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

The Dallas response to ‘The Response’

Protesters gather outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday during Rick Perry’s day of prayer in Houston.

About 25 people gathered at Dallas City Hall on Saturday to protest Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response,” the day of prayer and fasting that was under way in Houston at the same time.

Transgender activists Pamela Curry and Kelli Ann Busey were among the protesters in Dallas, while others were from church groups or were individuals who said they believe in separation of church and state.

Among those at Dallas City Hall was Transforming Words, a Bible study group from Garland that represented several churches. “We’re here to love on ‘em and give ‘em some water,” a representative from Transforming Words said. The representative said the group didn’t necessarily support the protest but, “the AFA said some really horrible things.” He said the group particularly disliked some of the statements from AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer.

A few of the protest signs referred to anti-gay hate messages of the AFA, such as “The AFA=Anti-Gay” using the Human Rights Campaign equal sign logo, and “The AFA is anti gay. Fed up. Fight to save America from hate groups. No H8 in TX. Represent all Texans.”

Most of the signs, however, referred to separation of church and state or were specifically anti-Perry: “Blatant exclusion has no place in political office,” “Political office is not your pulpit” “Rick Perry for ex-governor” were among the messages.

Using the Bible to fight religious bigotry, one sign read, “Jesus opposes prayer rallies Matthew 6:5-14 NIV,” referring to the passage that translates as, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Monday’s 1st-ever LGBT Pride Month Reception at Dallas City Hall

We apologize for the shaky camera, especially at the beginning (I blame David Taffet). But below is video, in three parts, from Monday’s LGBT Pride Month Reception at Dallas City Hall. To view more photos of the event, go here, and for our story, go here.

—  John Wright

LGBT Pride Month Reception at Dallas City Hall

Photos by John Wright/Dallas Voice

—  John Wright

Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings says he ‘will try to be there’ for Monday’s LGBT Pride Month Reception

Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings

UPDATE: Rawlings said the following in an email shortly after we posted this: “I’ll plan to be there unless [secretary] Sandy [Nelson] tells me I have a conflict. She will put it on my calendar.”

ORIGINAL POST:

It remains unclear whether Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings will attend an LGBT Pride Month Reception at Dallas City Hall on Monday afternoon.

A press release announcing the reception sent out by the city on Wednesday indicates that Rawlings will be there. However, Councilwoman Delia Jasso, who organized the reception, said this morning that Rawlings hasn’t confirmed his attendance.

“I would list him as invited,” Jasso said, adding that she’s confident he’ll attend.

On Wednesday, Rawlings said in an email to Dallas Voice that he will “try to be there.”

“It’s not on my calendar right now but I will try to be there when I find the details,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings didn’t respond to a follow-up email providing details of the Pride Reception. He also didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail left on his cell phone this morning.

The Pride Reception would be Rawlings first LGBT event as mayor, and his attendance could be an indicator that he’s willing to mend fences with the two LGBT groups that endorsed his opponents in the election. During the reception, Jasso will present a Pride Month proclamation to the LGBT task force she created, which includes leaders from the the two groups, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.

Jasso said Monday’s Pride Reception, the first of its kind, will take place immediately after a post-inauguration photo session for council members in the same location, the Flag Room on the sixth floor.

“It’s as convenient as it can be for any council person to stay,” she said.

Jasso is hosting the reception along with Councilwoman Angela Hunt and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano.

Jasso said all current council members have been invited, but only Jerry Allen has confirmed he’ll be there. Jasso said she also plans to contact new council members who’ll be sworn in Monday to invite them.

Others listed on the city press release as attending are City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant Chief of Police Vincent Golbeck and Assistant Chief of Dallas Fire Rescue Debra Carlin. Jasso said the police and fire chiefs had prior commitments.

“A special ceremony will be held at Dallas City Hall in recognition of June LGBT Pride Month,” the press release states. “The ceremony is to recognize June 28, 1969 as a historic turning point for LGBT’s struggle for equality.”

The event is open to the public and begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Flag Room, on the sixth floor of  City Hall at 1500 Marilla.

—  John Wright

Dallas officials to host 1st Pride Month reception, but flag at City Hall must wait till next year

Delia Jasso

Dallas city leaders will host what is believed to be the first-ever official LGBT Pride Month reception in the Flag Room at City Hall next week.

District 1 Councilwoman Delia Jasso organized the reception with the help of the LGBT task force she created after first being elected two years ago.

Jasso said she will read an LGBT Pride Proclamation from the city and present it to the task force during the reception, which is open to the public and will run from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday. Jasso is hosting the event along with District 14 Councilwoman Angela Hunt and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, who represents District 2.

City Manager Mary Suhm, Fire-Rescue Chief Eddie Burns and Police Chief David Brown are expected to attend, Jasso said. She also plans to invite Mayor-elect Mike Rawlings. The Pride Reception will take place on the same day a new mayor and council members are sworn in, so it’s likely others will be there as well.

“I think it’s the first time,” Jasso said. “I have no idea why it’s never been done before, but the task force took it upon themselves.

“It’s an important day in the gay community, and we wanted to be sure we did something for it,” she added, referring to the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, June 28.

Jasso said a banner marking LGBT Pride Month has been on display in the lobby of City Hall since June 1.

Beginning next year, she hopes the city can fly the LGBT Pride flag outside the building for the entire month. This year, organizers didn’t have time to obtain a flag large enough and determine the necessary steps for approval.

“The next step is to see what it would take to fly the flag next year,” Jasso said.

—  John Wright

Chris Heinbaugh has left the City Hall building

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

Wednesday was Chris Heinbaugh’s last day in the Dallas mayor’s office. And today is his first day as external affairs director for the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Once Heinbaugh’s life settles down a bit, we hope to talk to him in more detail about his nearly four years at City Hall — most of it as the openly gay chief of staff for Mayor Tom Leppert — and about his new position. But for now, here’s what Heinbaugh said in an email to members of the media on Wednesday:

As you probably know, today is my last day at Dallas City Hall. Tomorrow I begin work as the External Affairs Director for the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Downtown Dallas.

Looking back, it has been a great four years serving two Mayors, two Councils, surviving several brutal elections and challenging budgets, traveling across the world, etc., etc., etc. I have enjoyed every moment of it. It’s not often you get to fill a job that you enjoy, that stretches your talents, challenges you every day and leaves you feeling like you may have actually made a difference in the City where you live.

And for me, luck has struck again. You may know, when I was a reporter, I spent time covering the Arts and the AT&T Performing Arts in its early stages. These are things I’m very passionate about. So for me, this is a perfect job. And, since I’m also handling local press, I will still get the chance to work with many of you.

I have really enjoyed working with you all. Sometimes the stories were positive, sometimes I wanted them to go away! But I appreciate that we always kept it professional, never personal, and we tried to stay as accessible as possible.

I wish you all the best.

Thank you again. It’s been a pleasure. I hope to see you again soon, and please — come out and enjoy your Center!

—  John Wright

LGBT activists to raise money, awareness for female workers who’ve sued Dallas Fire-Rescue

Get Equal Now is planning a “Ribbons and Roses” rally and candlelight vigil for Sunday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in front of Dallas City Hall to show solidarity with female employees of Dallas Fire Rescue who say they have faced harassment and discrimination on the job. And to raise money to pay for the rally, some women will become “kings” when they stage the “King for A Night” drag king fundraising show on Friday, Oct. 15, at 10 p.m. at The Brick.

The show will star C.D. “Jaime Fauxx” Kirven, Elizabeth “Julian” Pax, AB aka Twisher, Laura R. aka Prynce, and more. And if you want to be one of the “more,” just e-mail Kirven at cdkirven@aol.com by Tuesday, Oct. 5.

For more information, check out the “King for A Night” Facebook page. Show up with a copy of the flier below and get into the show free. Fliers will be available at businesses along Cedar Springs Road and at Resource Center Dallas.

—  admin