Gonzalez issues statement on marriage equality plank, as San Antonio continues to lead the way

Charles Gonzalez

U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, a national co-chair for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, is also the only member of Texas’ congressional delegation who’s signed Freedom To Marry’s petition in support of a marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic Party platform.

Gonzalez is one of several Obama campaign co-chairs who’ve endorsed the marriage equality plank. In response to a request from Instant Tea, spokesman Drew Stout sent over a statement from Gonzalez explaining his position. Here’s the full statement:

“The Democratic Party has been and always will be the Party committed to fighting for equality for all Americans,” Gonzalez said. “As an individual Member of Congress, marriage equality is an issue which I support. During the platform writing process, ideas and opinions will be considered from our diverse Democratic Party family, and I understand that the President and the Party are committed to crafting a platform that reflects our values and a belief that America is a nation in which everyone deserves a fair shot and hard work is rewarded. I fully expect that my opinion, and the opinions of others, will be an important consideration in reaching a consensus in drafting our party’s platform. The time will come to consider the content of the platform, but at this time, not a single platform committee member has been chosen and the process has yet to begin. As the election season moves forward, my chief objective will be for President Obama and our candidates in every part of the country to prevail in November so that we continue to make this country a better place for everyone.”

Interestingly, Gonzalez’s public support for the marriage equality plank continues a recent trend of politicians from the San Antonio area leading the way on this issue in the Lone Star State. Of the six Texas mayors who’ve joined Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign, three are from Bexar County.

—  John Wright

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

LGBT activists to flood Dallas mayor’s phone line with requests that he sign marriage pledge

Daniel Cates

I’ve been unable to get in touch with Daniel Cates, the local organizer for GetEQUAL, but according to Facebook, it looks like his group is putting together a “Statewide Day of Action” on Friday — in which people are encouraged to call Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office and ask him to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. This event was also promoted during last night’s monthly meeting of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. In addition to Cates, we’ve left a message with Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, so we’ll keep you posted. From the FB event:

**PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO FORWARD THIS INVITE TO THOSE IN YOUR FRIEND LISTS**

Despite weeks of outrage from the community, protests,countless emails, thousands of phone calls, petition signatures, faxes and even a meeting with members of the LGBT community, Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas continues to refuse to join the Mayors of almost every major U.S. city in signing a pledge in support of marriage equality.

Rather than throwing in the towel, GetEQUAL TX is just getting started!

Join us Friday, February 24th, 2012 as we invite Texans to give the Dallas Mayor’s Office a little call. Our goal is to tie up the office phone lines from 9am-5pm with literally thousands of calls, sending a message to Mike Rawlings that this issue is not going away!

Here is all you have to do anytime on Friday, February 24th,btween 9am and 5pm:

CALL: 214-670-4054

TELL THEM: “My name is______, I believe that all Texans should be able to marry the person that they love. I want Mayor Mike Rawlings to Sign the Pledge.”
(We ask that you please be respectful)

This is the first in a series of actions we will use to continue to pressure our mayor to turn his words into action! We will keep you posted on further developments!

Thank you so much for your commitment to equality!

According to Freedom to Marry, seven mayors from Texas are now among the more than 100 from across the country who’ve signed the group’s pledge. The latest addition to the list from Texas is Lucy Johnson of Kyle, south of Austin.

—  John Wright

Equality Texas calls on mayors from state’s 10 largest cities to sign marriage pledge

Equality Texas is calling on its members to ask the mayors of Texas’ 10 largest cities to sign Freedom to Marry’s pledge in support of same-sex marriage. “No individual mayor can confer marriage equality. Similarly, no municipality can enact a law providing for the freedom to marry,” the group writes. “However, the mayors of Texas’ 10 largest cities can lead the way in demonstrating their support for eliminating discrimination, and ending the exclusion of lesbian & gay couples from the institution of marriage.”

Equality Texas’ Action Alert includes photos of 13 Texas mayors — the six who’ve signed the pledge, and the seven from top 10 cities who haven’t. Green checks appear next to the mayors who’ve signed the pledge, and, as you can see in the screen grab above, red X’s appear next to those who haven’t. In addition to Mike Rawlings of Dallas and Betsy Price of Fort Worth, the latter group includes Robert Cluck of Arlington and Phil Dyer of Plano. To take action, go here.

In related news, the group of mayors from across the country who’ve signed the pledge, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, issued a statement today reacting to a federal appeals court’s decision striking down Proposition 8:

LOS ANGELES – Today, Mayors Michael Bloomberg of New York City, Annise Parker of Houston, Jerry Sanders of San Diego, and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who are all Chairs of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, the bipartisan group of more than 130 mayors from across the nation who have pledged their support for ending marriage discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, released the following statement:

“As Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, we know how important marriage is to our neighborhoods, our cities, and our nation.  When committed couples are able to pledge their love to one another and share in the responsibilities and protections of marriage, our communities flourish and our cities are more competitive. Today’s decision by the 9th Circuit reaffirms that the American Dream is possible for everyone and brings us one step closer to ending marriage discrimination once and for all.  We look forward to a day when all of our citizens will be able to share fairly and equally in the freedom to marry.”

Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, added:

“America’s mayors understand why marriage matters – to loving and committed couples, to their families, to communities navigating tough economic times.  Today’s important court ruling affirms basic American values, and helps tear down a discriminatory barrier to marriage that benefits no one and make it harder for people to take care of their loved ones.”

—  John Wright

UPDATED: Rawlings won’t attend neighborhood meeting due to threat of LGBT protest

Daniel Cates

The fallout continues over Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed today that the mayor may cancel a neighborhood meeting scheduled for Kiest Park on Tuesday night, after LGBT activists threatened to stage a demonstration at the event.

Last week, Rawlings angered many in the LGBT community when he said that although he “personally” supports same-sex marriage, he won’t sign the pledge because his policy is to avoid social issues that don’t directly impact city government.

Dallas is the largest city in the nation whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge unveiled by the national group Freedom to Marry during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

“It doesn’t need to be a demonstration, it needs to be conversation,” Blackmon said. “He’s willing and he’s open to sit down and talk about it, but he doesn’t want it to be done in an atmosphere that’s not constructive.”

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL, said Blackmon contacted him this morning and offered a meeting with Rawlings if the group called off the demonstration.

Cates said he’s interested in meeting with the mayor, but when he refused to cancel the demonstration, Blackmon rescinded her offer.

“Preconditions are not acceptable,” Cates said. “We’ll meet him at Starbucks at midnight if that’s what it takes, but we’re not going to cancel a demonstration in order to have a meeting. [The LGBT] community is pretty outraged by this, and I think they have a right to express that. We’ll call off the demonstration if he signs the pledge.”

Blackmon said when it became clear that Cates wouldn’t settle for anything less than Rawlings signing the pledge, she decided it would be better to pursue a meeting with other LGBT leaders. “The mayor is not going to sign the pledge,” she said.

Blackmon added that it was still “up in the air” whether the mayor would cancel the Kiest Park meeting.

Cates, who’s also launched an online petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge, said if and when the Kiest Park neighborhood meeting is canceled, he’ll call off the demonstration. However, he said GetEQUAL will look for other opportunities to demonstrate, possibly outside City Hall.

“We are determined to escalate this if they continue to refuse to cooperate,” Cates said.

UPDATE: Blackmon confirmed this afternoon that Mayor Rawlings will not attend the Kiest Park community meeting.

She said residents who plan to attend the “Meet the Mayor” meeting want to talk about things like potholes and loose dogs, and it would be unfair to subject them to an LGBT demonstration.

“He just does not want to put them through that, so he plans to meet with them on a more individual basis,” Blackmon said.

She added that City Councilwoman Delia Jasso and Councilman Scott Griggs still plan to attend the Kiest Park meeting. She also said the mayor is reaching out to other LGBT community leaders to set up a meeting with them. However, she said it’s doubtful that the meeting with LGBT community leaders will be open to the media.

—  John Wright

Dallas now largest city whose mayor hasn’t signed pledge in support of same-sex marriage

Julian Castro

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has signed Freedom to Marry’s pledge in support of same-sex marriage, making Dallas the largest city in the country whose mayor hasn’t signed the pledge. Castro becomes the third mayor from Texas to sign the pledge, joining Austin’s Lee Leffingwell and Houston’s Annise Parker. San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-most populous city, and Dallas is 9th. The mayors of all eight cities larger than Dallas have now signed the pledge. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says he personally supports same-sex marriage but won’t sign the pledge. The only other mayor in the top 1o who hasn’t signed the pledge is Chuck Reed of San Jose, which is No. 10.

According to Facebook, the LGBT direct action group GetEQUAL is planning a demonstration at Kiest Park during a neighborhood meeting that Rawlings plans to attend on Tuesday evening.

—  John Wright

‘I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position’

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox issued a statement this afternoon, criticizing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings for failing to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality this week.

“As the executive director and CEO of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community center in the sixth largest LGBT community in United States, I am concerned that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is not supporting marriage equality alongside other big-city mayors,” Cox said. “Legally recognized marriage is a civil rights, an economic and a legal issue that directly affects the members of the LGBT community where he serves as mayor and who call Dallas home.

“In the last two years, two major LGBT conferences (Creating Change and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit) have visited Dallas, bringing millions of dollars in local economic impact. I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position,” Cox wrote. “LGBT families are shut out of the legal protections granted with marriage. The result is that couples and children in LGBT families are precluded from legal health benefits, economic benefits and the safety and security that so many others enjoy because the laws automatically protect them. I urge Mayor Rawlings to revisit and reconsider his decision.”

Below is video from this morning’s press conference in Washington, where Freedom to Marry formally launched the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign. According to the press release we’ve posted after the jump, 80 mayors from across the country have now signed the pledge in support of marriage equality. Among those who spoke at the press conference was Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is co-chairing the campaign.

“Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country,” Parker said. “Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive – and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all.”

—  John Wright

Here’s the pledge in support of same-sex marriage that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings refuses to sign

Houston Mayor Annise Parker is among the co-chairs of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

Jackie Yodashkin at Freedom to Marry sends along word that the group has now posted a list of 74 of the mayors who’ve signed its pledge in support of same-sex marriage, as well as the text of the pledge itself.

As many of us are painfully aware by now, the list doesn’t include Dallas’ Mike Rawlings, who says he “personally” supports same-sex marriage but doesn’t sign things related to social issues that don’t directly impact city affairs. Read our latest story here. (It’s worth noting that since we broke this story Wednesday, it’s been picked up by both the Dallas Morning News, which ran it on the front page of the Metro section today, and the Dallas Observer.)

Rawlings.Mike

Mike Rawlings

Rawlings has also posted a statement on his Facebook page further explaining his position: “Upon taking office, I made a conscious decision to focus on issues that create a healthy, viable city and not on those that are partisan and social in nature. I was asked to pledge my support to ‘Mayors for the Freedom to Marry’ in an effort to pressure state and federal entities to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. I decided not to sign onto that letter because that is inconsistent with my view of the duties of the office of the mayor. To be a world class city, we must be inclusive towards all citizens, including the LGBT community. Personally, I support the LGBT movement and its efforts for equal rights that they deserve.”

Judging by the 63 comments on Rawlings Facebook post, the LGBT community isn’t satisfied. As of this morning, 173 people had signed a Change.org petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge. There’s also a Facebook page where you can find contact information for the mayor’s office.

Yodashkin also said that Houston Mayor Annise Parker is now a co-chair of the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. And while Austin’s Lee Leffingwell hadn’t been added to the published list, Yodashkin told me Thursday that Leffingwell had signed the pledge. Yodashkin also mentioned that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak at a press conference at 9:45 Eastern time this morning to formally unveil the campaign. Is it possible that Rawlings will have a change of heart and show up, pen in hand? We’ll find out, but for now the full text of the pledge is below.

—  John Wright

Annise Parker only Texan among “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry”

Mayor Annise Parker

Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker is scheduled to appear at a press conference tomorrow in Washington D.C. alongside a bi-partisan coalition of U.S. Mayors supporting an end to marriage discrimination. The announcement coincides with the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and is scheduled to include Michael Bloomberg of New York, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

According to Freedom to Marry, the organization coordinating the effort, “more than 70 Republican, Democrat and Independent mayors from cities across the country have pledged to support gay and lesbian couples’ freedom to marry. By joining the group, mayors hope to expand public and political support for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.” The full list will be released during the press conference on Friday, but Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for Freedom to Marry, told the Dallas Voice that Parker was the only Texas mayor on the list.

It’s no big surprise that Parker would support the effort. She is the first out LGBT mayor of a major U.S. city and she and her partner Cathy Hubbard have been together for over 20 years so she knows first hand the hardships of marriage discrimination. What is surprising is that no other Texas Mayor has signed on. You’d think that, at the very least, Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell would jump at the chance or that the mayor of some small, unheard-of city would have the bravery to do the right thing, but Parker is standing alone, a loud clarion in the silence that surrounds her.

So the next time The Advocate or Community Marketing tries to tell you that Houston isn’t the best LGBT city in Texas, remind them which city’s mayor had the guts to stand up for equality, and which ones didn’t.

—  admin

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings won’t sign pledge in support of same-sex marriage

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

Dallas’ Mike Rawlings won’t join more than 70 mayors from across the country who’ve signed a pledge in support of same-sex marriage during this week’s U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

“The mayor does not plan to publicly support any social issues but would rather focus on the policy issues that impact Dallas,” Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said in an email to Dallas Voice today. “Also know we have not signed onto other similar requests.”

Mayors who’ve signed the pledge sponsored by the group Freedom to Marry include Michael Bloomberg of New York, Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, Annise Parker of Houston, Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for Freedom to Marry, said the full list of mayors who’ve signed the pledge will be revealed during a press conference Friday morning to kick off the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

However, Yodashkin told Dallas Voice today that Houston’s Parker is the only mayor from Texas who’s signed the pledge thus far. About 20 mayors from Texas pre-registered for the Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to the website.

During his campaign last year, Rawlings said he voted against Proposition 2, Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment that banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions. When asked directly whether he supports marriage equality, Rawlings said: “I think it’s one of the most irrelevant issues for the world. I think we should get beyond it and let people do what they want to do. Some of my best friends have been married, and I’m pleased that they have been, and so I’m really happy for them. I’ve supported their marriage, but its’ not the mayor’s job to say, ‘We need to do this.’”

Read Freedom to Marry’s full press release about the campaign below.

—  John Wright