Councilmembers line up to ride in Pride parade

Jones Hill again fails to RSVP, has said religious beliefs prevent her participation; Greyson cites scheduling conflict

RIDE IN PRIDE | Members of the Dallas City Council ride together on a float in the 2009 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade as then-Mayor Tom Leppert walks alongside. This year all but two of the 15 councilmembers have said they will participate in the Pride parade.

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Thirteen of the 15 Dallas City Council members, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, are expected to ride on the city’s float at gay Pride later this month, according to Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild.

Doughman, chief organizer of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, said this week that Vonciel Jones Hill and Sandy Greyson are the only councilmembers who didn’t RSVP affirmatively for the 28th annual event set for Sept. 18.

Jones Hill, in her third two-year term representing District 5, has indicated in the past that she won’t attend gay Pride because of her religious beliefs.
Greyson, elected to represent District 12 earlier this year, reportedly has a scheduling conflict.

Rawlings, who also took office this year, will become only the third mayor in Dallas history to appear at gay Pride, after Tom Leppert and Laura Miller.

“The mayor looks forward to being in the gay Pride parade and being part of the festivities,” Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said this week.

Greyson, meanwhile, hadn’t responded to a phone message from Dallas Voice by press time.

“It’s a scheduling conflict,” Greyson’s assistant, Lorri Ellis, said when asked why the councilwoman won’t be attending Pride.

Michael Doughman and Sandy Greyson

Greyson, who served on the council from 1997-2005, voted in favor of a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2002. And in 1995, as a DART board member, she voted to add sexual orientation to the transit agency’s nondiscrimination policy.

Greyson also signed a letter from the council that appears in this year’s Pride Guide — distributed inside today’s Dallas Voice — congratulating organizers on the event.
The only councilmember who didn’t sign the letter was Jones Hill.

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Jones Hill told Dallas Voice in 2008, when she was the lone councilmember who didn’t RSVP affirmatively for the parade. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are that stop her from attending Pride, 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,” she said.

For the last several years, Jones Hill’s absence has thwarted a longtime goal of openly gay former Councilman Ed Oakley, who’s sought to have all 15 councilmembers attend the parade. Before that, former Councilman Mitchell Rasansky was often the lone holdout.

Doughman said he thinks having 13 of 15 councilmembers attend Pride is “exceptional for a city of this size.”

But he added that the Tavern Guild doesn’t pay much attention to the subject.

“I’m trying very hard to keep the politics out of this parade,” he said. “People want a celebration.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Burns honored for anti-bullying efforts

Fox 4 News is reporting that Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief tonight presented gay Councilman Joel Burns with a special award in honor of his efforts on ending bullying.

Joel Burns

Moncrief said: “I salute Joel’s courage. It takes someone that has a little something extra to be able to share their personal pain in order to benefit others.”

Burns made national headlines last October after video his emotional speech during a Fort Worth City Council meeting about his own experience as a gay teen bullied by schoolmates went viral.

I don’t have any other details about tonight’s award, but I will update this post when I find out more.

—  admin

Burns, Hicks unopposed in FW council races

Fort Worth City Councilmembers Joel Burns and Kathleen Hicks are unopposed in their 2011 re-election bids.

Yesterday (Monday, March 14) was the filing deadline for area municipal elections, and it’s official: Fort Worth’s first and only openly gay City Council member, Joel Burns, is unopposed in his second re-election bid since first winning the District 9 seat on the council in 2007 when he ran to replace Wendy Davis. Davis resigned to run for — and win — the District 10 seat in the Texas Senate.

In addition, the deadline passed without anyone filing to challenge Fort Worth’s District 8 incumbent, Kathleen Hicks, either. Hicks, who represents the district in which the Rainbow Lounge is located, has been a steadfast ally of the LGBT community, especially in the months since the June 29, 2009 raid on Rainbow Lounge.

W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, the District 3 incumbent, also has no opponent. Zimmerman, along with Burns, Hicks, District 2 incumbent Sal Espino, District 5 incumbent Frank Moss and Mayor Mike Moncrief voted in October 2009 to add protections based on gender expression and gender identity to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Espino has one opponent, Paul L. Rudisill, in the May 14 election, and Moss has two opponents: Charles Hibbler and Rickie Clark.

Moncrief is not seeking re-election, and a crowded field of five candidates have filed to replace him. They are Jim Lane, Betsy Price, Cathy Hirt, Dan Barrett and Nicholas Zebrun.

The three councilmembers who voted against the transgender protections all face opponents in this election. Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Scarth is being challenged by Lupe Arriola in District 2. And in District 6, incumbent Jungus Jordan is being challenged by Tolli Thomas. District 7 incumbent Carter Burdette is not running for re-election, and five candidates are running to replace him. They are Dennis Shingleton, Jonathan Horton, Jack Ernest, Jon Perry and Lee Henderson.

For more information on candidates in the Fort Worth city elections, check out the Fort Worth City Secretary’s Elections Page.

And look for an in-depth story on the mayor’s race in an upcoming issue of Dallas Voice.

—  admin

Joel Burns is kicking off his campaign tonight in Fort Worth. Is there any chance it’ll be for mayor?

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns will celebrate his 42nd birthday tonight with a re-election campaign kickoff party at the Historic Fort Worth Masonic Temple.

“When I think about my childhood birthday memories, I remember Mom baked and decorated a unique cake every year tied to a themed party she dreamed up,” Burns writes on his website, where people can also share their own birthday memories. “One year was train cars, another was cowboys, and I remember being particularly excited about the year I had a Speed Racer party. After the party we would climb into Daddy’s pick-up and drive to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. My family always made me feel special, as though all of Fort Worth was putting on this grand event just for me and my birthday. Fort Worth remains my favorite place to celebrate a birthday, and I’m proud that it remains a place that makes everyone feel welcomed and special.”

We put in a call to Burns earlier today but haven’t heard back yet. While we have no reason to believe he plans to run for anything other than re-election to his District 9 council seat, we’re sure we’re not alone in wondering if he’s entertained any thoughts whatsoever of running for mayor. Four-term incumbent Mayor Mike Moncrief announced his retirement on Thursday. The filing period begins Monday, and the race to replace Moncrief is already under way. At the very least, it’s fun to dream about the prospect of having second gay big-city mayor in Texas.

Burns did issue a statement on Thursday afternooon in response to Moncrief’s retirement:

“In his service as State Representative, County Judge, State Senator and Mayor, Mike Moncrief has been a example of public service to the citizens of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Texas my entire life,” Burns said. “I have enjoyed serving with a mayor who has such a strong and evident love for Fort Worth and commitment to Fort Worth’s future generations.  I hope that after he and his co-captain, Rosie, have the ability to spend some much-deserved time together, that they will continue to be example of service and leadership in our City for decades to come.”

RSVP for Burns’ party — where, who knows, he might make an unexpected announcement — by going here.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Moncrief won’t seek re-election

Mike Moncrief

Mike Moncrief announced today that he won’t seek re-election to a fifth term as mayor of Fort Worth, according to the Star-Telegram.

Possible candidates to replace Moncrief include former councilmembers Cathy Hirt and Jim Lane, as well as Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Betsy Price, according to the Star-Telegram.

Moncrief, of course, has led Fort Worth through the aftermath of the 2009 Rainbow Lounge raid.

The filing period for Fort Worth elections begins Monday.

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Fort Worth city attorney drops charges against Rainbow Lounge patrons

This photo, taken by Chuck Potter inside Rainbow Lounge on June 28, 2009, is believed to show TABC agents arresting Chad Gibson

A spokesman in the office of Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief has just confirmed reports we received earlier this morning that the city attorney’s office has dropped all charges against Chad Gibson and George Armstrong in connection with the June 28, 2009 raid on the Rainbow Lounge.

The spokesman said the city would release a statement later this afternoon, so watch Instant Tea for updates.

Gibson was hospitalized for a head injury he incurred during the raid, although questions remain about whether Gibson was injured when an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission slammed him against a wall in the club and then threw him to the floor, or when Gibson fell on the sidewalk outside while he was handcuffed.

Armstrong, who said he suffered severe bruising and a muscle strain when police arrested him, was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication.

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor public intoxication and misdemeanor assault on a law enforcement officer after TABC Agent Chris Aller said Gibson groped him while he was attempting to arrest Gibson. However, Aller and the second TABC agent involved in the raid, as well as their supervising sergeant, were fired after TABC officials conducted an internal investigation and determined that the agents should not have raided the bar in the first place.

An internal investigation conducted by the Fort Worth Police Department also indicated that FWPD officers involved in the raid had violated procedures, and three officers were suspended for a total of five days as a result.

Adam Seidel, attorney for both Gibson and Armstrong, said he had received a notice from the court earlier this week that Gibson’s case had been set for jury trial on Dec. 7. Shortly afterward, however, he was notified by the court clerk that the charges had been dismissed.

“I am glad they did the right thing and dropped their charges against these two victims. It shows a commitment to move forward,” Seidel said.

Gibson suffered bleeding in his brain and is still receiving treatment for his injuries, according to Tom Anable, president of Fairness Fort Worth.

FFW was formed in the wake of the raid initially to help witnesses give testimony for both FWPD’s and TABC’s internal investigations. The organization has since become more formally organized and has been directly involved in negotiations with city officials that played a role in the vote to add protections for transgenders to the city’s nondiscrimination policy and in the recent vote to offer partner benefits to the city’s LGBT employees.

Anable said Thursday that Fairness Fort Worth is pleased with the city’s decision to drop the charges against Gibson and Armstrong.

“I think they finally just realized that the facts of the case didn’t support the charges,” Anable said. “I think this is a real positive step forward. It’s a show of good faith as we continue to resolve the issues related to the incident at the Rainbow Lounge.”

—  admin