Rawlings won’t budge on marriage pledge

Dallas mayor says decision not to sign document puts him in position to advocate for LGBT equality among religious conservatives

STANDOFF  | A pro-LGBT protester, left, squares off with an anti-gay counterprotester during a “Sign the Pledge” rally organized by GetEQUAL outside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said this week that he has no plans to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage anytime soon.

But Rawlings added that he believes his decision not to sign the pledge puts him in a position to advocate on behalf of LGBT civil rights among religious conservatives in Dallas.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports legalizing same-sex marriage, has come under fire from the LGBT community for refusing to sign the pledge from the national group Freedom to Marry.

Rawlings has argued that the pledge — which now bears more than 100 signatures from mayors across the country — creates a divisive and partisan social issue that falls outside the mayor’s scope.

“I’m not going to sign it at this point, and part of it is because of the reaction that I’ve gotten throughout the whole community, and I realize whether people appreciate it or not, that I’m in a very interesting position where I can convene a lot of great dialogue because of the position that I’ve taken,” Rawlings told Dallas Voice during an exclusive interview in his office on Tuesday, Jan. 31. “After thinking about it, it’s probably the best thing that I kind of stick by my position here, but also do what I said in that meeting, which is work hard to figure out how I can best help this [the LGBT] community to gain the civil rights they need.”

Rawlings was referring to a meeting last Saturday, Jan. 28, which he attended with about 25 LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas, in response to his refusal to sign the pledge.

The meeting included several longtime local same-sex couples, including Jack Evans and George Harris, and Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong.

Over the nearly two-hour meeting, which was at times heated and emotional, the couples and other LGBT leaders told Rawlings their stories and made their case as to why they feel the mayor should sign the pledge.

Outside the Resource Center following the meeting — which came the morning after about 100 LGBT protesters had gathered at City Hall — Rawlings wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he would change his mind. But 72 hours later, he hadn’t budged.

“I don’t see myself changing in the short-term,” Rawlings said Tuesday. “I think if there was another movement that I could understand what it was going to accomplish better, I might join that entity. It’s not like I’m going to be anti-public on this issue, but I think this pledge itself is something that has allowed me to be a broker of discussions now in the city of Dallas. There’s some silver lining in this cloud.”

MEETING WITH LGBT LEADERS | Dallas 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)

Rawlings said he’s spoken to as many people who support his position as oppose it. But he acknowledged that when it comes to emails and messages on Facebook and Twitter, the vast majority have been in support of signing the pledge. Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said his office has received thousands of emails in the last two weeks.

“The other night [someone] said, ‘Thank you for not getting caught up in the hype of this thing, but I see you support marriage equality,’” Rawlings said. “And I said, ‘Yes, tell me about your position.’ And I realize there are so many people out there who really support what the LGBT community is trying to accomplish, but they are not interested in getting caught up into a polarizing movement.

“I’m very excited about the ability now to have this conversation,” he added. “I’m tired of talking about the pledge, but I think we’re just at the front end of having a conversation about LGBT civil rights.”

Rawlings has also said he wants to focus on substantive things he can accomplish as mayor to support LGBT civil rights.

But as of Tuesday, he said he hadn’t identified what those things will be. He said he plans to set up another meeting with Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, and others LGBT leaders to discuss specifics.

“There’s no question I’m a little ambivalent about my role now with the LGBT community, because I think that many people feel that I have sold them down the river, and I don’t want for political purposes to act like, ‘Oh, but I love you,’” Rawlings said. “I don’t want it to be disingenuous. I want to earn my respect in that community by putting my actions where my speech is on this.”

Rawlings said he thinks that for religious conservatives, civil marriage is secondary to the sacrament of religious marriage.

He said as mayor he wants to focus on “starting to de-mystify this for the faith-based community, and making sure we separate sacraments from civil rights.”

“If we ever are going to get to a better place, we’ve got to have room for people’s civil rights and personal religious beliefs in the same city,” he said.

“I’m a believer. I understand that tradition. I understand why that’s important. Some great conversations are starting to take place that I didn’t think I could ever have.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Fort Worth’s Betsy Price won’t sign marriage pledge; N. Texas still has no mayors on list

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in the Tarrant County Pride Parade last year.

In case you missed it, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price issued a statement the other day saying she doesn’t plan to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. Although Price is a Republican, she expressed support for the LGBT community during her campaign last year and served as grand marshal of the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade in October. On the marriage pledge issue, however, Price is a taking similar tack to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings:

“I remain focused on the business of the City of Fort Worth,” Price said in a statement. “The issue of same sex marriage is one for the state, not local government.”

Six Texas mayors have now joined about 100 others from across the U.S. in signing the pledge in support of same-sex marriage, according to Freedom to Marry. But none of those six is from North Texas, which is kinda sad. After all, Dallas-Fort Worth is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S., so you’d think we’d have a least one name on the list. As it stands, Bexar County is leading the way in the Lone Star State with three mayors who’ve signed the pledge: Julian Castro of San Antonio, Bruce Smiley-Kalff of Castle Hills (pop. 4,202) and A. David Marne of Shavano Park (pop. 1,754). The other three mayors from Texas are Annise Parker of Houston, Joe Jaworski of Galveston and Lee Leffingwell of Austin.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for coverage of tonight’s protest outside Dallas City Hall and Saturday’s meeting between Mayor Rawlings and LGBT leaders. I’ll also do my best to keep you updated on Twitter, where someday I hope to have 1,000 followers.

—  John Wright

Rawlings to meet with LGBT leaders

Protest planned outside City Hall over mayor’s refusal to sign marriage pledge

STRAINED RELATIONS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, shown during an interview with Dallas Voice last year, is under fire from the LGBT community for not only failing to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage — but also for his handling of the controversy. (Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Activists from GetEQUAL plan a rally outside Dallas City Hall on Friday night, Jan. 27 to call on Mayor Mike Rawlings to change his mind and sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Rawlings is set to meet privately Saturday, Jan. 28 with a group of 20-25 LGBT leaders to discuss his decision not to sign the pledge.

However, LGBT activists said this week that their beef with Rawlings, who took office last summer, now extends beyond the pledge itself.

They said they’ve been very alarmed by the language and tone Rawlings has used in defending his decision not to sign the pledge in the media.

Most recently, on Wednesday, Rawlings told WFAA-TV that the marriage pledge — signed by more than 100 mayors across the country, including from all eight cities larger than Dallas — was an example of “getting off track” and that the issue of marriage equality is not “relevant to the lion’s share of the citizens of Dallas.”

“Sadly, I think the more he talks about this in the press, the more he digs in as completely out of touch,” said Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. “He’s really pissing off our community. We really have a much deeper, more profound problem than this pledge. … This mayor is naïve. We’re not irrelevant, and we are a part of the lion’s share.”

Fink noted that DGLA issued a rare warning against voting for Rawlings in 2011.

“We certainly hoped that he would prove us wrong when we put a warning on him last year, but I fear that perhaps that warning was well justified, because it certainly appears from this encounter that he puts business before civil rights, which was the essence of our warning,” Fink said.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said he wasn’t available for comment Thursday. Rawlings told Dallas Voice last week that although he personally supports marriage equality, he didn’t sign the pledge because he wants to avoid social issues that don’t impact the city.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, which is organizing Friday night’s protest, also questioned Rawlings’ handling of the controversy. On Monday, Blackmon told Dallas Voice that Rawlings was skipping a “Meet the Mayor” community meeting in Kiest Park because it would be unfair to subject other residents to an LGBT protest. “He just does not want to put them through that,” Blackmon said.

Cates called such language “damaging and destructive” and said it smacks of “thinly veiled homophobia.”

Rawlings’ decision to skip the Kiest Park meeting appeared to backfire when residents who showed up called him “cowardly” for dodging the protest.

“I think he’s got the worst PR team on earth,” Cates said.

Cates said Friday’s “Sign the Pledge” rally, set for 7 p.m. outside City Hall, will include speakers and a chance for people to address personal notes, including family photos, to the mayor. Cates said he planned to hand-deliver the correspondence to Rawlings at Saturday’s meeting.

“The goal is really for our mayor to finally have his policy match what he says his personal views are,” Cates said. “We are going to continue to apply pressure, and that can stop whenever he wants.”

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of the Resource Center, organized Saturday’s invitation-only meeting between Rawlings and LGBT leaders.

Cox said she reached out to the mayor’s office last week after his explanation for not signing the pledge “sent up about 100 red flags.”

Saturday’s meeting, which is closed to the media, is scheduled for an hour and a half. In addition to the marriage pledge, Cox said she hopes to address other LGBT-related city issues including transgender health benefits, pension benefits for the domestic partners of employees, nondiscrimination requirements for contractors and mandatory diversity training.

Pam Gerber, one of Rawlings’ prominent LGBT supporters during last year’s campaign, said she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and she hopes something positive will come out of the meeting.

Gerber noted that even though neither DGLA nor Stonewall Democrats endorsed Rawlings, he appeared at a gay Pride month reception his first day in office and later rode in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“If he absolutely will not sign it, then how do we leverage this opportunity to bring something good about for our community?” Gerber said. “I’m not 100 percent confident that he won’t change his mind, because he is a good man who is incredibly well-intentioned. But if that’s the case, then we need to be pragmatic about it and figure out how to move forward and make gains for the LGBT community, instead of looking at the whole thing as all or nothing.”

Fink seemed less optimistic, and she said no matter what, it’s unlikely the conversation will end this weekend.

“This is an education hill we must climb together as a community and engage him as much as possible,” Fink said. “He is not leaving us behind because we are going to be pulling on the cuffs of his trousers every step of the way, and he will not marginalize the LGBT community of Dallas.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

Early voting in runoff election off to slow start

For those who missed it, there is an election happening in Houston right now. Four City Council races wound up in run-offs after the November 8 municipal elections and Houstonians have until December 10 to decide the fate of these crucial races.  So far fewer than 2,000 people have voted. Without a “big ticket” item like the mayor’s race at the top of the ballot turnout in the runoff is expected to be very low. The upshot of which is that every ballot cast carries more weight than ever.

Two of the races are at-large seats, so every citizen of Houston gets to vote on this races:

  • In At-large position 2 former State Representative Kristi Thibaut faces Andrew C. Burks Jr. Pastor of Bailey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • In At-large position 5 incumbent council member Jolanda Jones faces Jack Christie, former State Board of Education member .

Two of the races are for district seats, so only people who live in those districts get to vote on these races:

  • In District A incumbent council member Brenda Stardig faces republican activist Helena Brown.
  • In District B local restauranteur and education advocate Jerry Davis faces Alvin Byrd, current staffer for council member Jarvis Johnson.

Early voting continues through December 6th, election day is November 8. Voters may cast their ballot at any early voting location. Visit harrisvotes.org to find your election day polling location (it may be different than your November polling place) and to view a sample ballot.

—  admin

History isn’t on Leppert’s side

Mayor Henry Ervay is buried in Oakland Cemetery near Fair Park.

The following Dallas mayors have run for governor or senator and won:

• ______________

That’s right. None.

Mayor Ron Kirk (1995-2002) is actually the only Dallas mayor ever to receive his party’s nomination for Senate, but he lost the general election. None has ever run for governor. However, a few Dallas mayors have gone on to serve in other offices.

John McClannahan Crockett, Dallas’ second mayor who served from 1857-58, became lieutenant governor from 1861-63 after Texas joined the Confederacy. After the Civil War, he served as mayor again in 1866-67.

But that’s the highest office a former Dallas mayor has ever held — lieutenant governor of a seceded state, something Mayor Tom Leppert could still achieve if Gov. Rick Perry gets his way.

Mayor John William Lane (1866) became a state representative and then a state senator.

Mayor Henry Schley Ervay (1870-72) went on to serve as a city alderman (councilman) from 1873-82. By the way, the reason one of the city’s main streets is named after him isn’t his 12 years of service. He became a Dallas hero because after becoming mayor, Ervay was considered not loyal enough to the Union (even though the guy was from New York) and thrown in jail in 1870 by the military governor. The state supreme court ordered Ervay released and he was allowed to serve.

Mayor Earle Cabell (1961-64) was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The only other mayor to run for the House was Mayor Wes Wise (1971-76) but he lost that race. Mayor Steve Bartlett was already a congressman when he became mayor (1991-95).

Houston’s mayors have fared even worse. Mayor Joseph Chappell Hutcheson Jr. (1917-18) became a federal judge. Mayor John Browne (1892-96) later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Bill White (2004-10) was the first to run for governor and, like Kirk who ran for Senate, he lost. In fact, none of Texas’ governors or senators has ever been a mayor of any Texas city.

So if Mayor Tom Leppert resigned to run for Senate, good luck. History’s not on his side.

—  David Taffet

It is ON: Gay choral groups wager on World Series

During major sporting events, we’re all used to the “friendly” bets between the mayors of the competing towns: Mayor X will wear a cheese hat if his team loses, and Mayor Y will ride to council meetings on horseback for a week.

But now the gays are at it — and not just the publishers of LGBT newspapers.

The Turtle Creek Chorale has a wager going with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus over the eventual outcome of the Rangers-Giants series. The bet: The artistic director of the chorus in the losing team’s city will have to wear the other chorus’ garb — whatever that might be — for a rehearsal to be taped and provided to the winner chorus, and maybe even sing a pro-winner song. And as you can imagine, the gays are taking it seriously. “Bring it!” taunts the Frisco team on their Facebook page. “Fear the Beard!”

Of note is that the director of SFGMC is a woman. You might think that this would cow TCC director Jonathan Palant. But we have it on good authority he kinda likes dressing in women’s clothes — just look:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Can Rahm Emanuel win mayor’s race with serious heckling?

It looks like Rahm is seriously considering a run for Chicago’s mayor. I have news for him. The LGBT community is no friend to those who advise a President to throw us under the bus. I hope he hasn’t miscalculated that the LGBT community will support him. When deciding to run for Chicago’s mayor, he had better realize we know he has been no friend to us, and he’d better be ready to hear catcalls and chants about the failure to follow through on the specific promises to our community to end DADT, DOMA and pass ENDA.

Oh, and Rahm, the gAyTM is “out of service.” You can’t expect the gAyTM to keep working when our civil rights problems aren’t addressed.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright