My post-Pride lunch with Mike Rawlings

1186736_10201881308536307_1584127030_nI was at a luncheon today, celebrating the 95th anniversary of the original El Fenix restaurant, a staple of Tex-Mex here in Dallas. Also at the luncheon was Mayor Mike Rawlings, who sat at my table during lunch. One of my colleagues noted that the mayor appeared to have lost weight. A while later, the mayor and I got to chatting.

“How was the gay Pride parade yesterday?” he asked me with a smile. “I was out of town so I missed it.”

It was a lot of fun, I told him.

“When I came back, I saw there was some kind of controversy?”

“Yes, about a dress code; people didn’t react well to it.”

“Well, how were people dressed?” he asked. “Did anyone show up naked?”

“Not naked,” I said. “Though some were … well ….” I reached into my pocket, pulled out my iPhone and showed him one of the photos I took (pictured here). “That’s about as racy as it got.”

“Well, that’s nothing unusual,” Mayor Rawlings said. “And that’s just what I look like with my clothes off.”

He was joking. I think. But he has lost weight. Despite his failure to stand up for marriage equality, it’s always nice when a politician looks at pictures of men in Speedos and doesn’t recoil in horror.

Oh, and El Fenix — 95 frickin’ years. Pretty awesome.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Get your tickets to Gay Day at Six Flags online in advance, save a bundle

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If you’ve ever been to Six Flags, you know it’s not exactly cheap: Parking alone is, like, $15, and your car doesn’t even get to ride the Titan. But if you wanna save tons of money, you can attend Gay Day at Six Flags this Saturday. Purchase your tickets online in advance (by going here), and your cost including parking is just $35. That leaves you the 50 bucks you would have spent on admission to buy funnel cakes and rent the fast-pass fob and impress your boyfriend in the arcade games. And best of all, you don’t need to be gay to get the discount … we promise we won’t ask, and won’t tell.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Voice of Pride under way; Tavern Guild accepting grand marshal nominations

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Dallas may not celebrate Pride in June — which some would apparently prefer — but we do have Voice of Pride, which is well under way and continues tonight at the Dallas Eagle. In addition, the Dallas Tavern Guild is now accepting nominations for grand marshals for September’s Pride parade. Submit your nomination by by going here.

—  John Wright

Pride Recap: Rain hurts turnout; police make 2 arrests; Melrose may close lawn

Police respond to a disturbance in front of the Warwick Melrose Hotel during Sunday’s 29th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

The steady rain may not have dampened spirits during Dallas’ gay Pride parade on Sunday — but it did significantly reduce attendance at the event, according to police estimates.

DISD Detective Sgt. Jeremy Liebbe, who served as co-security liaison for the Dallas Pride parade and festival, said an estimated 25,000 people attended the Pride parade, down from an average of 35,000.

Liebbe said paid admission for the ensuing Pride Festival in Lee Park was 5,800 —roughly the same as last year but well below the 8,000 organizers had hoped for in 2012.

Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, which puts on the parade and festival, said despite the rain, he doesn’t believe revelers left disappointed.

“I think the rain was a frustration for people, but everybody seemed to be in a good mood,” he said. “I don’t think it really dampened the spirit of anybody who was there. … All in all, when you allow for the scenario when it’s going to rain, I still consider it a success.”

—  John Wright

Pride Run sign found stepped on after disappearing from Katy Trail again

A sign promoting the DFW Front Runners’ first-ever Pride Run this Sunday went missing for a second time over the weekend.

Front Runners President Lin Wang told Instant Tea last week that two 18-by-24-inch metal signs were placed along the Katy Trail to advertise the event. One was near the Katy Ice House and the other was near Hall Street. The one near Hall Street went missing early last week.

Wang suspected that the theft was motivated by anti-gay bias, and after he noticed the replacement sign was missing this morning after putting it up on Friday, he’s even more convinced that someone is against the LGBT Pride event.

“There’s no other reason someone would steal it,” he said.

Wang emailed Instant Tea on Monday afternoon saying the sign had been found but was stepped on, leaving behind a “funny footprint” on the back, and tossed along the trail. The sign has been put up again near the entrance.

Wang hadn’t reported the first theft to the Dallas police because he’s been too busy working on last-minute preparations for the run, but he said he did plan report the incidents. If the sign had not been found, he said the group wouldn’t have replaced it because it would likely have been stolen again.

More information on the event can be found here. The cost for registration is $25. The Front Runner Dallas walking and running group meets Saturday mornings at 8:30 at the statue of Robert E. Lee in Lee Park. Volunteers for the event can sign up on the website.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas City Councilwoman Vonciel Hill refuses to sign gay Pride letter

For the last several weeks we’ve been putting together what is know as “The official guide to Dallas Pride” — a publication of the Dallas Tavern Guild that is distributed inside Dallas Voice in advance of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. One of the features that appears regularly in the annual Pride guide is a letter from the Dallas City Council congratulating the Tavern Guild, which puts on the festival and parade.

This year, for the third consecutive year, the letter is signed by 14 of the 15 council members, including the mayor. And for the third consecutive year, the lone holdout who refuses to sign the letter is Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill, who has also refused to ride on the city float in the parade.

Although we’ve never asked Ms. Hill specifically about the letter, here’s the explanation she gave us in 2009 for not appearing in the parade:

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Hill said. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are, Hill said: “I believe that all people are loved by God, all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless. It does not mean the person is any less God’s child. I’m entitled to stand for what I believe, and I don’t appreciate anyone castigating me for standing for what I believe.”

Maybe Hill is right. Maybe we shouldn’t castigate her for her religious beliefs. Given that redistricting has put one of the city’s most heavily gay neighborhoods in her new district, maybe instead we should just vote her out of office!

Read the council’s letter after the jump — and in case you’re wondering, the Pride guide will be distributed inside the Aug. 31 and Sept. 14 editions of Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright

Dallas LGBT Task Force aims to expand diversity training to all city employees within 3 years

Sherry Durant, Dallas Fire-Rescue LGBT liaison, explains the goal of expanding LGBT training to all city employees at a city services event June 13. The event was the second in the city’s June Pride series. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Fire-Rescue plans to expand its LGBT training program to its veteran employees this summer and eventually to every city employee over the next three years, according to Sherry Durant, the department’s LGBT liaison.

Durant was among six city officials who spoke and answered questions during a panel discussion at the Oak Lawn library branch on Wednesday night. The event drew about 40 people and was the second in Dallas’ “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” June Pride Month series planned by Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force.

Task Force member Pam Gerber said the group has discussed expanding LGBT training to all Dallas city employees and will work with officials to achieve the goal in the future. The only city departments that currently conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training are police and fire.

Durant, who’s served as LGBT liaison for DFR since 2008 and is a member of the Task Force, said 1,048 new recruits have undergone LGBT training since the training program began in 2004. She said she has been working with the Dallas County Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Resource Center Dallas to create a training program for veteran Fire-Rescue employees. The veteran employee training will begin in late July or early August, she said, estimating that it would take about 36 weeks for the 1,248 employees to complete the training.

After DFR finishes its veteran employee training, Durant said she wants to help the veteran police employees undergo the training and then move onto other city departments, so all city employees will have LGBT training within the next three years.

City Manager Mary Suhm, Assistant fire Chief Joseph Vasquez and Sr. Cpl. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison for Dallas police, joined Durant on the panel and shared what their departments offer the LGBT community. Executive Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles and Chalisa Warren, senior public information representative with the Fair Housing Office, spoke about the city’s decade-old nondiscrimination ordinance.

Martin oversees the Police Department’s sensitivity training, which helps recruits understand how to handle interactions with members of the LGBT community. She said she will also teach the current officers over the next two years about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. She said a lot of officers are not aware of how the law works because it is a federal law and affects how departments report hate crime statistics to the FBI.

Suhm said during her 35 years working for the city she has seen a lot of improvements for the LGBT community, from training in the police department in the early ’90s to later working with City Council to pass domestic partner benefits for city employees.

Miles said her section of the city attorney’s office handles the discrimination complaints after the Fair Housing Office investigates, working with the alleged violators to inform them about the ordinance and to help educate them even if the complaint is dismissed for no cause.

Questions about the reporting hate crimes and discrimination under the ordinance came up during the meeting, as several in the audience said people do not report incidents of hate or discrimination because they want it to remain confidential.

—  Anna Waugh

Razzle Dazzle Dallas booth space available

Razzle Dazzle Dallas 2011 main stage

Booth space is available for the day and night Razzle Dazzle Dallas events on Cedar Springs Road on June 9. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on May 30.

Businesses, sports teams, faith groups, jewelers, clothiers, nonprofits, corporate affinity organizations and community groups are welcome to market themselves to the more than 30,000 expected buyers and Razzle Dazzle attendees.

A vendor application is available online.

The festival hours on June 9 are from 10 a.m. to midnight.

DAYTIME:
One Nonprofit Booth Space — $100
One For-Profit Booth Space — $150

NIGHTIME:
One Nonprofit Booth Space — $150
One For-Profit Booth Space — $200

ALL DAY:
One Nonprofit Booth Space — $200
One For-Profit Booth Space — $275

RENTAL:
(1) Electrical Outlet — $25
(1) 10’x10’ Tent, (1) Table, (2) Chairs — $125

Contact Dave Berryman at Bravo Event Groups with any questions.

—  David Taffet

Caraway, Davis absent from gay Pride

Eleven of 15 councilmembers appeared on the city float.

Dallas City Councilmembers Carolyn Davis and Dwaine Caraway were absent from Sunday’s Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, despite having RSVP’d affirmatively for the gay Pride celebration.

Eleven of 15 councilmembers, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, rode in the parade, sources at City Hall confirmed this week.

“He enjoyed it and looks forward to next year,” said Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Rawlings, who became the third mayor in Dallas history to ride in the parade.

Councilmembers Sandy Greyson and Vonciel Jones Hill were the only two who indicated in advance they wouldn’t make the parade — Hill due to religious objections and Greyson because of a scheduling conflict.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS: Winning entries from the 28th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade

The following were the winning entries from Sunday’s 28th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade:

THE SPIRIT OF OAKLAWN AWARD, BEST OVERALL ENTRY: EXKLUSIVE/KALIENTE

—  John Wright