SMU students will vote again on LGBT Senate seat

SMU1

Spectrum’s Kathrina Macalanda solicits a signature from Ryan Patrick McLaughlin

Over the weekend, Southern Methodist University students collected enough signatures to get a revote on whether to add an LGBT Student Senate seat.

After the Student Senate voted in March to add the seat, the student body needed to pass the measure by a two-thirds vote. Only 53 percent voted April 3 for the amendment to the Student Constitution. To get another vote, supporters needed to collect signatures from 10 percent of the student body, which is 1,053 people.

“I am excited to report that we actually surpassed that goal,” former Spectrum President Harvey Luna said. “We collected about 1,400 signatures.”

Normally, the issue would be put to students this week, but faculty is using the website link this week for their own elections. Instead, the amendment to add the LGBT seat will be put to students next week.

“In the meantime, we are going to begin strategizing on advertising the issue on campus — tabling, flyers, buttons, etc.,” Luna said.

 

—  David Taffet

SMU students vote down LGBT senate seat

SMUAfter the Southern Methodist University Student Senate voted last week to approve an LGBT student senate seat, the student body voted the proposal down.

Adding a senate seat required approval by two-thirds of the voters. The election was held on Thursday, and only 53 percent of those voting were in favor of adding the seat. Of SMU’s 11,000 students, only about 2,000 voted.

“However, 53 percent is not a two-thirds majority and it does not get us representation in senate,” Shelbi Smith, vice president of SMU’s LGBT group Spectrum, said. “It does not change the everyday reality for LGBT students who are discriminated against at SMU.”

Smith called this a set-back, but explained the proposal isn’t completely dead for this semester.

“Now, we have to collect 1,100 signatures on a petition to get a re-vote,” Smith said. “We are hoping to get the signatures in time to have a re-vote before the end of the semester. Otherwise, we start from ground zero next year.”

She called the vote by the Senate “a huge victory.” In previous years, the Senate voted down the proposal, in some years by large margins. This is the first time the proposal went to students for a vote.

“This is about so much more than a senate seat,” Smith said. “This is about equality. This is about making LGBT people feel welcome and included at our great university.”

—  David Taffet

SMU Senate votes to add LGBT seat after years of battle

SMUThe SMU Senate voted 34-3 to add an LGBT seat to the student governing body, according to SMU’s The Daily Campus. The issue must now go for a vote before the entire student body and requires a two-thirds vote.

This has been a contentious issue that has been debated and defeated every year since first introduced by student Tom Elliott in 2009. Several other Senate seats are reserved for groups of minority students. Others are designated for off-campus residents, specific dorms and frats and sororities.

One issue that previous Senates dealt with is identifying LGBT students — whether they needed to belong to one of the on-campus LGBT groups, if anyone who self-identified as LGBT could participate or if any student, including allies or even opponents trying to throw the race, could simply register to vote in that race.

During this period, SMU was voted a “most homophobic” school by Princeton Review each year, and the high-profile battle over this seat probably added to the perception of anti-gay discrimination on campus.

Elliott graduated in 2010 and now works in Chicago. He remembered how he felt after the defeat.

“It was disappointing since there was such a strong show of support by faculty, staff and students,” Elliott said. “Even with people coming in to talk to the Senate, it failed by a large margin.”

He said after he graduated, freshman Harvey Luna picked up the fight.

Elliott warned that the work’s not over since the student body must vote.

“It’s very important for people working on this to mobilize support on campus,” Elliott said.

—  David Taffet

Dallas City Council approves resolution

Photos by Steve Ramos

—  Steve Ramos

A ‘landmark day for the city of Dallas’

Council passes comprehensive resolution, ending more than a year’s work and beginning the process for full city equality

CoxRawlings

HAPPY ENDING | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Resource Center CEO Cece Cox chat after the equality resolution passed Wednesday with a vote of 13-2. Allies and LGBT community members filled the room during the discussion and vote. (Photos by Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

 

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

With Wednesday’s passage of a comprehensive equality resolution, 13 councilmembers assured the local LGBT community they support equality in city employment, living and tourism.

The resolution is a “comprehensive statement of support” that directs the city manager and staff to identify inequities in those areas and work to resolve them administratively and also through council approval.

Changes that require council approval will be brought to the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee first. Councilman Jerry Allen, committee chair, had openly gay city employees Theresa O’Donnell and John Rogers make three presentations on LGBT issues before the committee passed the resolution in February.

The measure easily passed the council 13-2 with Sheffie Kadane and anti-gay Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill voting against it.

Mayor Mike Rawlings came out in favor of the resolution Tuesday. His support was questioned after he delayed the vote a week by requiring the measure be discussed in executive session for legal concerns last week.

GaitherKiven

ACTIVISTS | Nell Gaither, left, Cd Kirven and David Mack Henderson chat after the city council vote.

“I am proud to have voted in favor of this,” Rawlings said after the resolution passed. “It’s very humbling to be mayor of this city. We have so many great communities. …There’s not a better community in the city of Dallas than the LGBT community.”

Rawlings angered the LGBT community in June after he blocked the previous resolution that addressed marriage equality and workplace protections from being added to the agenda. He had the city attorney declare him present so former Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano couldn’t place the item back on the agenda as acting mayor after former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her support from a memo requiring the item to be voted on.  While he told supporters and Dallas Voice he supported those issues personally, he called the resolution a “misuse” of the council’s time.

He said this week he’s completely behind the current resolution and analyzing what the city leadership can fix moving forward. He even wore a red and blue striped tie Wednesday, which he said doubled as his support for Southern Methodist University and the LGBT community.

“I believe in the resolution, and I think it’s a good structure to come back to so we are prepared to make those decisions,” Rawlings told Dallas Voice. “We’ve done a lot of the hard work now. God’s in the details on this stuff. We need to look at each one of them, examine them and have those discussions, but I’m enthusiastic about it.”

As for the tension with the community after last year’s resolution failed, Rawlings said he’s ready to look past it.

“I never had an issue with the LGBT community,” he said. “I’m very proud of them. I love them. Now they may not like me, but I’m always a believer in turn the other cheek and be positive, love people and the rest will take care of itself.”

But LGBT activists and advocates have struggled to support Rawlings since his time in office began in 2011 when he failed to sign a pledge for Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. Followed by the resolution’s failure, advocates wondered if he would back any equality measures. GetEQUAL TX activist Cd Kirven said his support and his words about the LGBT community this week show a shift in his attitude towards the community.

“I’ve very proud of the mayor for getting behind this and championing our community,” Kirven said. “I’m just very proud of the progress he’s made.”

The resolution is the council’s most significant show of support for the LGBT community in a decade after the council approved domestic partner benefits in 2004. Two years before, the council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2002, barring discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Before that, the council approved a nondiscrimination policy for city employees to cover sexual orientation in 1994, which was later amended to include gender identity.

Councilman Scott Griggs, the author of the previous resolution, thanked the LGBT community for coming together and working with city staff, councilmembers and the city’s LGBT Task Force to bring the new measure forward.

“I can’t speak enough about your patience and your perseverance,” Griggs told the audience Wednesday. “It’s a real testament to the whole community. This is a wonderful landmark day for the city of Dallas.”

City Manager A.C. Gonzalez said he’s already begun discussions with city staff about employee pensions and other items.

However, he said anything with a financial impact would be brought to committee. He expected a report to be presented next quarter with a list of items and a timetable for implementation.

“That process has already begun, but I can’t give you an answer as to which one will be first,” Gonzalez said.

Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center, said she glad to hear the city manager’s office has already begun discussing possible changes, and she’s already spoken with Gonzalez. Cox said the center’s staff would prioritize changes into what can be done quickly and what can be done ,that has the most impact.

“I think it’s a start,” she said. “The resolution sets forth a whole lot of things that now need to be done.”

Some items the city’s LGBT Task Force plan to resolve fairly quickly are adding comprehensive transgender healthcare for city employees, making the pension plans equal for same-sex spouses and updating policies to improve the city’s score on the Hunan Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.

Cox was among the more than 30 LGBT advocates wearing red in the audience Wednesday and clapped when the resolution passed. She said the work and input from many LGBT organizations to help the resolution succeed shows how significant its passage means.

“A lot of work went into this, so what was accomplished today was very significant,” Cox said.. “It makes me proud looking over 20-plus years of ordinances and resolutions and discussions. It’s significant.”

Click here to read the resolution and here for more photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 7, 2014.

—  Anna Waugh

El Paso rejects demand for $10,000 by anti-gay hate group

TomBrown

Tom Brown

Tom Brown Ministries demanded $10,000 from the city of El Paso to settle a lawsuit it initiated over city domestic partner benefits. The city council rejected the demands from the organization labeled an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 2011, Brown began a recall petition against Mayor John Cook and two city council members who voted to reinstate domestic partner benefits. The benefits were approved in 2009 and repealed in an election in 2010 before being reinstated in 2011. The recall election cost five times what the benefits cost the city.

A lower court threw out the recall and the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Complaints against Brown’s ministry were filed with the IRS in 2011 for illegally using his church’s nonprofit status for political purposes.

—  David Taffet

LGBT residents address Garland City Council on DART, nondiscrimination

Athas

Garland Mayor Douglas Athas, left, Lerone Landis, Patti Fink and Rafael McDonnell

Following the walkout by Garland DART board representative Michael Cheney on Sept. 24 before a vote on healthcare benefits for same-sex partners at the transit agency, LGBT Garland residents and other area activists attended a Garland City Council meeting Wednesday night.

Two Garland residents and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink addressed the council. After the meeting concluded, Mayor Douglas Athas and two councilmen spoke to the group in the council chambers.

Lerone Landis told the council he lives in Garland with his husband and their 4-year-old daughter. He said he was a daily DART rider and was disappointed to learn that it was Garland’s representative who prevented the healthcare equalization plan to pass.

To show its commitment to diversity, he urged the Garland City Council to pass a nondiscrimination policy for its own employees and for city residents.

Carmarion Anderson said she was embarrassed to be a Garland resident after Cheney’s stunt at the DART meeting.

“We live here and pay our taxes here,” she said.

She said she expected equal treatment for herself and for DART’s LGBT employees.

Fink called Cheney’s action at the DART meeting “shameful.” She encouraged the council to pass an ordinance that would cover city employees.

“Be on the cutting edge and bring new business to the city,” Fink said.

The practice at the council is to not address speakers directly as they make their allotted three-minute presentations. However, the three statements were made at the end of the meeting and the mayor came to introduce himself and talk to the group afterward.

Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell, who was also at the meeting, spoke to the mayor earlier in the day about the issues.

He said he believed the opposition to the DART healthcare plan among Garland officials is not rooted in homophobia but in the city’s fiscal conservatism. Athas agreed it was unfair for DART to be covering unmarried heterosexual partners and not same-sex partners.

“The council was certainly aware of Mr. Cheney’s actions,” McDonnell said.

Athas told Dallas Voice last week that he spoke to Cheney and was opposed to the DART plan. Athas’ opposition to the plus-one plan is that it’s open to abuse because the plan could cover nieces, nephews or anyone else and the agency had no way to monitor it.

But Athas said Wednesday night that the city would consider the idea of a nondiscrimination ordinance.

“We have a lot of lesbian and gay employees,” he said. “We would never allow that sort of discrimination.”

He said he had never heard a request from any of the city’s lesbian and gay community for a nondiscrimination ordinance. But he called the ordinance “nothing to rush into because no one’s come forward” with a complaint.

Fink told the mayor that most Fortune 500 companies have a nondiscrimination policy and look to relocate in cities that have similar policies. She said that the city may not have received any complaints, but  many people looking for work may have skipped applying in Garland because they have no protections.

McDonnell said he received an email from Athas Thursday morning, telling him the next step is to have Human Resources look over Garland’s nondiscrimination policies.

The mayor called the city extremely fiscally conservative. McDonnell said an ordinance is a good way for a city to avoid a discrimination lawsuit.

—  David Taffet

Same-sex marriage begins in southern New Mexico

Ellins.Lynn

County Clerk Lynn Ellins

The Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins in Las Cruses, N.M., began issuing marriage licenses on Wednesday. Ellins issued 40 licenses the first day.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that local churches began performing wedding ceremonies soon after the county started issuing licenses.

Unlike other states that do not have marriage equality, New Mexico state law does not specify that marriage is between a man and a woman. The state has no anti-gay marriage amendment.

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King said he is not sure if state law allows same-sex marriages and asked county clerks to wait until the courts decide the issue. He said he would not interfere with Ellins’ decision but the marriages might be declared invalid once the case gets to the state Supreme Court.

Former governor Bill Richardson tried to pass a marriage equality law before leaving office but came up short by a few votes.

After Dona Ana County, many expected liberal Santa Fe to be the next county to begin issuing marriage certificates.

Las Cruces is about 30 miles north of El Paso on Interstate 10 and is the state’s second largest city.

Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, wants the issue to go to a popular vote.

Below is a report from KRWG News, the public broadcasting station in El Paso and Las Cruces.

—  David Taffet

Dallas County to vote on 1st-ever LGBT Pride Month resolution next week

dallas-county-seal

Dallas County Commissioners Court will vote on a resolution declaring June LGBT Pride month in the county on Tuesday.

While Dallas City Council has issued a similar proclamation for three years, this is the first time the county has done so.

Activist Omar Narvaez said the county has been progressive in the past with adding LGBT employment protections and domestic partner benefits, so he and Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas met with commissioners to make it happen.

“They probably have never done it because no one has ever asked,” Narvaez said.

McDonnell said the controversy with commissioners in adding domestic partner benefits last fall has blown over.

“There always seems to be drama at Commissioners Court and now the drama seems to have moved over to [City Hall],” he said, alluding to Wednesday’s council meeting.

The city of Dallas’ Pride events began last week with a kick-off reception. Events include events at area libraries and a family day at Dallas Zoo. Discount tickets for the zoo can be purchased at Resource Center. Another event has also been added. DFW Pride Movement is hosting a celebration with music and margaritas this Saturday at Lolita’s Restaurant, 4218 Lemmon Ave.

And GetEUQUAL TX is planning an evening rally on the day the U.S. Supreme Court announces the ruling in the two key marriage equality cases, which are expected on a Monday or Thursday before the end of the month. The rally will begin at 7 p.m. at the legacy of Love monument in Oak Lawn.

Read the resolution below.

—  Anna Waugh

GetEQUAL TX activists released on bail, promise more actions

Sit-in2

Cd Kirven as she was escorted out of the Capitol

Cd Kirven and four other GetEQUAL TX activists were released on $1,500 bail each on Wednesday. They were charged with class-B misdemeanors.

The five held sit-ins in state Senate offices to protest Senate bill SB 237 not being moved to the Senate floor for a vote. The legislation is a statewide LGBT employment nondiscrimination law.

“We have three weeks to push hard,” Kirven said.

GetEQUAL TX had threatened action if the bill was not moved to the Senate floor by May 1. Kirven said additional actions are planned.

While they were being arrested, Kirven said she was talking to officers about the lack of workplace protection for LGBT people.

“No wonder you’re doing this,” she said her arresting officer told her.

Kirven said a vote from just one of four Republican Senators targeted is needed to move the bill to the floor.

A preliminary hearing for the arrested activists is set for May 15, but defense attorney Dax Garvin left the country this morning for several weeks. His associate Makenna Hatter said the first hearing is always reset in Travis County so the case will probably be rescheduled for the end of the month.

Garvin also represents Dallas marriage-equality demonstrators Major and Beau Jiminez.

Kirven said GetEQUAL plans polling place demonstrations on May 11 when municipal elections are held throughout the state to let the public know about the lack of workplace protections. She said other actions are planned in and around the Capitol through the session until the bill moves to the floor of both houses for a vote.

Class-B misdemeanors are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail sentence of up to 180 days. The court may also impose a maximum of two years of probation or three years of community supervision with an extension.

Kirven said she’s not sure if the charges against the group will stick. The Texas Capitol is considered public park land.

“You can’t criminally trespass on public land,” she said.

In 2010, Kirven was arrested in former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in Washington, D.C., demonstrating for the federal ENDA bill. After serving six months probation, charges were dismissed.

After posting bail in Austin on Wednesday night, Kirven returned to Dallas and got home about 3 a.m.

“They haven’t seen the last of us,” Kirven said.

—  David Taffet