LGBT advocates plan to red out Dallas City Council meeting tomorrow

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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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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

Gay activists respond to Vonciel Hill’s bigotry with #RevLOVE rally Saturday

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A rally to respond to the anti-gay bigotry of Councilwoman Vonciel Hill and the stigma of HIV in the black community will take place on Saturday outside the office of Abounding Prosperity, 2311 MLK Jr. Blvd., at 11 a.m.

Speakers will include Pastor Alex Byrd, senior pastor of Living Faith Convent Church and bishop-designate of the Fellowship of Affirming Ministries Community; community activist and health educator Alpha Thomas; youth advocate Eric Henry; and Abounding Prosperity founder and executive director Kirk Myers.

Poet Brandon Jackson and vocalist Miss Connie will perform.

Organizer Harold Steward encouraged everyone from the LGBT community to participate, especially those from the large LGBT community in Hill’s newly redrawn District 3.

The full press release is below.

—  David Taffet

BREAKING: Philip Kingston, Rick Callahan win Dallas City Council seats

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Dallas City Councilman-elect Philip Kingston, right, hugs outgoing Councilwoman Angela Hunt at his watch party Saturday at the Pour House. Kingston will replace Hunt, who endorsed him. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Philip Kingston narrowly defeated fellow attorney Bobby Abtahi on Saturday in a runoff between two LGBT allies for the District 14 Dallas City Council seat.

With 39 of 41 precincts reporting, Kingston has 2,339 votes, or 55 percent, to Abtahi’s 1,946 votes, or 45 percent.

Kingston will replace Councilwoman Angela Hunt, a staunch LGBT supporter who was term limited and endorsed Kingston in the race. District 14 is among the most heavily LGBT in the city and covers parts of Oak Lawn, East Dallas and downtown.

Kingston and his supporters gathered at the Pour House on Skillman. In his victory speech, Kingston thanked his all-volunteer staff and supporters for running a clean and positive race.

“Our message was issues-driven and relentlessly positive,” Kingston told Dallas Voice. “That resonated with voters in District 14.”

Abtahi and several dozen supporters waited for results at The Mason Bar in Uptown. He called Kingston after it was clear he’d lost before thanking his supporters for their hard work and faith in him throughout a long campaign.

“We started this campaign at 1 percent. That was our name ID. That’s how much of the vote we were going to get, 1 percent,” Abtahi said. “And we came back and we showed people that you could have someone from the outside, you could have someone who wasn’t endorsed by the incumbent make a run for it and we did a great job. And I appreciate all your support and now it’s time to relax.”

Kingston and Abtahi expressed strong support for the LGBT community during the campaign, with both saying they’d back a council resolution endorsing marriage equality and statewide LGBT job protections.

Kingston was criticized for his mostly Republican primary voting history and for financial contributions to conservative causes, including a PAC now affiliated with Sen. Ted Cruz and the campaign of Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. However, Kingston also gave money to the campaign to defeat Texas’ marriage amendment in 2005.

Abtahi, who has a lesbian sister, was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, while Kingston had the backing of the nonpartisan Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

In the other City Council runoff, Rick Callahan defeated Jesse Diaz in the newly created District 5, which covers Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas. Diaz was endorsed by Stonewall Democrats. In response to a Dallas Voice questionnaire, Callahan said he supports civil unions but not marriage equality, but his campaign manager later said he would support the council marriage equality resolution.

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Bobby Abtahi shakes hands with gay former Councilman Craig Holcomb at his watch party at the Mason Bar on Guillot Street in State-Thomas. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

—  John Wright

WATCH: Raw footage from Wednesday’s LGBT showdown at City Council

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In case you missed the fireworks at Wednesday’s Dallas City Council meeting regarding the LGBT equality resolution — or even if you witnessed it and just want to relive the highlights — we’ve put together the below compilation of some of the most dramatic moments. We’ll have a more in-depth story in Friday’s print edition, but for now, this is an absolute must-watch:

—  Dallasvoice

Thanks for the wake-up call, Mike

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CBS 11 aired this story last night about what we first reported Saturday — Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano’s last-ditch effort to get an LGBT equality resolution on the June 12 City Council agenda.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Mayor Mike Rawlings is vehemently opposed to the council considering the resolution, and he apparently convinced City Attorney Tom Perkins to take the position that the mayor is not absent — and therefore Medrano is not acting mayor — even though Rawlings is in South America.

Now I’m no attorney, but does this not seem like a pretty awful legal opinion? If Rawlings is not absent when he’s on another continent, where does he have to go to be absent? Antarctica? Mars? Though these may sound like good places for Rawlings, one has to wonder what the point is of even having a mayor pro tem or deputy pro tem, if they’re never going to be needed.

Anyhow, as we reported yesterday, LGBT advocates are planning to converge on Wednesday’s council meeting to express their disapproval of the council’s failure to take up the resolution. But personally, I think we should also take the opportunity to thank Rawlings.

We should thank him for giving us a wake-up call about the lack of support for the LGBT community at City Hall, and more importantly, we should thank him for galvanizing us around this issue — and mobilizing us to action. Although this is only a city resolution, we have much bigger fights ahead.

Let’s face it, the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t going to hand us nationwide marriage equality later this month, and the justices certainly aren’t going to hand us employment protections. The reality is, we’re going to have to continue to fight for equality city by city and state by state, so why not draw a line in the sand right here and right now in Texas?

After all, if we can’t prevail against a patsy like Rawlings in what amounts to a scrimmage, how are we going to go up against the state Legislature for the real thing?

Watch Channel 11′s report below.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Dallas mayor says he’s not absent even though he’s in Brazil, blocks LGBT equality resolution

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Mayor Mike Rawlings

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, an LGBT ally who is acting mayor because Mike Rawlings is traveling overseas, sent a request to the city secretary Friday afternoon to place an LGBT equality resolution on the council’s June 12 agenda.

As you can see from the memo below, the city secretary then forwarded Medrano’s request to Rawlings and City Manager Mary Suhm. However, the LGBT equality resolution doesn’t appear on the June 12 agenda that was posted to the city’s website later Friday, apparently because Rawlings — who opposes the resolution — has convinced the city attorney to take the position that Medrano doesn’t have the authority to place it on the agenda.

Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Rawlings, said early Saturday that questions about why the resolution doesn’t appear on the agenda should be directed to the city manager and the city secretary.

“They manage the agenda,” Blackmon said.

Pressed about whether she had any knowledge of what transpired Friday afternoon, Blackmon gave an identical response.

Agenda items must be posted 72 hours before the 9 a.m. Wednesday council meeting, which means the effective deadline is normally 5 p.m. Friday because the city secretary’s office is closed on weekends. However, the resolution could still theoretically be added to the agenda Saturday.

What this boils down to is a complicated legal question. Only the mayor and city manager can place items on the agenda. However, the mayor pro tem assumes the mayor’s duties if he’s absent.

According to Chapter 3, Section 11 of the city charter, “The city council shall elect one of its members as mayor pro tem, who shall perform the duties of mayor in the case of the absence or inability of the mayor to perform the duties of office, who shall, during that time, be vested with all the powers belonging to the mayor. The council shall also elect one of its members as deputy mayor pro tem to act in the absence of both the mayor and the mayor pro tem and to exercise the powers of the mayor during that time. (Amend. of 11-8-05, Prop. No. 13)”

Rawlings is apparently taking the position that even though he is in Brazil, he is not absent. The city charter does not define “absence.” It’s sad that Rawlings is going to these lengths to avoid having to vote on the LGBT equality resolution, and this maneuver should only add fuel to the fire beneath tonight’s march and rally at City Hall.

Medrano couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

More to come …

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—  John Wright