Mayor Rawlings blocks LGBT resolution from going to full council — again

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Mayor Mike Rawlings meets with LGBT activists last year during his visit to Lakewood Country Club. Activists were protesting him during his visit for his lack of support of the previous LBGT resolution.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has again interfered to prevent a full City Council vote on a pro-LGBT resolution.

The resolution, passsed Tuesday by the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee, directs the city to examine ways to fix the inequalities in city employment and services. It was slated to go before the full council on Feb. 26, but it’s not listed on the agenda published late Friday.

In a statement released by Rawlings’ spokesman Sam Merten, the mayor, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and Committee Chair Jerry Allen have agreed to allow the council to discuss legal questions related to the resolution during executive session on Feb. 26. The statement also says that Rawlings has instructed the city manager’s office to place an action item on the Mar. 5 briefing agenda.

“I am enthusiastic about supporting equal rights for our LGBT community,” Rawlings said in the statement. “The resolution approved by the Finance, Budget & Audit Committee has raised legal questions that must be addressed by the City Attorney’s Office. “I am deeply committed to ensuring that a resolution passes to address this important issue, but I want to make sure all legal questions are answered before the City Council proceeds with a vote.”

This isn’t the first time Rawlings has prevented an LGBT resolution from making the agenda. A resolution in support of marriage equality and workplace protections was scheduled to go before the council in June. When former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her signature from a memo, the resolution was pulled from the agenda. Former Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano then tried to add it back to the agenda, but Rawlings had the city attorney declare him present despite him being out of the country on business. Therefore, Medrano wasn’t able to put it on the agenda.

—  Dallasvoice

PHOTOS: LGBT activists speak during pro-choice rally at Dallas City Hall

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Gay couple Mark ‘Major’ Jiminez and Beau Chandler, who gained notoriety last year when they were arrested for seeking a marriage license at the Dallas County Clerk’s Office, attend a pro-choice rally at City Hall on Tuesday night.

GetEQUAL TX was among the organizers of the Texans Unified for Change rally outside Dallas City Hall on Wednesday night.

About 50 people gathered to protest the anti-abortion bill working its way through the special session of the Legislature.

Activist Cd Kirven carried a wire hanger to symbolize women having to resort to dangerous methods of abortion.

Speakers included Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus co-chair Erin Moore and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink.

Moore, wearing pink Wendy Davis sneakers, encouraged the crowd to become more involved in politics to help get more people like Davis in office and those who oppose women’s rights out of office.

“It’s easy for men to write a bill to attack women’s rights,” Fink said.

—  David Taffet

Dallas kicks off Pride Month at City Hall

Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, left, holds the Pride proclamation with LGBT Task Force members Pam Gerber and Omar Narvaez. (David Taffet/DallasVoice)

Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, left, holds the Pride proclamation with LGBT Task Force members Pam Gerber and Omar Narvaez. (David Taffet/DallasVoice)

Dallas officials and LGBT leaders gathered in the Flag Room at City Hall on Wednesday to declare June LGBT Pride Month in the city and celebrate the first of many related events this month.

Pam Gerber, member of Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force, spoke briefly about the history of Dallas city Pride events. Two years ago was the first time the city held a reception marking Pride Month, followed by last year’s series of events. More events are planned this month to continue to educate and celebrate the city’s LGBT community.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Task Force and Delia Jasso, we now have a very high profile June Pride month,” Gerber said. “It certainly has become a big thing that we’re very, very proud of.”

Jasso was not among the roughly 40 people who attended, but several council members did, including Mayor ProTem Pauline Medrano, Angela Hunt, Ann Margolin, Scott Griggs, Monica Alonzo, Sheffie Kadane, Linda Koop and Councilman-elect Adam Medrano. Gay former Councilman John Loza and District 14 candidate Philip Kingston were also in attendance. Mayor Mike Rawlings was out of town and did not record a video message like last year.

—  Dallasvoice

Mayor Rawlings mentions ‘sexual orientation’ in domestic violence speech, calls pledges ‘baloney’

Rawlings.MikeMayor Mike Rawlings announced efforts to battle domestic violence during a press conference Monday at City Hall, highlighting a violent culture and mental illness as the main causes of violence.

“We somehow act as if violence is an accepted normal,” Rawlings said. “It’s just the way we live. We’re just a violent society.”

He said violence is everywhere, from schoolyard bullying to child abuse and “simple jerks [who] decide to assault people who are not like them because of their sexual orientation, their skin color or just because they’re a weak target.”

But Rawlings focused primarily on male-on-female violence that is perpetuated in video games, TV shows, dialogue in locker rooms, and among fathers and sons. Instead of acknowledging that violence is also male-on-male and female-on-female in LGBT relationships, he focused on men who “have been the violent gender over the centuries.”

“We must come together as men in Dallas, Texas, and say that hitting a woman is not acceptable. Strangling a woman is not acceptable,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings later said Dallas would consider the impact of having gun shows at the city-operated Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel. When asked about his refusal to sign a pledge against gun violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, he reportedly said he didn’t sign because “signing those pledges are baloney,” the Dallas Morning News reports. He said instead of signing the pledge, he wanted to focus on raising the public’s awareness of the issue.

When Rawlings refused to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage last January, he also said he wanted to focus on more substantive issues.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas wraps up June Pride series

The panel, from left: Roger Poindexter, Lorie Burch, Scott Whittall, the Rev. Dawson Taylor, Harold Steward, Cece Cox, Pastor Jon Haack and David Fisher. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

The city of Dallas wrapped up its LGBT Pride Month celebration Wednesday with a discussion of how the LGBT community has enriched the city.

A seven-member panel moderated by Fahari Arts Institute founder Harold Steward discussed the contributions their LGBT organizations have made to Dallas over the years and where they envision Dallas in the future. They then took questions from the handful of people in attendance.

The event in the City Hall Flag Room was the last event in the city’s Pride series “Honor, Educate and Celebrate.”

Panelists included Resource Center Dallas CEO and Executive Director Cece Cox, Cedar Springs Merchants Association Executive Director Scott Whittall, Turtle Creek Chorale Executive Director David Fisher, GBLT Chamber of Commerce board member Lorie Burch, Lambda Legal South Central Region Executive Director Roger Poindexter, Cathedral of Hope Executive Minister the Rev. Dawson Taylor and Promise Metropolitan Community Church senior Pastor Jon Haack.

City Council was in executive session so members could not attend, but Councilwoman Delia Jasso stepped out to speak briefly about her pride in the LGBT Task Force for planning great events over the last four weeks. Councilman Scott Griggs also stopped by the Flag Room and spoke briefly. The series began with a kickoff followed by conversations about city services and out officials. Jasso expressed a desire to have another celebration next June and promised it would be “bigger and better.”

While many of the organizations began as a way of welcoming the LGBT community with safe havens to worship, gain access to HIV/AIDS care and enjoy a safe evening out or unbiased legal council, the panel focused on how far Dallas has grown over the decades and how spread out the LGBT community has become. The days have passed where members of the LGBT community only live near Cedar Springs and the only bar patrons along the entertainment strip are gay.

Instead, the LGBT community and its businesses have integrated into Dallas while still maintaining a focus on their original customers, Whittall said. Even religious organizations have grown in attendance with allies who no longer find a barrier between spirituality and sexuality, but Taylor added that the next step is working from being a community that is tolerated to one that is accepted and celebrated.

Task Force member Pam Gerber closed the event by expressing how proud she was to have a June Pride celebration and welcomed input for next year’s events. She said that while the community is working toward acceptance, she “just wants to be.”

“I want to be nothing extraordinary, nothing out of the ordinary,” she said. “I just want to be.”

Suggestions for next year’s Pride can be made to Councilwoman Delia Jasso at 214-670-4052.

—  Dallasvoice

With friends like Mike, who needs enemies?

As Rawlings continues to dig in his heels on marriage pledge, Prop 8 ruling serves as reminder of the impact one mayor can have

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NOT GOING AWAY | LGBT protesters gathered outiside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27 to call on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. This week LGBT advocates went inside City Hall, with five people speaking during public comments at the council's regular meeting. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

 

With all the jubilation this week surrounding the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Proposition 8, I couldn’t help but take a look back at how far things have progressed in California.

Given recent events in Dallas, my thoughts tend to settle on a moment four years before Prop 8 made its way to the ballot. I think of the moment the marriage battle in California began to make national headlines.

It was 2004 when a mayor, realizing that tens of thousands of his citizens were officially discriminated against under California law, ordered the San Francisco County Clerk’s Office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

While Mayor Gavin Newsom had no means to directly influence the law and while these marriages were eventually annulled by the state, his bold action created the environment necessary for real dialogue about equality.

What’s more, it taught our community the difference between elected leaders saying they support us and showing us their support.

Perhaps that is why Dallas’ Mike Rawlings’ refusal to join the mayors of almost every major U.S. city in signing a pledge in support of marriage equality, despite claiming to personally support it, continues to go over like a fart in a space suit.

If Rawlings were a Rick “Frothy Mix” Santorum or of similar ilk, his not signing the pledge would come as no surprise and we would have long since moved on.

But, this is a man who is supposed to be our friend. This is a man who campaigned hard for the Dallas LGBT vote. This is a man who has hosted a Pride reception at City Hall and tossed beads like an overgrown flower girl at last year’s Pride parade. For a man who claims to be so focused on making Dallas a “world class city,” signing the pledge just seems like a no-brainer.

Even more puzzling has been the way Rawlings has continued to defend his position — at first explaining that civil rights were a “partisan issue” that didn’t matter to the “lion’s share” of Dallas citizens, until that backfired magnificently, and now claiming that maintaining a position of neutrality has transformed him into some kind of weird ambassador for the queer community to the conservative religious communities of Dallas.

Apparently no one ever told Mayor Rawlings that when it comes to issues of civil rights, there is no such thing as a neutral position. To quote the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you remain neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

This is where our true frustration is coming from. Mayor Rawlings claims to understand marriage as a civil rights issue. He claims to understand that our community is discriminated against in thousands of state and federal laws, creating economic, educational, familial and health hardships for thousands of people in his city. Yet he chooses a position that serves only to validate those who would strip us of our humanity.

Perhaps he could have gotten away with this a few years ago, but in today’s world the majority of Americans now support equality and the LGBT community is no longer satisfied with neutrality, compromises or indefinite waiting. We are seeing evidence of this at every level of government, from City Hall to the White House where President Barack Obama stands to lose a significant percentage of the LGBT vote amid his prolonged “evolution” on marriage equality.

We understand that there is still much work to be done before full recognition of our equality becomes a reality. We know it will take time, resources and leadership to get us there. We don’t need our mayor to be as controversial as Gavin Newsom, but there is a way he can take a simple and powerful stand starting today.

It won’t cost the taxpayers a single penny. It won’t disrupt the business of the city for even a moment. It won’t even force people to change what they believe. It will, however, send a message to our state Legislature and to Congress that the people who live and work in Dallas, Texas, deserve equal treatment under the law.

It will tell 17,440 children in the state of Texas that their mommies and daddies are the same as the mommies and daddies of their peers. It will tell more than 14,000 individuals in our city who live in committed loving relationships that they will grow old with their partners in a city that respects them and values their contributions.

All our mayor has to do is pick up a pen and sign the pledge.

Daniel Cates is North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Hubbard: ‘If you don’t want more Mayor Rawlings, then you need to support a candidate like me’

Democratic Senate candidate Sean Hubbard speaks at a Jan. 27 rally outside Dallas City Hall calling for Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Sean Hubbard, one of four Democrats vying for the nomination to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate, said he’s picked up strong support for his campaign in Bexar County while traveling across the state. We caught up by phone late last week while Hubbard was at home in Dallas between campaign trips.

Former State Rep. Paul Sadler is the best known of the Democratic Senate candidates. Daniel Boone, a retired Air Force colonel, is campaigning little but expects to pick up a number of votes because of his name. In 2000, Gene Kelly got the Democratic nomination because of his famous name, but was trounced in the general election. A fourth candidate is Addie Dainell Allen.

Jason Gibson withdrew from the race on Feb. 3 and endorsed Sadler. Gibson said he’s a strong union supporter and didn’t want to run without AFL-CIO support. Hubbard said that Gibson’s arrest record had become public, forcing him from the race. Previously, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez withdrew from the race.

Hubbard rushed back to Dallas on Jan. 27, missing an endorsement meeting to attend the demonstration in front of Dallas City Hall calling on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

“Standing up for folks being discriminated against is more important than campaigning,” he said.

—  David Taffet

LGBT protesters gather outside Dallas City Hall to call on Mayor Rawlings to sign marriage pledge

LGBT protesters gather outside Dallas City Hall on Friday night. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

They began by chanting, “Sign the pledge, it’s not too late, how long do we have to wait?” An hour later, they ended by singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

About 100 LGBT protesters gathered outside the main entrance of Dallas City Hall on Friday night, to call on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. With several TV news cameras rolling, the protesters waved rainbow flags, banged cowbells and held signs with messages like, “We the people. Gays need not apply.”

The protest, organized by GetEQUAL, came more than three years after one of the largest gay-rights demonstrations in Dallas history took place at the same location — in response to California voters’ decision to approve a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2008.

“All we are asking is for Mayor Rawlings to acknowledge our validity, our equality, as human beings,” Meg Hargis of GetEQUAL, who MC’d Friday night’s rally, yelled through a megaphone. “Mayor Rawlings, without actions your words are meaningless. We do not need your smiles. We do not need your words. We need you to act before history remembers you as the coward that you are.”

An LGBT protester, left, squares off with an anti-gay counterprotester.

Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas told the crowd he’s unsure what will happen Saturday when Rawlings is set to meet with about 25 leaders from the LGBT community in a private, invitation-only gathering.

“But I am going to tell you this,” McDonnell said. “We are going to try like hell to get him to change his mind.”

Rawlings agreed to meet with the LGBT leaders in response to outcry over his decision not to sign the pledge, which was unveiled by the group Freedom to Marry during a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. About 100 mayors from across the country have signed the pledge, including six from Texas. Dallas is the largest city in the U.S. whose mayor hasn’t signed. Rawlings has said he supports same-sex marriage but won’t sign the pledge because he doesn’t want to get involved in social issues.

Mark Reed, a national board member for GetEQUAL, kissed and hugged his husband, Dante Walkup, in front of TV cameras before yelling to the crowd: “Mayor Rawlings, this is the love of my life. We deserve to be equal.”

“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” Reed said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The LGBT speakers were at times drowned out by a few anti-gay counterprotesters who stalked nearby in City Hall plaza and yelled through an amplification device. Some LGBT protesters engaged the counterprotesters, with the parties getting in each other’s faces at one point, but there was no violence. One of the counterprotesters who identified himself only as Melvin said he didn’t want to give his full name to avoid getting hate mail. Another counterprotester identified himself to Channel 33 The CW as Will Stanford.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, said as the rally wound down that he was pleased with the turnout.

“If he hasn’t gotten the message by now, I don’t know what we could possibly do differently,” Cates said of Rawlings.

“We’re not going to accept compromises,” Cates said, referring to the possibly that Rawlings will offer other concessions to the LGBT community. “We want him to do all those things — and sign the pledge.”

Saturday’s meeting is at 11 a.m. at Resource Center Dallas. Check back for a report Saturday afternoon.

More photos from Friday night’s protest below.

—  John Wright

Fort Worth’s Betsy Price won’t sign marriage pledge; N. Texas still has no mayors on list

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in the Tarrant County Pride Parade last year.

In case you missed it, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price issued a statement the other day saying she doesn’t plan to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. Although Price is a Republican, she expressed support for the LGBT community during her campaign last year and served as grand marshal of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade in October. On the marriage pledge issue, however, Price is a taking similar tack to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:

“I remain focused on the business of the City of Fort Worth,” Price said in a statement. “The issue of same sex marriage is one for the state, not local government.”

Six Texas mayors have now joined about 100 others from across the U.S. in signing the pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Freedom to Marry. But none of those six is from North Texas, which is kinda sad. After all, Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., so you’d think we’d have a least one name on the list. As it stands, Bexar County is leading the way in the Lone Star State with three mayors who’ve signed the pledge: Julian Castro of San Antonio, Bruce Smiley-Kalff of Castle Hills (pop. 4,202) and A. David Marne of Shavano Park (pop. 1,754). The other three mayors from Texas are Annise Parker of Houston, Joe Jaworski of Galveston and Lee Leffingwell of Austin.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for coverage of tonight’s protest outside Dallas City Hall and Saturday’s meeting between Mayor Rawlings and LGBT leaders. I’ll also do my best to keep you updated on Twitter, where someday I hope to have 1,000 followers.

—  John Wright

Rawlings to meet with LGBT leaders

Protest planned outside City Hall over mayor’s refusal to sign marriage pledge

STRAINED RELATIONS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, shown during an interview with Dallas Voice last year, is under fire from the LGBT community for not only failing to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage — but also for his handling of the controversy. (Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Activists from GetEQUAL plan a rally outside Dallas City Hall on Friday night, Jan. 27 to call on Mayor Mike Rawlings to change his mind and sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Rawlings is set to meet privately Saturday, Jan. 28 with a group of 20-25 LGBT leaders to discuss his decision not to sign the pledge.

However, LGBT activists said this week that their beef with Rawlings, who took office last summer, now extends beyond the pledge itself.

They said they’ve been very alarmed by the language and tone Rawlings has used in defending his decision not to sign the pledge in the media.

Most recently, on Wednesday, Rawlings told WFAA-TV that the marriage pledge — signed by more than 100 mayors across the country, including from all eight cities larger than Dallas — was an example of “getting off track” and that the issue of marriage equality is not “relevant to the lion’s share of the citizens of Dallas.”

“Sadly, I think the more he talks about this in the press, the more he digs in as completely out of touch,” said Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. “He’s really pissing off our community. We really have a much deeper, more profound problem than this pledge. … This mayor is naïve. We’re not irrelevant, and we are a part of the lion’s share.”

Fink noted that DGLA issued a rare warning against voting for Rawlings in 2011.

“We certainly hoped that he would prove us wrong when we put a warning on him last year, but I fear that perhaps that warning was well justified, because it certainly appears from this encounter that he puts business before civil rights, which was the essence of our warning,” Fink said.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said he wasn’t available for comment Thursday. Rawlings told Dallas Voice last week that although he personally supports marriage equality, he didn’t sign the pledge because he wants to avoid social issues that don’t impact the city.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, which is organizing Friday night’s protest, also questioned Rawlings’ handling of the controversy. On Monday, Blackmon told Dallas Voice that Rawlings was skipping a “Meet the Mayor” community meeting in Kiest Park because it would be unfair to subject other residents to an LGBT protest. “He just does not want to put them through that,” Blackmon said.

Cates called such language “damaging and destructive” and said it smacks of “thinly veiled homophobia.”

Rawlings’ decision to skip the Kiest Park meeting appeared to backfire when residents who showed up called him “cowardly” for dodging the protest.

“I think he’s got the worst PR team on earth,” Cates said.

Cates said Friday’s “Sign the Pledge” rally, set for 7 p.m. outside City Hall, will include speakers and a chance for people to address personal notes, including family photos, to the mayor. Cates said he planned to hand-deliver the correspondence to Rawlings at Saturday’s meeting.

“The goal is really for our mayor to finally have his policy match what he says his personal views are,” Cates said. “We are going to continue to apply pressure, and that can stop whenever he wants.”

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of the Resource Center, organized Saturday’s invitation-only meeting between Rawlings and LGBT leaders.

Cox said she reached out to the mayor’s office last week after his explanation for not signing the pledge “sent up about 100 red flags.”

Saturday’s meeting, which is closed to the media, is scheduled for an hour and a half. In addition to the marriage pledge, Cox said she hopes to address other LGBT-related city issues including transgender health benefits, pension benefits for the domestic partners of employees, nondiscrimination requirements for contractors and mandatory diversity training.

Pam Gerber, one of Rawlings’ prominent LGBT supporters during last year’s campaign, said she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and she hopes something positive will come out of the meeting.

Gerber noted that even though neither DGLA nor Stonewall Democrats endorsed Rawlings, he appeared at a gay Pride month reception his first day in office and later rode in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“If he absolutely will not sign it, then how do we leverage this opportunity to bring something good about for our community?” Gerber said. “I’m not 100 percent confident that he won’t change his mind, because he is a good man who is incredibly well-intentioned. But if that’s the case, then we need to be pragmatic about it and figure out how to move forward and make gains for the LGBT community, instead of looking at the whole thing as all or nothing.”

Fink seemed less optimistic, and she said no matter what, it’s unlikely the conversation will end this weekend.

“This is an education hill we must climb together as a community and engage him as much as possible,” Fink said. “He is not leaving us behind because we are going to be pulling on the cuffs of his trousers every step of the way, and he will not marginalize the LGBT community of Dallas.”

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

—  Kevin Thomas