Mayor Rawlings backs equality resolution before Wednesday vote

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to support the LGBT equality resolution when it goes before the full council during a briefing Wednesday.

“Mayor Rawlings supports the resolution in its current form,” Rawlings spokesman Sam Merten emailed to Dallas Voice.

Councilmembers will debate the resolution Wednesday and can make changes to the measure.

After fighting the marriage equality resolution last year, calling it a “misuse” of council time and blocking it from the agenda, Rawlings placed the current resolution on the agenda for this week. But he delayed the vote a week so the council could ask legal questions in executive session last week.

LGBT advocates showed up in red to urge the council to support the resolution, which is expected to pass with 13 votes now that Rawlings is in favor. Councilmembers Vonciel Jones Hill and Sheffie Kadane, who’ve both spoken out against the LGBT community based on religious views, are sure to vote against the measure. Kadane voted against the resolution in committee.

Supporters are encouraged to pack the 9 a.m. meeting again Wednesday dressed in red.

The resolution is a comprehensive statement of support that instructs city staff to fix inequities that exist for LGBT employees. Staff will report to the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee quarterly and changes requiring a vote will have to be approved by the council.

The “resolution supporting equal rights for the employees of the City of Dallas, citizens within the City of Dallas, and visitors to the City of Dallas to address disparate treatment, if any, of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons,” the agenda states about the item.

The resolution, below, has a few minor revisions explaining the process of the city manager and city staff to implement changes. Staff is encouraged to make administrative changes and bring others before committee and then the council for final approval.

“The resolution itself does not change any existing City procedure or ordinance, nor does the resolution itself authorize any actions or expenditures,” the agenda item reads.  ”Rather, the resolution directs the City Manager and the City Council’s appointees to the pension boards to explore actions to further the goals of the resolution and initiate any necessary processes through the appropriate channels to amend City policies, procedures, or ordinances. The City Manager or his designee is directed to report quarterly to the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee to keep City Council informed of progress toward implementing this resolution and any proposed actions. Any changes to existing City ordinances or expenditures of funds will require further City Council action.”

Read the resolution below.

—  Anna Waugh

Rawlings gets 108 more calls on marriage pledge, which activist says will haunt Dallas mayor

GetEQUAL organizer Daniel Cates says Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings' decision not to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage places a permanent strain on his relationship with the LGBT community.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office received 108 phone calls Friday from people urging him to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Chief of Staff Paula Blackmon.

The calls were part of a Statewide Day of Action organized by GetEQUAL.

“It was steady all day,’ Blackmon said.

Asked whether the calls had convinced Rawlings to change his mind and sign the pledge, Blackmon said, “Not to my knowledge.”

She added that, as Rawlings has previously stated, the mayor plans to meet with LGBT leaders in the near future to further discuss what other things he can do to support equality. Rawlings claims he’s personally in favor of same-sex marriage but doesn’t want to get involved in divisive social issues.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, who organized Friday’s Day of Action, said he’s proud of the number of calls it generated.

“I think it’s probably a lot more calls then they usually get on any issue,” Cates said. “I think 108 calls is respectable. Each one of those calls I think represents thousands of people who didn’t call in, and if they’re smart, they [in the mayor's office] realize that.”

Cates said he believes Rawlings is proving that he isn’t listening to what people have to say about the marriage pledge.

The LGBT community can no longer trust the mayor, who shouldn’t be considered an ally, Cates said. Asked whether he agrees with other activists who’ve suggested the marriage pledge has become like kicking a dead horse, Cates suggested he’s ready to move on but won’t drop it completely — partly because that’s what Rawlings has hoped for the whole time.

“The fact is we do have bigger fish to fry,” he acknowledged. “We do have more important things to worry about, and if Rawlings isn’t going to join us, then that’s fine. But he needs to know that we are going to continue to remind him about this. It’s always going to be there haunting him. This is going to be a permanent strain on his relations with the LGBT community.”

—  John Wright

Gay GOP leader calls attacks on Leppert over gay Pride ‘repugnant’

Tom Leppert at gay Pride in 2007

Senate rivals rip former mayor for appearing in Dallas parade

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor

One local gay Republican leader called attacks against GOP Senate hopeful Tom Leppert for appearing at gay Pride while Dallas mayor “reprehensible” and “repugnant.”

And another said the attacks have actually prompted him to support Leppert over tea party favorite Ted Cruz — despite the former mayor’s perceived betrayal of the LGBT community when he stepped down to run for Senate last year.

Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, along with  ex-pro football player Craig James and longshot candidate Lela Pittenger, ripped into Leppert for twice appearing at gay Pride during a debate luncheon hosted by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The exchange featured some virulently anti-gay language, with James saying he believes homosexuality is a choice that goes against the Bible and Pittenger comparing the Pride parade to a drunken orgy.

“There was much that was said at the senatorial debate about gays and lesbians that was reprehensible and, at times, repugnant,” Thomas Purdy, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, said in a statement Thursday. “In an instance such as this, it would be easy to throw in the towel, but it really is a testament as to why Log Cabin Republicans must exist: to ensure the Party of Abraham Lincoln remains so and does not become the Party of Anita Bryant.”

Former Log Cabin President Rob Schlein, who now heads the gay GOP group Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, said Cruz’s attacks against Leppert for appearing at Pride — which began last month at a forum in Fort Worth —  have prompted him to support the former mayor.

“In terms of a personal favorite, even though I was very disappointed with his tweet six months ago, I would probably look beyond that and choose Tom  Leppert,” Schlein said. “I eliminated Ted Cruz when he came out and attacked Leppert. That was enough to dissuade me from supporting his campaign.  … All else being equal, then I will support the candidate that doesn’t attack the gay community. ”

Leppert appeared at gay Pride in 2007 and 2009 as Dallas mayor. He also employed an openly gay chief of staff — Chris Heinbaugh — and repeatedly expressed support for the community.

But when Leppert stepped down to run for Senate, he sent out an anti-gay message on Twitter, and came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions on his campaign website.

But Leppert’s position on those issues appears similar to the other candidates in the GOP race.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom polls show is the frontrunner, didn’t attend Wednesday’s debate. But Dewhurst has been touting his support for Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment, which enshrined a ban on both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state’s Constitution.

Earlier this month, Dewhurst told a Houston radio station that marriage has been between a man and a woman “from the origins of the Bible, and this is a Christian nation, this is a Christian state, and that’s what we were reflecting.”

Cruz, meanwhile, has played up his role several years ago, when he worked for Attorney General Greg Abbott, in blocking a gay couple from obtaining a dissolution of their Vermont civil union in a Beaumont court.

And James said during Wednesday’s debate that same-sex couples shouldn’t receive any federal benefits from civil unions.

The fireworks began when debate moderator John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted that Cruz had attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month.

Goodman then asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

Goodman asked Cruz whether he was suggesting that Leppert supports same-sex marriage.

“When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement, and it’s not a statement I agree with,” Cruz said.

Leppert then responded by referring to himself in the third person: “The mayor is against gay marriage. He believes that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman.

“My job as mayor was to represent everybody in this city,” Leppert said. “I visited with groups that didn’t agree with what I said. I talked to groups that I didn’t agree with what they said, but it was my obligation to represent everybody. I engaged everybody, and I will continue to do that.”

When Cruz attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month, Leppert responded by comparing himself to Jesus. This time, although he took a similar approach, he stopped short of invoking the lord’s name.

“I will tell you my role as a Christian is to reach out and touch everybody,” Leppert said. “I wish I could have made stands only when I was in a courtroom, but I didn’t. I was criticized time and time again for showing my faith and being open with it, and standing pro-life. In fact, The Dallas Morning News criticized me for taking a position of pro-life. It was the right thing to do, I will continue to do it. But I did it when I put my neck on the line as a leader standing up for what exactly was right. I was pro-life unabashedly, and I said it.

“I am against gay marriage,” Leppert said. “I believe marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. It is very clear. But I had a responsibility to represent everybody, and everybody understood exactly where my faith was, and if there’s any question you can see pastors like Robert Jeffress and David Dykes and those folks, who don’t understand me from the business standpoint, but they sure understand who I am, and they have stood unabashedly and endorsed me for this office.”

Goodman then noted that gay couples are denied more than 1,000 rights because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Goodman asked the candidates whether, in lieu of legalizing same-sex marriage, the federal government should merely grant gay couples those benefits by recognizing civil unions or other partnerships.

That’s when James, the former SMU football star, chimed in.

“I think right now this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is gonna be hard to stop, if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades,” James said. “I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders, our kids out there and people need to see examples. Now, I’m a guy that believes in a man and a woman being the greatest governance occurring in a home at night between a husband and a wife, Adam and Eve and what the Bible says. And the backbone, and I know you’re a Christian, I’m not doubting that, Tom, but man you’ve got to stand up, if you are chosen as our senator, and be a leader, and not do things like that. We need examples for our kids.”

Goodman then asked James and the other candidates whether they think being gay is a choice.

“I think it’s a choice, I do,” James responded. “You have to make that choice, absolutely.… Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

Pittenger, a longshot candidate, was next to weigh in.

“I think what you see on the stage pretty much explains why we have so many denominations in the church,” Pittenger said. “Everyone kind of has a different perspective on what they think Christ would have done and how he would have acted. Now, I respect what Tom was saying, that he felt like he was to engage the entire community. I personally disagree with his approach, just because if there was a Republican club that was openly homosexual, and they wanted to talk issues, any number of issues, I’m happy to go visit with them about the issues. But I’m not going to walk down the street with them celebrating what I believe to be a sin. But I respect Tom’s approach. Christ reached people in many different ways. The Pharisees hated him because he ate dinner with sinners. And Jesus said, ‘The doctor doesn’t come for the well, he comes for the sick.’ And we just have to, each one of us has to stand before God, and make sure our heart is right with God about how we engage those who are living in sinful ways. Now while he ate dinner with them, I don’t believe he marched along with them as they were going down to have an orgy or have any sort of drunken revelries. But they came in his space, and he engaged with them there. This is about different perspectives on how we engage people we believe are lost, and you just have to decide which one’s better.”

Finally, Leppert was given an opportunity to respond to James and Pittenger.

“I’ve addressed the issue,” Leppert said, and the debate moved on to the topic of illegal immigration.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Special delivery


BE MY VALENTINE  | 
Paula Blackmon, right, chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, accepts a bag containing more than 400 Valentine’s Day cards addressed to Rawlings from Daniel Cates, left, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL. Cates delivered the cards written by community members to Rawlings, who has refused to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage, as part of GetEQUAL’s Valentine’s Day actions, which also included  same-sex couples requesting marriage licenses at clerk’s offices in Dallas and Fort Worth. For more coverage, go to DallasVoice.com/Category/Instant-Tea. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

—  Michael Stephens

Lawsuit accuses St. Luke pastor of homosexual harassment

Minister at iconic black Methodist church in Dallas steps down amid allegations he coerced young men

gordon.tyrone

The Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon

DAVID WEBB  |  Contributing Writer
davidwaynewebb@hotmail.com

A lawsuit filed against St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas and its former senior pastor, the Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, portrays the pastoral office of the predominantly African-American church in Southeast Dallas as a hotbed of homosexual harassment.

St. Luke, with 5,000 members, is one of the largest African-American churches in the North Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. St. Luke isn’t one of the six gay-affirming Methodist churches in the Dallas area, but its congregation includes some LGBT members.

The Rev. Zan Holmes, who preceded Gordon’s appointment in 2002 as senior pastor at St. Luke, is a respected civil rights leader. The church is known as a center for community activism, and it has attracted prominent members such as Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, a U.S. trade representative appointed by President Barack Obama.

Thus far, church leaders at St. Luke and the North Texas Conference have remained silent about the lawsuit, as has Gordon, who announced his resignation as senior pastor from St. Luke in January to take effect on Wednesday, Feb. 15. On that date Holmes, who has also kept silent, will return as interim minister.

W. Earl Bledsoe, the bishop of the North Texas Conference, released a statement at the time of the resignation noting Gordon gave up his credentials during the investigation of complaints lodged against him by St. Luke church members.

The Rev. Eric Folkerth, pastor of the gay-affirmative Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, said in a telephone interview this week that his reaction to the news of the lawsuit was one of “deep sadness and sorrow.” Folkerth said he hopes the controversy will be viewed as a “sexual abuse of authority,” rather than in terms of the sexual orientation involved.

“I am hoping, praying and trusting that hopefully all of this will be dealt with appropriately in the church and in the legal system,” Folkerth said.

383353_522792772938_100700518_30237696_880837177_n

The Rev. Cameron Greer

The Rev. Cameron Jerrod Greer, 26, who is a graduate student at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology and a pastor ministering at Cockrell Hill United Methodist Church, alleges in the lawsuit, filed on Feb. 3 in 101st District Court in Dallas, that Gordon, 53, sexually harassed him and several other young male members of the church for at least seven years.

In the petition filed by Dallas attorney and St. Luke church member Marilynn Mayse, Greer alleges that in 2003 and 2004, beginning when Greer was 18, Gordon rubbed his penis up against Greer’s buttocks on more than one occasion in front of four other young men who appeared to regard the activity as “normal behavior.”

In another instance, Greer alleges he observed a young man wiping sweat off of Gordon’s body as the pastor stood in his underwear with his pants lowered. Greer, who worked as an audiovisual technician at St. Luke, alleges in the lawsuit that he observed numerous instances of inappropriate behavior by Gordon involving young men.

The incidents often occurred in Gordon’s church office and sometimes between two Sunday services, according to the lawsuit.

Greer also alleges that Gordon invited him to his home in August 2004 when the pastor’s wife was out of town to discuss the young man’s plans to become a Methodist minister. Gordon allegedly prepared one of Greer’s favorite meals, spaghetti, and invited the young man to watch a movie with him. While sitting on the sofa Gordon allegedly moved closer to Greer but was interrupted by the arrival of one of Gordon’s two daughters.

In two other alleged incidents in 2009 and 2010, Greer claims in the lawsuit that, while he was serving as a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Seagoville, he visited Gordon at St. Luke, where Gordon insisted on hugging him and rubbed his penis against him. Greer adds in the petition that he asked Gordon to be a guest preacher at the Seagoville church, and Gordon implied that Greer would have to do “something” for him in return.

The lawsuit alleges that St. Luke church leaders had been informed about complaints of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment made by church employees and members against Gordon as early as 2006, but they took no action. It also claims that church leaders failed to protect Greer and other young men from Gordon’s alleged harassment.

In the lawsuit, Greer explains his delay in lodging complaints against Gordon as part of a process that was required to address the “issues” and to begin a “quest toward healing.”

The lawsuit, which accuses church officials of breach of duties, claims Greer has suffered “severe emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, and adverse physical consequences, physical pain and suffering.” It seeks unspecified punitive damages.

The lawsuit describes Gordon as a “predator” who used his spiritual authority to “coerce certain young male members and employees” into “sexual acts and relationships for his own personal sexual gratification.”

Gordon, who was born in Los Angeles, received a bachelor’s degree from Bishop College in Dallas, and he did his graduate work at Fuller

Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He came to St. Luke as senior pastor after serving as senior pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kan.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Viewpoints-1

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

LGBT advocates take their fight to have mayor sign marriage pledge to the Dallas City Council

LGBT advocates who attended today's council meeting gather in the Flag Room afterward. They are, from left, Daniel Cates, Patti Fink, Dennis Coleman, Cece Cox, Omar Narvaez and Rafael McDonnell. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

It’s becoming clear that Dallas’ LGBT community doesn’t plan to let Mayor Mike Rawlings off the hook over his refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Five LGBT advocates spoke during public comments at the start of today’s regular City Council meeting, calling on Rawlings to sign the pledge — and asking the City Council to formally back pro-equality state and federal legislation.

“I’m here to ask Mayor Rawlings to do something, and I’m here to ask you as council people to support him in signing the pledge for marriage equality,” said Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, the first of the speakers. ”This is a matter of standing for justice. Pure and simple, that’s what it’s about. ”

Cox noted that Rawlings has argued that marriage equality doesn’t fall within the mayor’s duties.

“When one stands up for justice, it requires courage,” Cox said. “It requires going outside the regular rules and the regular lines, and that’s what I’m here to ask for today.”

—  John Wright

Rawlings won’t budge on marriage pledge

Dallas mayor says decision not to sign document puts him in position to advocate for LGBT equality among religious conservatives

STANDOFF  | A pro-LGBT protester, left, squares off with an anti-gay counterprotester during a “Sign the Pledge” rally organized by GetEQUAL outside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said this week that he has no plans to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage anytime soon.

But Rawlings added that he believes his decision not to sign the pledge puts him in a position to advocate on behalf of LGBT civil rights among religious conservatives in Dallas.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports legalizing same-sex marriage, has come under fire from the LGBT community for refusing to sign the pledge from the national group Freedom to Marry.

Rawlings has argued that the pledge — which now bears more than 100 signatures from mayors across the country — creates a divisive and partisan social issue that falls outside the mayor’s scope.

“I’m not going to sign it at this point, and part of it is because of the reaction that I’ve gotten throughout the whole community, and I realize whether people appreciate it or not, that I’m in a very interesting position where I can convene a lot of great dialogue because of the position that I’ve taken,” Rawlings told Dallas Voice during an exclusive interview in his office on Tuesday, Jan. 31. “After thinking about it, it’s probably the best thing that I kind of stick by my position here, but also do what I said in that meeting, which is work hard to figure out how I can best help this [the LGBT] community to gain the civil rights they need.”

Rawlings was referring to a meeting last Saturday, Jan. 28, which he attended with about 25 LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas, in response to his refusal to sign the pledge.

The meeting included several longtime local same-sex couples, including Jack Evans and George Harris, and Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong.

Over the nearly two-hour meeting, which was at times heated and emotional, the couples and other LGBT leaders told Rawlings their stories and made their case as to why they feel the mayor should sign the pledge.

Outside the Resource Center following the meeting — which came the morning after about 100 LGBT protesters had gathered at City Hall — Rawlings wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he would change his mind. But 72 hours later, he hadn’t budged.

“I don’t see myself changing in the short-term,” Rawlings said Tuesday. “I think if there was another movement that I could understand what it was going to accomplish better, I might join that entity. It’s not like I’m going to be anti-public on this issue, but I think this pledge itself is something that has allowed me to be a broker of discussions now in the city of Dallas. There’s some silver lining in this cloud.”

MEETING WITH LGBT LEADERS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings greets gay couple Jack Evans, left, and George Harris, who've been together more than 50 years, before Saturday's meeting at Resource Center Dallas. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Rawlings said he’s spoken to as many people who support his position as oppose it. But he acknowledged that when it comes to emails and messages on Facebook and Twitter, the vast majority have been in support of signing the pledge. Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said his office has received thousands of emails in the last two weeks.

“The other night [someone] said, ‘Thank you for not getting caught up in the hype of this thing, but I see you support marriage equality,’” Rawlings said. “And I said, ‘Yes, tell me about your position.’ And I realize there are so many people out there who really support what the LGBT community is trying to accomplish, but they are not interested in getting caught up into a polarizing movement.

“I’m very excited about the ability now to have this conversation,” he added. “I’m tired of talking about the pledge, but I think we’re just at the front end of having a conversation about LGBT civil rights.”

Rawlings has also said he wants to focus on substantive things he can accomplish as mayor to support LGBT civil rights.

But as of Tuesday, he said he hadn’t identified what those things will be. He said he plans to set up another meeting with Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, and others LGBT leaders to discuss specifics.

“There’s no question I’m a little ambivalent about my role now with the LGBT community, because I think that many people feel that I have sold them down the river, and I don’t want for political purposes to act like, ‘Oh, but I love you,’” Rawlings said. “I don’t want it to be disingenuous. I want to earn my respect in that community by putting my actions where my speech is on this.”

Rawlings said he thinks that for religious conservatives, civil marriage is secondary to the sacrament of religious marriage.

He said as mayor he wants to focus on “starting to de-mystify this for the faith-based community, and making sure we separate sacraments from civil rights.”

“If we ever are going to get to a better place, we’ve got to have room for people’s civil rights and personal religious beliefs in the same city,” he said.

“I’m a believer. I understand that tradition. I understand why that’s important. Some great conversations are starting to take place that I didn’t think I could ever have.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

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