WATCH: LGBT protesters ‘shame’ Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

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The good news is, Mayor Mike Rawlings is no longer afraid to show up at an event where he knows there will be LGBT protesters. The bad news is, LGBT protesters are still forced to gather outside places where Rawlings is scheduled to show up.

Although Rawlings tried to look diplomatic by greeting the protesters in front of the TV news cameras, activists like Cd Kirven of GetEQUAL weren’t having it, and they ultimately chanted, “Shame, shame, shame!” as Rawlings walked back to his vehicle.

Watch the report from WFAA-TV’s Jonathan Betz below.

—  John Wright

Elected officials, newspapers in Texas largely silent on Obama’s support for marriage equality

Not surprisingly, we haven’t heard a whole hell of a lot from elected officials in Texas about President Barack Obama’s decision to come out in support of marriage equality.

That may be because some Texas Republicans are reluctant to slam the president too hard given how quickly public opinion is changing on this issue, while some Democrats may be reluctant to lavish too much praise because, after all, it is still Texas.

But you can always count on State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, to speak up anytime we cross a significant milestone in the fight for full LGBT equality. Coleman, a staunch LGBT ally who happens to be facing an openly gay challenger in the Democratic Primary, sent out the below statement in an email on Friday, along with an image of the brilliant editorial cartoon by the Houston Chronicle’s Nick Anderson that I’ve posted above. (On a side note, it doesn’t appear as though the Chronicle has actually published an editorial in support of Obama’s announcement. The San Angelo Standard Times did so over the weekend, but I’m not aware of any other newspapers in Texas that have, including both The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Which is shameful.)

Anyhow, here’s what Coleman had to say in his email:

Like so many others over the years, President Obama has finally come to realize that there is no “separate but equal” when it comes to marriage rights. Civil Unions that grant equal rights are simply not good enough. Marriage is a special bond that for far too long this country has withheld from gays and lesbians. I, and many others, have been fighting for marriage equality for years, and now we have the President on our side.

We still do not have marriage equality in Texas, but the tide is turning. It is only a matter of time now before we are all treated equally under the eyes of the law. This is a civil rights issue, and Reverend Al Sharpton said it best: “We cannot be selective with civil rights. We must support civil rights for everybody or we don’t support them for anyone.”

—  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

See! Not ALL the gays think Mayor Rawlings should have signed that marriage pledge

I thought we'd run out of different photos of Mike Rawlings to use until I found this one I took of his family praying at his election night watch party. Was it wrong for me not to have my head bowed?

Over on the main page, as seems to be the case more often than not these days, you’ll find my latest story about Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. (At this point I think the only thing I haven’t asked Rawlings is whether the fact that he’s “pledge-phobic” means he’s also scared of the Pledge of Allegiance. But hey, there’s always next week!)

Anyhow, just because I take pleasure in beating some topics until they’re as dead as hammers, I also wanted to share an email with you that Rawlings apparently wanted to share with me today. Rawlings’ chief of staff, whose name you’ll undoubtedly recognize by now as Paula Blackmon, forwarded to me one of the more than 2,000 emails that have been sent to the mayor’s office about this issue in the last two weeks. “Hello John…the mayor wanted me to share this EM with you…call me if you have any questions…thx,” Blackmon wrote. So, without further ado, here goes:

Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:57 AM
To: Blackmon, Paula
Subject: Gay Marriage Equality

I was unable to locate the email address for the Mayor, and  I would appreciate your forwarding my message to him.  I am a recently retired primary care physician, who is also gay and in a long term relation.  I thank the mayor for his personal support of marriage equality. However, the office of mayor in Dallas is non-partisan, and I think “hot-button” social issues are best avoided.  Marriage equality in Texas will be achieved through the legislative process, not locally.  I would be very upset if he as mayor were vocally supporting people on the other side of this issue such as Mr. Jeffress of First Baptist, Dallas.  Our country is afflicted by division at all levels, and I think Mayor Rawlings made the right call on this one.  Robert W. Henderson, M.D.

—  John Wright

Rawlings says he won’t rule out signing marriage pledge after meeting with LGBT leaders

Dallsa 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)

After meeting privately for nearly two hours with about 25 people from the LGBT community, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Saturday afternoon refused to rule out the possibility of reversing course and signing a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

“To be a great city we have to have everybody feel a part of it,” Rawlings told a throng of news reporters as he left Resource Center Dallas, where the closed-door meeting took place. “Obviously, the LGBT community feels at times that they’re disenfranchised. They don’t have the civil rights that the rest of us have, and so it was a wonderful learning experience for me, listening to personal stories, listening to policy issues, and listening to strategies of how we can make sure this community feels better next year than it does today. The arc of history is working for the rights of this community, and we as citizens and as the City Council want to support that.”

Asked whether he might still change his mind and sign the marriage pledge, Rawlings referred to himself as “pledge-phobic.”

“I think that America’s got too many pledges out there, and I think it’s simplistic and not substantive,” he said. “I’m a mayor that wants to be substantive. I do care about the civil rights of all of our citizens and will think about how we can make Dallas a better place for that.”

Pressed for a yes-or-no answer, Rawlings said: “I’m not going to take a pledge never to sign a pledge, but I don’t like to sign pledges.”

During the meeting, Rawlings reiterated his personal support for marriage equality and again attempted to explain why he chose not to sign the pledge, unveiled last week by the national group Freedom to Marry. About 100 mayors from across the country have signed the pledge, including those from all eight U.S. cities larger than Dallas.

Rawlings has come under fire from Dallas’ LGBT community for refusing to sign the pledge — and for some of the language he has used to explain his rationale to the media, including repeated statements by the mayor that the issue is “irrelevant” for the city. On Friday night, about 100 people gathered outside City Hall for a protest to call on Rawlings to sign the pledge.

“I”m not trying to say it’s not a big issue because I understand that it is,” Rawlings said at the outset of Saturday’s meeting.

“If the city had the right to marry you, I would vote yes,” Rawlings told the group. “But in this case I chose to step back from the symbolism — because that’s what it was — and not get into that fray.”

In retrospect, Rawlings said, his decision not to sign the pledge may have been the right one and may have been the wrong one. But either way, he said he takes ownership for it. The mayor also said his biggest mistake was not calling Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, to discuss the issue before deciding whether to sign.

Cox, who initiated Saturday’s meeting, said afterward she was glad the community got to have an open discussion with the mayor about the issue. Cox said although it would be “incredibly powerful” for Rawlings to sign the pledge, she’s not counting on it.

“Even if he doesn’t sign the pledge, we still have business to take care of, so we have to find a way to move forward,” Cox said.

Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said after the meeting that “dialogue is always good.” But Fink added: “I think the proof’s in the pudding. We’ll see what happens going forward. I think he needs a lot of education.”

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, who organized Friday night’s rally, said his group will continue to pressure the mayor to sign the pledge.

“I think it was more double-talk,” Cates said of Rawlings’ comments during the meeting. Cates said he’s encouraging people to speak about the matter at the regular City Council meeting next Wednesday, Feb. 8.

Rawlings chats with the Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope, left, and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox before the meeting.

—  John Wright

The Economist predicts Rick Perry will soften his stance on gay marriage if he runs for president

Rick Perry

According to The Economist, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is about to pull a reverse Tom Leppert and get all lovey-dovey with the gays. Well, maybe not quite. But Perry is going to “think about” running for president, and if he does, conventional wisdom holds that he’ll have to appeal to “independents” — or at least the more moderate wing of the tea party. In other words, you can get elected and re-elected and re-elected governor of Texas as a radical gun-toting secessionist, but seriously, this is the presidency, so you might want to tone it down a notch. With that in mind, we’re pretty sure that if he runs, there are all sorts of issues on which Perry will backtrack. But is same-sex marriage really one of them? The Economist thinks so:

I’ll be watching to see if Mr Perry offers any further thoughts on foreign policy, and whether he weighs in on national controversies that have thus far passed over Texas. One to watch: gay marriage. Mr Perry is against it, but there hasn’t been much of a debate over it in Texas, which has seen no serious effort to legalise same-sex marriage or civil unions. And it’s an issue where the Republican primary voters differ from the emerging national majority in favour. If Mr Perry is happy being the governor, or just a national opposition figure, he’ll stick to his guns on the subject. If he’s looking to be president, I would expect a slightly hedged view: he might say that there’s already a federal law on the subject, for example, but that as a supporter of states’ rights he recognises their right to differ.

For one thing, it’s a little misleading to say that same-sex marriage has “passed over” Texas or that “there hasn’t been much debate over it.” Perry was governor in 2005, when he not only supported but championed the state’s constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions. As Religion Dispatches noted recently, Perry even staged a ceremonial and totally unnecessary bill-signing ceremony for the amendment, with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association in attendance.

Does this really sound like a man who believes same-sex marriage should be left up to the states? Moreover, what would Perry have to gain in a GOP primary — or even in the general election – by softening his stance on same-sex marriage? Maybe the Economist should stick to reporting on British politics.

—  John Wright