Dallas City Council amends FMLA policy

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Interim Assistant City Attorney Theresa O’Donnell and her wife

Dallas City Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a change to its Family and Medical Leave policy. A city employee may now take time off to care for a “designated care recipient.”

While that allows partners who are living together to take unpaid leave to take care of a spouse, it doesn’t address some situations.

When interim assistant city manager Theresa O’Donnell’s daughters were born, she was denied leave because she wasn’t on the birth certificate. It’s not clear if the new policy would cover a situation like hers.

Because two-parent adoptions by same-sex couples in Texas are possible but must be done separately, only the adoptive parent of the couple would be eligible under the new policy at the time of an adoption. A lesbian city employee might be able to take FMLA leave to care for her spouse who has given birth, but not to care for the newborn.

Employees are eligible for family leave after working for the city for a year, including a minimum of 1,250 hours. Previously, employees could use FMLA leave to care for an opposite-sex spouse, child, parent or for a relation who is a military service member with a serious health condition or situation resulting from that service member’s active military duty.

—  David Taffet

Which picture makes openly straight City Councilman Philip Kingston look more gay?

In which picture does openly straight Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston look more gay? In his Black Tie picture with City Council partner Adam Medrano or in his NOH8 picture with City Council partner Adam Medrano? Philip’s wife Melissa wants to know.

Philip sent me the first two pictures posing Melissa’s question. I’ve added two more, just to throw fuel on the fire: In his Cedar Springs picture at the opening of Out of the Closet with City Council partner Adam Medrano or in his Pooch Parade picture with city council partner Adam Medrano?

Philip & Adam Black Tie

Philip & Adam at Black Tie Dinner

Philip & Adam NOH8

Philip & Adam at NOH8

Philip & Adam Cedar Springs

Adam & Philip at Out of the Closet opening on Cedar Springs with an elegantly attired sister

Philip & Adam Pooch Parade

Adam & Philip judging the Pooch Parade in Lee Park

—  David Taffet

Kingston and Medrano official NOH8 pics

13958Adam Bouska was in town  Jan. 29 to take pics for the NOH8 campaign. Two of the no-haters were Oak Lawn’s city council members Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano.

Philip sent over two of the pics for me to share.

Along with councilman Scott Griggs, Kingston and Medrano wore NOH8 t-shirts to a city council meeting when an equality resolution was debated.

Is it me, or is it good to see politicians with duct tape across their mouths?

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—  David Taffet

A ‘landmark day for the city of Dallas’

Council passes comprehensive resolution, ending more than a year’s work and beginning the process for full city equality

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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)

 

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

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.

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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.”

Click here to read the resolution and here for more photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 7, 2014.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: Dallas City Council passes comprehensive LGBT resolution

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Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings voiced his support Wednesday for the Equality Resolution during the City Council meeting. The resolution passed 13-2. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas council members passed an equality resolution Wednesday morning almost a year after a marriage equality resolution failed to be considered by the council.

The measure passed 13-2 with only Councilmembers Vonciel Jones Hill and Sheffie Kadane voting against. It’s the council’s most significant show of support for the LGBT community in a decade when the council approved domestic partner benefits in 2004.

Mayor Mike Rawlings voted in favor after coming out in support of the resolution on Tuesday. Rawlings blocked last year’s resolution from being added to the agenda after former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her support from a memo requiring the item to be voted on. More recently, Rawlings stalled the current resolution a week by having legal questions addressed during executive session last Wednesday.

“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.”

—  Anna Waugh

LGBT advocates plan to red out Dallas City Council meeting tomorrow

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Click image to enlarge

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.

In response to the delay by Rawlings, advocates plan to show up in mass at City Hall Wednesday wearing red to address the council and show support in the audience for the resolution.

Advocates have launched a Facebook page called “Dallas LGBT Equality Resolution” to gain support for the measure. It has received 626 likes so far.

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.

Read the full travel advisory below.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas finance committee approves ‘comprehensive’ LGBT resolution

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Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, center, speaks during the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee meeting Tuesday. Burns joined Dallas Assistant City Attorney John Rogers, Dallas interim Assistant City Manager Theresa O’Donnell and HRC’s Cathryn Oakley to encourage the committee to pass a resolution in support of LGBT policy changes in Dallas. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Dallas councilmembers voted Tuesday to send a resolution to the full City Council to address inequalities in city employment, healthcare and lobbying efforts.

In a 4-1 vote at the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, councilmembers voiced support for the “Comprehensive Statement of Support” resolution, which guides city staff and the city’s LGBT Task Force to research areas for improved LGBT equality and report back to the committee quarterly on the progress. Items will then be addressed on an individual basis and voted on.

Members who voted in favor of it were Committee Chair Jerry Allen, who originally pushed for a broad statement of support, Vice Chair Jennifer Gates, Philip Kingston and Tennell Atkins. Sheffie Kadane voted against it because he said he didn’t like that it focused solely on the LGBT community.

O’Donnell said a resolution wasn’t originally expected to go before the committee Tuesday, but members of the city’s LGBT Task Force encouraged a resolution so research about policy changes could begin.

—  Anna Waugh

Mayor Rawlings to miss Dallas Pride parade for 1st time in 3 years

Mike Rawlings breaks me off some beads during last year's gay Pride parade.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings throws beads from atop the Dallas Tavern Guild’s float during the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2011. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will miss the gay Pride parade this year for the first time since he took office.

Adam McGough, a spokesman for the mayor, said Rawlings will be in New York City this weekend at a conference of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Rawlings will also be visiting West Point, N.Y., as part of an initiative to bring a football game to Dallas.

McGough said Rawlings’ absence has nothing to do with the controversy involving a marriage equality resolution at City Council in June — which led some in the LGBT community to call for the mayor and certain other council members to be uninvited from the Pride parade.

“He is disappointed to miss it,” McGough said. “This has nothing to do with the controversy. This is just scheduling.”

Rawlings is only the third Dallas mayor to appear in the gay Pride parade, after Laura Miller and Tom Leppert.

Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said this week that only eight of 15 city council members had RSVP’d to ride on the Tavern Guild’s float in this year’s parade — which marks the 30th anniversary of the event.

That number is lower than in recent years, but Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said she isn’t alarmed.

Fink noted that several council members were newly  elected in June, and the community hasn’t had a chance to build relationships with them. She also said she doesn’t put a lot of stock in RSVPs.

“We have to wait until Pride to see who’s on the float, because that’s really going to be where the proof is,” she said.

Doughman said council members who’ve RSVP’d are Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Rick Callahan, Monica Alonzo, Carolyn Davis, Tennell Atkins, Sheffie Kadane and Philip Kingston.

Only one sitting council member, Vonciel Hill, has publicly refused to appear in the parade because she is anti-LGBT.

—  John Wright

Councilwoman Vonciel Hill again refuses to sign gay Pride letter

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Councilman Philip Kingston

Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston collected the signatures of the mayor and the rest of the council to congratulate the Dallas Tavern Guild on the 30th anniversary of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, which will be held on Sept. 15.

“I worked very hard to get the right wording to get the maximum participation and am proud of the success it had,” Kingston said.

“This annual event celebrates our shared commitment to equality in Dallas and all of Texas,” the letter reads in part. “Our city is honored to have the Dallas Tavern Guild and its commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and the rights of all people.”

The lone, missing council member is Vonciel Hill, whose district now includes one of the largest LGBT neighborhoods in the city.

Hill is also the lone council member who has refused to ride in the parade, once telling us “there are some acts God doesn’t bless.” Earlier this year, Hill objected to an HIV prevention billboard featuring two gay men, prompting one of the largest LGBT rallies in the history of South Dallas.

After redistricting in 2011, Hill was moved into District 3, which includes Kiestwood and other LGBT Oak Cliff neighborhoods. She was elected in May to her final two-year term.

In addition to Kingston, who collected the signatures, other new council members who signed the letter were Jennifer Staubach Gates, Lee Kleinman, Rick Callahan and Adam Medrano.

The letter will appear in the Official Guide to Dallas Pride 2013, distributed inside copies of Dallas Voice on Aug. 30 and Sept. 13. Read the full letter below.

—  David Taffet

Turtle Creek Chorale performs at Dallas City Council swearing-in ceremony

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Outgoing council members sat in front of the incoming Dallas City Council as members of the Turtle Creek Chorale in the Choral Terrace sang the national anthem.

The predominantly gay Turtle Creek Chorale opened the swearing-in ceremony for the Dallas City Council this morning at the Morton Meyerson Symphony Center. About 50 members of the Chorale participated.

A number of out officials and former officials, including Sheriff Lupe Valdez and former District 2 Councilman John Loza, attended. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance were well represented. Among family members attending was Cowboys hall-of-famer Roger Staubach, whose daughter Jennifer Staubach Gates was sworn in as District 13 councilwoman.

Mayor Mike Rawlings paid tribute to five members leaving the council. The outgoing council had more women than any other council in the city’s history. All five members leaving are women.

Among those leaving, Rawlings cited Delia Jasso for her work on the LGBT Task Force and growth of business in her district, especially in Bishop Arts. He mentioned her recognition by the National Diversity Council in April as the most powerful and influential woman in Texas. He credited her with educating him on domestic violence issues. Rawlings made no mention of Jasso’s stunning recent betrayal of the LGBT community when she withdrew her support for an equality resolution, which effectively killed the measure.

The mayor called Angela Hunt a good friend. As the youngest person ever elected to Dallas City Council, he said she brought a new vitality to the horseshoe.

—  David Taffet