Attorneys call charges against Scott Griggs ‘trumped up’

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Philip Kingston addresses rally outside Dallas City Hall

More than 100 people gathered at City Hall Plaza in downtown Dallas today (Saturday, May 2) to support Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs who was charged on Friday with coercion by an elected official, a third degree felony that carries a punishment of 2 to 10 years in the state pen. Attorneys and supporters called the charges “ridiculous” and “trumped-up.”

Among the elected officials at City Hall to support Griggs were Councilmen Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano, former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt and County School Board member Omar Narvaez and County School Board President Larry Duncan. Griggs was not in attendance because he can’t speak about the case.

Griggs’ attorneys said Griggs passed a lie detector test this morning with “high” flying colors.

Griggs was asked if he ever threatened physical harm, if he ever said, “I’ll break your fucking fingers,” or if he received certain papers before a 1 p.m. deadline. He answered “No” to each question and the lie detector agreed he was telling the truth. His attorneys said that evidence and more will be turned over to District Attorney Susan Hawk this week and they will ask her to dismiss the case.

Larry Friedman, one of Griggs’ attorneys, said it was unprecedented for the mayor, police chief and city manager to each release a statement  about the allegations even before any charges were filed. He called the investigation “one-sided” and said he was told the charges were going to be misdemeanor, but the police chief told the press they would be felony.

Friedman said “the powers that be” were trying to silence Griggs on the toll road issue in the final week before the election. Griggs is running unopposed, but the mayor has an opponent and a number of races across south Dallas and East Dallas will be decided on the issue of the toll road.

Griggs is accused of yelling at the assistant city secretary, who apparently didn’t remember that he yelled at her for eight days. Two other witnesses still don’t remember him using threatening language. Only the assistant city secretary seems to remember being threatened.

Kingston and others at the rally said they have never heard the mild-mannered Griggs use “the f word” or ever use abusive or threatening language. Signs at the rally called Griggs “dedicated to integrity, transparency and anti-corruption.” Chants of “Stand with Scott” erupted through the event.

“The charges are a laugher,” Kingston said, “except the stakes are too high. I’m not laughing.”

Hunt said Griggs is being charged because he exposed the dangers of fracking, has stopped the toll road and is an opponent to the status quo.

More on this story on Monday, along with some of the emails Griggs demanded be released including those that showed the “Dream Team” design for the Trinity floodplain, recently passed by the City Council, has serious flaws.

—  David Taffet

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