Tonight, Dallas will host its 1st-ever birthday celebration for one-time resident Harvey Milk

It’s Harvey Milk Day (he would have been 82 today), and if you haven’t already read our cover story on Milk’s time in Dallas, you should. We’ve also posted a preview of this weekend’s Harvey Milk Day Conference in Austin. But first, right here in Dallas, GetEQUAL TX will host Big D’s first-ever Harvey Milk Day Celebration on Tuesday night.

The event begins at 8:30 p.m. at the Legacy of Love Monument, at Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road. People are encouraged to bring candles or other light sources, as Milk is remembered through song, poetry and speeches.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, said the Harvey Milk Day Celebration was born out of his desire to remember and celebrate the LGBT community’s history.

“Especially in places like Texas, our government is not going to do it for us, so we have to be responsible to preserve and tell our own story, and Harvey Milk was a huge part of that,” Cates told Instant Tea. “He’s our Martin Luther King. That’s really sad that most schoolchildren across the country have no idea who he is.”

Cates said he expects a small gathering Tuesday night but hopes the event will grow in future years.

“Harvey Milk Day hasn’t celebrated outside of California really anywhere until the last three or four years,” he said. “It’s an idea that’s starting to catch on. No one’s going to tell our story for us. We need to do that ourselves.”

—  John Wright

GetEQUAL TX to host 3rd annual Harvey Milk Day Conference in Austin

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer

AUSTIN — GetEQUAL Texas will host its third annual Harvey Milk Day Conference from May 24-27, an event dedicated to empowering citizens on how to “take bold action and demand full civil equality in their local communities.”

The conference’s agenda includes a pre-conference celebration at the Millenium Youth Entertainment Complex and an open air rock/folk concert at Rusty’s bar. The conference itself — at Austin Community College’s Eastview Campus —  will feature workshop sessions including topics such as homelessness and bi-phobia within the gay community, why queers should consider moving their funds from big banks into local credit unions, and a large group non-violence civil disobedience training.

The weekend will also include a staged reading of Dear Harvey — a play which commemorates the assassinated civil rights leader through interviews with his colleagues, archival materials, and words his own speeches and diaries — and conclude with a Sunday evening protest march to the state Capitol.

GetEQUAL’s Texas state coordinator Michael Diviesti began working with the organization three years ago when he witnessed group members chaining themselves to the White House fence to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell.” As a former military service member who suffered under the gay military ban, Diviesti decided to join the group’s first Harvey Milk Day march on the Texas Capitol.

“That’s when I learned that even I, as humble and small as I am as one person, can really join this movement to push for full equality in all matters governed by civil law,” Diviesti said.

Diviesti helped coordinate the conference the following year and says that because attendees come in from all across Texas and the U.S., GetEQUAL has prepared to accommodate more than 600 people, more than double the number of 2011 attendees.

Though the conference provides meals and training materials for all participants, their suggested $25 attendance fee remains optional.

“[Activists who participate in non-violent civil disobedience] tend to be more often than not lower middle class or lower. There are a lot of homeless youth who are itching to do something to maintain rights for themselves but they don’t have those tools,” Diviesti said. “We see a lot of these events that are hundreds and sometimes a thousand dollars. … I’m not knocking those events. But for our community, we need events like this to where everyone is welcome regardless of economic ability.”

GetEQUAL North Texas coordinator and conference presenter Daniel Cates added that the conference also gives attendees in both large and small towns a chance to form a larger activist network. For example, when GetEQUAL staged an Oct. 15 protest by requesting same-sex marriage licenses at the Dallas County clerk’s office, activists in nine other Texas cities held similar actions on the same day.

“Any time something [LGBT-related] happens here in the state or even nationally [they] can pick up the phone and reach other activists in Brownsville, in Austin, San Antonio, McAllen, College Station, and we in the state can decide to take coordinated action,” Cates said. “That’s something really missing in Texas before.”

Anyone interested in attending can still register at getequaltx.org.

—  John Wright

Nearly 100 gather on Cedar Springs to celebrate Obama’s marriage support, protest NC vote

After devastating blows Tuesday with a failed civil unions bill in Colorado and the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One, the Dallas LGBT community celebrated President Barack Obama’s public endorsement of same-sex marriage at a rally Wednesday night.

Nearly 80 people gathered at the Legacy of Love Monument at Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn to protest the passage of North Carolina’s marriage ban, but also to rejoice in the victory of the first president to come out in favor of marriage equality.

The rally had been organized after the North Carolina vote to spur the LGBT community to action by calling on Obama and Mayor Mike Rawlings to end their silence on marriage equality, but became a celebratory gathering in light of Obama’s historic announcement.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, organized the rally. He opened the remarks to the crowd by quoting from Harvey Milk’s famous “Hope Speech” and encouraging the crowd to come out to everyone they know to bring attention to the number of LGBT people who deserve equality.

“Harvey Milk was right then and Harvey Milk is right today,” Cates said after reading the speech. “We must come out for what we believe and we must ask those that support us to come out.”

—  Anna Waugh

Planned protest to become a celebration

Daniel Cates

What was going to be a protest in response to North Carolina’s vote against same-sex marriage has turned into a likely celebration after President Barack Obama came out in support of marriage equality today.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL and organizer of tonight’s rally on Cedar Springs in Dallas, said the focus of the event has changed but he still wants to call on other elected officials to support equality.

“Obviously we want to celebrate the president joining the conversation,” Cates said. “That is wonderful, so we will celebrate that, but we will continue to call on the Democratic National Committee to follow suit and go ahead and endorse marriage equality and full federal equality. And we will also continue to call on our president to sign that executive order and to push for employment protections.”

On the Facebook page for the rally, GetEQUAL TX wrote, “While we have every reason to protest tonight, we now also have a reason to celebrate! Tonight we will make a clear call for elected leaders from Mayor Mike Rawlings to Members of Congress to the DNC to follow the President’s example and stand up for what they know is right!”

The group added that crews from several local TV stations will be on hand for the rally, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.

 

—  David Taffet

LGBT activists plan rally tonight in Dallas in response to North Carolina marriage ban

Activists march down Cedar Springs Road in 2009 after voters in Maine overturned marriage equality. (JOHN WRIGHT/Dallas Voice)

In response to the passage of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina, LGBT activists in Dallas plan a rally tonight on Cedar Springs Road.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, said the rally will call for the Democratic National Committee to move its 2012 Democratic National Convention out of Charlotte, and for the DNC to add support for same-sex marriage and full federal equality for LGBT people to the party platform. The rally will also call for leaders like Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and President Barack Obama to end their silence on marriage equality.

“The passage of Amendment 1 sends a clear message that a majority can, by a popular vote, restrict the rights of a minority. This is dangerous territory and undermines the principals our nation was founded upon. Fair minded people across this nation must speak up and condemn the passage of this amendment.” Cates said in a press release. “We are calling on all leaders, from Mayor Mike Rawlings to President Obama, who have claimed to be our friends and campaigned for our votes to end their silence on issues of civil rights for LGBT people and take a substantive stand for what they know is right.”

North Carolina, where first cousins and convicted murderers can still marry, becomes the 30th state to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage — and the last of the Southern states to do so. Amendment One, which voters approved by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent, also prohibits all other forms of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, as if to add insult to injury, Republicans in the Colorado House blocked a vote on a civil unions bill late Tuesday.

Tonight’s rally begins at 7 at the Legacy of Love Monument, at Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road. Participants are encouraged to bring signs, flags banners and candles. For more information, contact Cates at Daniel@getequaltx.org. The full press release is below.

—  John Wright

SXSW 2012 gets off to a proper queer start (updated)

Austin turns into a frenzy as South by Southwest kicks off Friday introducing crowds to a wealth of films, multimedia, live music and not enough showers to go around for everyone. As I researched the festival’s schedule and created my own of (fingers-crossed) all the LGBT-related events, I noticed how tomorrow starts a big ol’ gay weekend for SXSW.

I’ve excerpted my schedule below up until Monday. You’ll see the panels and discussions, but two films also help open the festival. Friday, the documentary Wildness screens the first of four scheduled times through the fest and the short film Liar makes its world premiere on Saturday followed by two additional screenings. From SXSW.com.

Rooted in the tropical underground of Los Angeles nightlife, Wildness is a portrait of the Silver Platter, a historic bar that has been home to Latin/LGBT immigrant communities since 1963. With a magical-realist flourish the bar itself becomes a character, narrating what happens when a weekly party called Wildness explodes into creativity and conflict. What does “safe space” mean? Who needs it? And how does it differ among us? At the Silver Platter, the search for answers creates coalitions across generations.

(Liar) After 14 year-old Tara’s boyfriend comes out to her and ends their relationship, she can’t help feeling confused and angry with him. But when Tara’s older sister and her friend become convinced that Brian was lying about being gay, Tara gets drawn into a revenge mission that she’s not even sure she believes in. When the girls catch up with Brian and their plan takes an unexpectedly violent turn, Tara is forced to choose between standing helplessly on the sidelines or stepping in to defend the boyfriend that hurt her.

Find the trailer for Liar here, but watch this clip from Wildness along with the queer-interest weekend skedge for SXSW’s opening weekend after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

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

Dallas County Clerk John Warren says he won’t issue any same-sex marriage licenses tomorrow

Dallas County Clerk John Warren, right, greeted Blake Wilkinson of Queer LiberAction when same-sex couples requested marriage licenses in 2009. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

In Friday’s Voice we mentioned that same-sex couples will be requesting marriage licenses at the Dallas County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday in a Valentine’s Day demonstration organized by GetEQUAL TX and other groups. But don’t expect County Clerk John Warren to issue the licenses. Warren told Instant Tea today that issuing one to a same-sex couple would likely result in a petition to have him removed from the office he’s held since 2006.

“When I took my oath, I raised my hand to uphold the law,” Warren said. “Regardless of what John Warren’s feelings are, that’s what I have to do, because that’s what my position requires.

“If the law changes that I can issue same-sex marriage licenses, I will issue same-sex marriage licenses,” Warren added. “More than any other cause, my main cause is my 13-year-old son and providing for him and my wife — and my dog.”

Asked about his personal position on the issue, Warren said his religious beliefs dictate that he opposes same-sex marriage. Warren is a deacon in his Baptist church, which he said teaches what the Bible teaches, which is “to love everybody.”

“I don’t see an issue with civil unions,” Warren said, adding that he also strongly supported the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Warren is close friends with fellow Democrat and openly gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons. The pair has worked closely on a digital courts initiative among other projects, and they refer to themselves as “running mates” during election season.

“I love Gary like a brother,” Warren said.

Asked whether he would support Fitzsimmons’ right to get married, Warren said he was unaware that Fitzsimmons has any desire to do so but would be open to discussing the issue with him. Warren added that he may or may not greet the protesters on Tuesday — as he has in previous years — because Commissioners Court will be in session.

Read GetEQUAL TX’s full press release about Tuesday’s demonstration — which begins at 10 a.m. and is one of many across the state and nation — after the jump.

—  John Wright

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

Annise Parker now co-chair of “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry,” Austin’s Leffingwell joins

Lee Leffingwell

Austin's Mayor Lee Leffingwell

Houstini reported yesterday that Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker was scheduled to appear at the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” press conference in Washington D.C., and that she was the only Texas mayor to participate. This morning we found out that Parker, along with New York’s Michael Bloomberg and L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa, is serving as co-chair for the effort. Additionally Austin’s Mayor Lee Leffingwell has joined the effort.

So that makes 2 of Texas’ 1,215 mayors with the bravery to stand up for what’s right, leaving the citizens of 1,213 citizens with the task of persuading their mayors. In Dallas Daniel Cates of GetEqual has started an online petition encouraging Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign on which currently has 216 signatories. The Dallas Voice reports that Rawlings claims to personally support marriage equality, despite his unwillingness to join “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry:”

“This one obviously was very difficult for me, because I personally believe in the rights of the gay community to marry,” Rawlings said Thursday… “I think this [same-sex marriage] is way overdue and we need to get on with it, but that’s my personal belief, and when I start to speak on behalf of the city of Dallas … I’ve got to be thoughtful about how I use that office and what I want to impact, and that’s why I decided to stay away from endorsing and signing letters like that.”

Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, told the Voice “the mayor does not plan to publicly support any social issues but would rather focus on the policy issues that impact Dallas,” adding “we have not signed onto other similar requests.”

—  admin