call this week after district board members said they would not vote to add gender identity to the policy. DCCD’s legal counsel, Robert J. Young, notified McDonnell of the decision in a letter on Monday, Nov. 7.

McDonnell had been in contact with DCCCD board and staff since spring, encouraging them to add gender identity and expression to the community college district’s nondiscrimination policy. Sexual orientation is already included.

In his letter, Young wrote that the board does not believe it is necessary to change the district’s nondiscrimination policy because “gender identity” is included under “sexual orientation,” and because the city of Dallas ordinances include transgender protections.

“Since our current non-discrimination policy states that it protects ‘any other category protected by law,’ it is clear that ‘gender identity’ is already covered by virtue of the city of Dallas ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation (defined by the city to include gender identity),” he wrote.

DCCCD’s headquarters building is on South Lamar Street, in The Cedars section of Dallas. Two campuses — El Centro College and Mountain View College — and three branch campuses are also in the city.

But five of the seven DCCCD colleges and three branch campuses are in suburban cities not covered by any city of Dallas ordinance. Richland College, the school with the largest enrollment, is in Richardson.

According to DCCCD District Director of Media Relations Ann Hatch, if someone were to file a complaint, that complaint would be filed with the district in the city of Dallas. She said that the district complies with city of Dallas ordinances.

The city ordinance, however, specifically excludes any governmental body — which would include DCCCD — from the nondiscrimination policy.

Gender identity is included in the city definition of sexual orientation. When the ordinance was passed, then-Mayor Laura Miller had the definition expanded to include gender identity rather than delaying the vote with a discussion of transgender issues.

In 2002, when the ordinance passed, it was more common to include gender identity and expression in the definition of sexual orientation. Today, these categories are usually listed separately in policies seeking to prohibit all forms of discrimination.

In an email, Hatch said that Young realized his reference to the city ordinance was incorrect.

“However, the DCCCD Board of Trustees does not believe that it is necessary to change the district’s nondiscrimination policy, which does include sexual orientation,” Hatch wrote. “If someone at any of our colleges and locations should choose to file a complaint concerning gender identity, that person could reference sexual orientation, which is among the categories listed in our nondiscrimination policy.”

McDonnell provided the DCCCD board with written policies of other governmental bodies including the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, DFW International Airport and Dallas County. All include gender identity. Dallas County also includes gender expression.

Only the city of Dallas policy places gender identity into its definition of sexual orientation.

“Sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things, which was spelled out to them in our initial meetings during the summer and they are willfully choosing to ignore it,” said McDonnell.

He said that DCCCD’s inclusion of gender identity under sexual orientation was using wording that is 10 years old.

But from the letter, there is a clear message of no intention to discriminate.

In his letter to McDonnell, Young said the district is a “welcoming place for all its employees and a good place to work,” and cited anecdotal evidence to back up the claim. He said that a long-term employee transitioned while on the job and felt positive about the help and support she received.

But McDonnell insisted that isn’t enough.

“If they don’t discriminate, he needs to say it in a policy,” McDonnell said. “It’s not good enough to say it in a letter.”

When the district is taken as a whole, DCCCD is the largest college in Texas with 72,000 students and 7,200 full- and part-time faculty, staff and administrators. The school is spread across Dallas County on seven main campuses and six community branches.

Texas has 55 community colleges or community college districts. Only six of those include sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies.

Pasedena-based San Jacinto College, with three campuses east of Houston, is the only two-year school in Texas to offer protection that specifies gender identity and expression.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

BREAKING: Pedestrian critically injured by hit-and-run driver on Cedar Springs strip

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post stated that the pedestrian was struck in the lighted crosswalk at 3900 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of westbound Reagan Street. According to police, the pedestrian was actually struck in the non-lighted crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, which is at the intersection of eastbound Reagan Street.

A pedestrian crossing Cedar Springs Road was critically injured Thursday night when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver near the crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of Reagan Street eastbound. There is only a painted crosswalk on the street and no traffic signals or lights at the intersection, near Thai Lotus Restaurant and the Drama Room.

Wayne Earl Priest, 55, who lives in the 2800 block of Reagan Street, was crossing Cedar Springs Road eastbound shortly after 9 p.m., according to a police report. A witness saw Priest “walking outside of the northern portion of the crosswalk by about 2 feet and then stop in the left lane near the double yellow lines.”

The witness said the suspect’s vehicle exited a private drive to the north and began traveling southbound on Cedar Springs, the report states. The front left side of the suspect’s vehicle struck the left side of Priest. The impact was so severe that it caused Priest’s shoe to fly off and strike the witness’ vehicle. Another witness told police he was “not totally certain” whether Priest was in the crosswalk at the time of the collision.

Priest was taken to Parkland hospital in critical condition. The suspect who struck Priest failed to stop and render aid or leave his information. A description of the suspect’s vehicle was not available.

UPDATE:

Lt. Scott Bratcher of the Dallas Police Department’s Traffic Division said the suspect’s vehicle is described only as a maroon four-door.

“Right now we’re looking for anybody who’s seen anything or knows anything to call our Vehicle Crimes Unit,” Bratcher said Friday afternoon. “That’s usually how we end up solving these things.”

The number for DPD’s Vehicle Crimes Unit is 214-670-5817.

Bratcher said he had no update on Priest’s condition.

—  John Wright

Give thanks, give help

AIN is a small agency with a small budget — and they need all the volunteers they can get

With just over two weeks left before Thanksgiving, each of us has plenty of time to decide what we are going to give thanks for. And where. And how.
I decided I would give thanks for my health, happiness and longevity by making a modest monthly donation to AIDS Interfaith Network in honor of two very good friends who died in the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

One, Barnaby, used to coax me out to one of two or three New York LGBT bars whenever I started feeling sorry for myself for working long hours. After he got a law degree in his 30s, and I got a job here in Dallas, he took me out for pricey lunches and dinners on my trips back to New York. And he called me just to talk the week before he died.

Guest.Phyllis

Phyllis Guest -Taking Notes

The other, Steven, was my boss at one job, my associate at another, and a quiet joy to be around. When we made a corporate move from New York to Dallas, and I could not make up my mind on a condo, he let me sleep in his spare bedroom for most of a month. And when he got sick, we were close until he could no longer speak.

But why did I choose AIN rather than one of the other nonprofits dealing with HIV/AIDS? Three reasons:

First, AIN was one of four organizations that lost money in September 2009, when the city of Dallas cut $325,000 from funding for HIV/AIDS outreach, prevention and education programs. Shortly after, the city received a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, but that went to a new city program, none to AIN.

AIN lost an entire program aimed at preventing infection among young, high-risk males. As you know, infections among this group are still soaring.

Second, on a 9/11 Day of Service, I joined other Stonewall Democrats of Dallas in working at AIN. We did nothing daunting — some cooked; others served the food; still others washed dishes. I just picked up used plates, wiped tables and poured water.

But what an eye-opener! These clients are the poorest of the poor, many of them homeless. AIN serves breakfast and lunch five days a week — a total of 26,000 meals a year. Without AIN, most would have no food, no transportation (bus passes), no water when it’s hot, no bedding when it’s cold.
Third, AIN is smaller and somewhat less well-known than other nonprofits serving the many individuals living with HIV/AIDS or in danger of becoming infected. When it was more fully funded by the city, state and federal governments, it had a staff of more than 30; now a baker’s dozen of staff and variable numbers of volunteers try to pick up the slack. All volunteers get a choice of chores.

Right now, a prime need is for an Internet guru — a person who knows the ins and outs of and enjoys emailing, posting on Facebook, Tweeting the latest news, etc. Some staffers are rather Internet savvy, but they lack the time and the fine-tuned skills to turn social media into a recruiting and fundraising tool.

Another need is for a community activist who can set up a monthly “Saturday Night Live @ Daire Center” for 2012. Each SNL evening involves providing an early dinner for 30 or so clients, plus light entertainment such as music or board games. Church, mosque and synagogue social action groups know how to do this, as do many political, professional and community clubs.

A third need is for a different kind of community activist, one who can represent AIN at city events, shows, fundraisers and the like. This is perfect for someone who has a varied wardrobe and a love of nightlife. Anytime there is a chance to mention good works, the AIN rep should be on hand to reach out and speak up.

A host of other volunteer jobs are available. Because I lack the above special talents and am neither a cook nor a carpenter, I will probably end up turning handwritten notes into computer files or sorting donated items into manageable piles. That will be my way of giving thanks for the two dear friends who died and the many who remain.

To outdo me — you know you can — call Travis Gasper at 214-943-4444 or email him at tgasper@aidsinterfaithnetwork.org.
Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

The Cedar Springs Road crosswalk is 75 percent repaired — at least for now

When I was over on the strip for lunch Friday, I noticed what appeared to be the “signal construction department” working on the city of Dallas maintenance nightmare that is the Cedar Springs Road crosswalk. And today I put a call in to Alex Wong, the city’s program manager for traffic field operations, who assured me that I wasn’t dreaming.

Back in July, Wong told us the crosswalk would be fixed in October, so Friday’s repairs were right on schedule. And today Wong said the crosswalk is now functioning again — mostly.

The crew was able to replace about 15 of the 20 pavement-level lights that make up the crosswalk, Wong says. However, due to a bad tube of “settling compound” — which is used to attach the lights to the concrete — they weren’t able to replace the other five.

Wong said he’s ordered more settling compound but is unsure when it will arrive.

“Whenever it comes in, we’ll get out and work on it again,” he said.

Let’s just hope the other lights haven’t gone out by then.

—  John Wright

Oak Lawn is now officially lit up

Jared Pearce

Back in July we told you that the Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats had finally convinced the city to install 45 new streetlights in the Oak Lawn area, in response to the group’s Light Up Oak Lawn safety campaign.

This morning, DSYD President Jared Pearce informs Instant Tea that he’s received word from the city that all of the new streetlights have now been installed.

“We are excited that, after much time was spent evaluating the need, conducting resarch, auditing the neighborhood and working with our elected leaders and city officials, we are able to finally see the results of what DSYD started a year and a half ago and, most importantly, a safer community in which we can all live and play,” Pearce said.

—  John Wright

Omni confirms DP benefits for convention hotel

ROOMS WITH VIEWS | Workers put the finishing touches on the pool deck this week at Dallas’ convention center hotel, as the downtown skyline looms behind them. The hotel is scheduled to open Nov. 11. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM INSIDE THE HOTEL

Facility owned by city of Dallas to open Nov. 11

JOHN WRIGHT | Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

A spokeswoman for Omni Hotels confirmed this week that the company will offer domestic partner benefits to its employees at Dallas’ convention center hotel, slated to open next month.

It marks the first time a representative from Irving-based Omni Hotels has stated directly that the company plans to offer DP benefits at the city-owned facility.

Omni, which operates 50 luxury hotels in North America, is one of the few major lodging chains that doesn’t offer DP benefits across the board. However, Omni spokeswoman Caryn Kboudi said the company opted to do so at the convention center hotel because the facility is owned by the city, which has offered DP benefits to its employees since 2004.

“We’re pleased to do it, and it’s in keeping with the city of Dallas’ practices,” Kboudi said.

Kboudi said the convention center hotel, slated to open Nov. 11, will initially employ 600-650 people, about 80 percent of whom will be full time and eligible for benefits. At “peak performance,” the hotel could employ up to 800 people, she said.

The question of whether Omni Hotels would offer DP benefits at the facility was first raised in a Dallas Voice article in April 2009 — two months after the city had signed a 15-year operating agreement with the company for the $500 million hotel.

The article appeared days before the vote on a referendum aimed at barring the city from building and owning the hotel. Mayor Tom Leppert, a major supporter of the hotel, assured the newspaper that he would convince the company to offer DP benefits, even though it had not been considered as part of the operating agreement.

The referendum was defeated, and six weeks later, both Leppert’s office and the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce announced that Omni had agreed to offer DP benefits — although the company wouldn’t confirm it at the time.

“Until you [Dallas Voice] raised the issue, it wasn’t on people’s radar,” said Chris Heinbaugh, who’s openly gay and was Leppert’s chief of staff. “A light bulb went off. It was a significant step for the city.”

It reportedly marked the first time the city has prompted a contractor to offer DP benefits.

Heinbaugh, who now works for the AT&T Performing Arts Center, declined to discuss in detail the negotiations that led to Omni’s commitment to offer DP benefits. Leppert is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican and has come out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

A spokesman for Leppert’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In addition to agreeing to offer DP benefits, Omni Hotels joined the North Texas GLBT Chamber in 2009. Tony Vedda, president and CEO of the chamber, said this week the company remains a silver level corporate member, which means an annual contribution of $5,000 to the organization.

“I certainly assumed that they were going to stick to their word [on DP benefits],” Vedda said. “It would be devastating if we were told one thing and something else occurred.”

Vedda said the chamber would also like to see Omni offer DP benefits at its publicly owned convention center hotel in Fort Worth. Fort Worth began offering domestic partner benefits to municipal employees last year.

—  John Wright