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

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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.

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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

Mayor Rawlings backs equality resolution before Wednesday vote

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to support the LGBT equality resolution when it goes before the full council during a briefing Wednesday.

“Mayor Rawlings supports the resolution in its current form,” Rawlings spokesman Sam Merten emailed to Dallas Voice.

Councilmembers will debate the resolution Wednesday and can make changes to the measure.

After fighting the marriage equality resolution last year, calling it a “misuse” of council time and blocking it from the agenda, Rawlings placed the current resolution on the agenda for this week. But he delayed the vote a week so the council could ask legal questions in executive session last week.

LGBT advocates showed up in red to urge the council to support the resolution, which is expected to pass with 13 votes now that Rawlings is in favor. Councilmembers Vonciel Jones Hill and Sheffie Kadane, who’ve both spoken out against the LGBT community based on religious views, are sure to vote against the measure. Kadane voted against the resolution in committee.

Supporters are encouraged to pack the 9 a.m. meeting again Wednesday dressed in red.

The resolution is a comprehensive statement of support that instructs city staff to fix inequities that exist for LGBT employees. Staff will report to the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee quarterly and changes requiring a vote will have to be approved by the council.

The “resolution supporting equal rights for the employees of the City of Dallas, citizens within the City of Dallas, and visitors to the City of Dallas to address disparate treatment, if any, of  lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons,” the agenda states about the item.

The resolution, below, has a few minor revisions explaining the process of the city manager and city staff to implement changes. Staff is encouraged to make administrative changes and bring others before committee and then the council for final approval.

“The resolution itself does not change any existing City procedure or ordinance, nor does the resolution itself authorize any actions or expenditures,” the agenda item reads.  ”Rather, the resolution directs the City Manager and the City Council’s appointees to the pension boards to explore actions to further the goals of the resolution and initiate any necessary processes through the appropriate channels to amend City policies, procedures, or ordinances. The City Manager or his designee is directed to report quarterly to the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee to keep City Council informed of progress toward implementing this resolution and any proposed actions. Any changes to existing City ordinances or expenditures of funds will require further City Council action.”

Read the resolution below.

—  Anna Waugh

LGBT advocates plan to red out Dallas City Council meeting tomorrow

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Click image to enlarge

Wednesday’s Dallas City Council may be déjà vu for some LGBT advocates and allies when the gallery is full of red like it was in June for an LGBT equality resolution.

But this time LGBT advocates hope to encourage councilmembers to support a resolution and pass it, instead of express anger for the resolution that failed to go before the council last year.

The “Comprehensive Statement of Support” resolution passed committee last week and was slated to go before the full council for a vote Wednesday, but Mayor Mike Rawlings delayed the council vote  because he wants to discuss legal implications in executive session before the full council votes on it.

The new measure directs the city manager and city staff to resolve the inequities in city employment for its LGBT employees, as well as help the city be an advocate for state and federal LGBT equality.

In response to the delay by Rawlings, advocates plan to show up in mass at City Hall Wednesday wearing red to address the council and show support in the audience for the resolution.

Advocates have launched a Facebook page called “Dallas LGBT Equality Resolution” to gain support for the measure. It has received 626 likes so far.

LGBT people and allies planning on attending the meeting are encouraged to show up to meet with Councilmen Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston at 8 a.m. on the fifth floor before the 9 a.m. council meeting on the sixth floor. If people cannot attend the meeting, advocates urge supports to contact their councilmember.

Meanwhile, GetEQUAL TX issued travel advisory Tuesday for LGBT people coming to Dallas. The statewide activist organization issued a similar warning in San Antonio during the summer when the discussion around a nondiscrimination ordinance divided the city.

“This alert has been issued based on the fact that Dallas — the 9th largest city in the country — has refused multiple efforts by the community to pass resolutions backing marriage equality, employment nondiscrimination, and most recently a comprehensive statement of support for the LGBT community,” GetEQUAL TX says in a press release.

Read the full travel advisory below.

—  Anna Waugh

Mayor Rawlings blocks LGBT resolution from going to full council — again

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Mayor Mike Rawlings meets with LGBT activists last year during his visit to Lakewood Country Club. Activists were protesting him during his visit for his lack of support of the previous LBGT resolution.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has again interfered to prevent a full City Council vote on a pro-LGBT resolution.

The resolution, passsed Tuesday by the Finance, Budget and Audit Committee, directs the city to examine ways to fix the inequalities in city employment and services. It was slated to go before the full council on Feb. 26, but it’s not listed on the agenda published late Friday.

In a statement released by Rawlings’ spokesman Sam Merten, the mayor, City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and Committee Chair Jerry Allen have agreed to allow the council to discuss legal questions related to the resolution during executive session on Feb. 26. The statement also says that Rawlings has instructed the city manager’s office to place an action item on the Mar. 5 briefing agenda.

“I am enthusiastic about supporting equal rights for our LGBT community,” Rawlings said in the statement. “The resolution approved by the Finance, Budget & Audit Committee has raised legal questions that must be addressed by the City Attorney’s Office. “I am deeply committed to ensuring that a resolution passes to address this important issue, but I want to make sure all legal questions are answered before the City Council proceeds with a vote.”

This isn’t the first time Rawlings has prevented an LGBT resolution from making the agenda. A resolution in support of marriage equality and workplace protections was scheduled to go before the council in June. When former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her signature from a memo, the resolution was pulled from the agenda. Former Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano then tried to add it back to the agenda, but Rawlings had the city attorney declare him present despite him being out of the country on business. Therefore, Medrano wasn’t able to put it on the agenda.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas Councilmen Adam Medrano, Philip Kingston to take NOH8 photos

photoTwo LGBT allies on the Dallas City Council will be among the hundreds of people to participate in the NOH8 Campaign’s Dallas photo shoot this evening.

Adam Medrano, chair for the city’s LGBT Task Force, and Philip Kingston, who both represent parts of Oak Lawn in two of Dallas’ most heavily LGBT districts, will pose in white shirts and duct tape.

Medrano’s spokeswoman Monica Huerta said he decided to take one of the iconic photos “because discrimination in any form is still inequality. Mr. Medrano agrees with the ideals of the N0H8 campaign and proudly supports the LGBT Dallas Community.”

NOH8 Campaign raises money for marriage equality and other LGBT issues like nondiscrimination.

After inquiring if Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to take a NOH8 photo, spokesman Samuel Merten said Rawlings is “out of town on personal business, so he is unable to participate.”

When asked if Rawlings would participate another time if he could, Merten said “I don’t know if he has ever thought about participating.”

Rawlings famously refused to sign a pledge for “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” in 2012 and even interfered in preventing a marriage equality resolution from going before the council because he disagreed with the city discussing the issue. But he has said he personally supports marriage equality.

Dallas City Council is still considering a marriage equality resolution, which is expected to come before the council in coming months, as well as a broader statement of the council’s support for LGBT issues.

The event is 5:30-8:30 p.m. tonight at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration, located at 14115 Hillcrest Road.

—  Anna Waugh

Mayor Rawlings to miss Dallas Pride parade for 1st time in 3 years

Mike Rawlings breaks me off some beads during last year's gay Pride parade.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings throws beads from atop the Dallas Tavern Guild’s float during the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2011. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will miss the gay Pride parade this year for the first time since he took office.

Adam McGough, a spokesman for the mayor, said Rawlings will be in New York City this weekend at a conference of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Rawlings will also be visiting West Point, N.Y., as part of an initiative to bring a football game to Dallas.

McGough said Rawlings’ absence has nothing to do with the controversy involving a marriage equality resolution at City Council in June — which led some in the LGBT community to call for the mayor and certain other council members to be uninvited from the Pride parade.

“He is disappointed to miss it,” McGough said. “This has nothing to do with the controversy. This is just scheduling.”

Rawlings is only the third Dallas mayor to appear in the gay Pride parade, after Laura Miller and Tom Leppert.

Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, said this week that only eight of 15 city council members had RSVP’d to ride on the Tavern Guild’s float in this year’s parade — which marks the 30th anniversary of the event.

That number is lower than in recent years, but Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said she isn’t alarmed.

Fink noted that several council members were newly  elected in June, and the community hasn’t had a chance to build relationships with them. She also said she doesn’t put a lot of stock in RSVPs.

“We have to wait until Pride to see who’s on the float, because that’s really going to be where the proof is,” she said.

Doughman said council members who’ve RSVP’d are Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Rick Callahan, Monica Alonzo, Carolyn Davis, Tennell Atkins, Sheffie Kadane and Philip Kingston.

Only one sitting council member, Vonciel Hill, has publicly refused to appear in the parade because she is anti-LGBT.

—  John Wright

LGBT advocates clash with City Council members over equality resolution

LGBT activists turn their backs and walk out a Dallas City Council meeting Wednesday during remarks from Councilman Dwaine caraway about the equality resolution. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

LGBT activists turn their backs and walk out of a Dallas City Council meeting Wednesday during remarks from Councilman Dwaine Caraway about the equality resolution. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

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Activist Cd Kirven yells at Councilman Dwaine Caraway before leaving the meeting. (Patrick Hoffman/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates expressed their frustration over the lack of support for an equality resolution Wednesday morning at a Dallas City Council meeting.

Mayor Mike Rawlings was absent during the meeting, though he was not considered absent while in South America last week, preventing Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano from using her power as acting mayor to place the equality resolution on the agenda.

The resolution supporting marriage equality and statewide LGBT-inclusive workplace protections, authored by Councilman Scott Griggs, was slated to be voted on Wednesday but never made the agenda after Councilmember Delia Jasso surprisingly withdrew her signature from a memo last month to require a vote. Jasso remained silent during the meeting. During the accusations from council members that the method of bringing the measure forward was misguided, Griggs also remained silent.

Tensions ran high after speakers addressed the council, resulting in several audience members walking out, turning their backs on Councilman Dwaine Caraway and even shouting at council members during the meeting.

Lesbian activist Cd Kirven said she expected more from council members and that they should support civil rights.

“You, as a municipal representative, should always represent those ideals and are a critical part of freedom’s foundation,” Kirven told council members. “Again the LGBT community is disappointed by officials who claim to be allies.”

—  Anna Waugh

Thanks for the wake-up call, Mike

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CBS 11 aired this story last night about what we first reported Saturday — Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano’s last-ditch effort to get an LGBT equality resolution on the June 12 City Council agenda.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Mayor Mike Rawlings is vehemently opposed to the council considering the resolution, and he apparently convinced City Attorney Tom Perkins to take the position that the mayor is not absent — and therefore Medrano is not acting mayor — even though Rawlings is in South America.

Now I’m no attorney, but does this not seem like a pretty awful legal opinion? If Rawlings is not absent when he’s on another continent, where does he have to go to be absent? Antarctica? Mars? Though these may sound like good places for Rawlings, one has to wonder what the point is of even having a mayor pro tem or deputy pro tem, if they’re never going to be needed.

Anyhow, as we reported yesterday, LGBT advocates are planning to converge on Wednesday’s council meeting to express their disapproval of the council’s failure to take up the resolution. But personally, I think we should also take the opportunity to thank Rawlings.

We should thank him for giving us a wake-up call about the lack of support for the LGBT community at City Hall, and more importantly, we should thank him for galvanizing us around this issue — and mobilizing us to action. Although this is only a city resolution, we have much bigger fights ahead.

Let’s face it, the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t going to hand us nationwide marriage equality later this month, and the justices certainly aren’t going to hand us employment protections. The reality is, we’re going to have to continue to fight for equality city by city and state by state, so why not draw a line in the sand right here and right now in Texas?

After all, if we can’t prevail against a patsy like Rawlings in what amounts to a scrimmage, how are we going to go up against the state Legislature for the real thing?

Watch Channel 11′s report below.

—  John Wright

City secretary, mayor’s office defend not adding equality resolution to agenda

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LGBT advocates plan to address council Wednesday

 

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

Dallas City Secretary Rosa Rios claims scheduling — and not necessarily opposition from Mayor Mike Rawlings — was the main reason an LGBT equality resolution didn’t make it onto this week’s City Council agenda.

As we reported Saturday, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano — who was acting mayor because Rawlings is overseas — sent Rios a request to place the resolution on the agenda at 3:43 p.m. Friday.

Rios said Medrano’s request didn’t provide enough time to add it to the agenda, which was published later that evening. Even though items can be submitted up to 72 hours before the the 9 a.m. June 12 meeting, Rios said the deadline is usually a week before so there’s time for the planning process.

“There wasn’t sufficient time to be able to coordinate getting it on there,” she said. “The primary reasoning was the scheduling.”

Rios forwarded the request to Rawlings and City Manager Mary Suhm because it came from a council member. When asked why she didn’t honor the request since Rawlings was out of the country and Medrano was acting mayor, Rios said Medrano would only be acting mayor if Rawlings was unable to perform his duties.

“But the mayor was available. He could be consulted by phone, etc. And I know they’ve been doing that throughout the week,” Rios said.

Following procedure, Rios said Suhm and Rawlings would have discussed the request.

Suhm didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

Medrano said the reason the resolution wasn’t on the agenda was because the city attorney’s office had determined that Rawlings was still able to be reached while on official city business in Brazil. Therefore, she didn’t have the authority as acting mayor to place it on the agenda.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, told us last week that she was not aware of any conversations Rawlings had about Medrano’s effort to place the resolution on the agenda. Blackmon said Monday that she didn’t know if Rawlings and Suhm had spoken.

“I do not have any knowledge of Mayor and Mary Suhm speaking on Friday,” Blackmon wrote in an email. “However the City Attorney has determined that the Mayor Pro Tem does not have ALL of the powers of the mayor just because he is not present in the city. Currently, the mayor is in Brazil acting and serving the capacity of the Mayor Dallas and having two mayors of the City of Dallas is not possible.”

Rawlings has called the resolution a “misuse” of the council’s time and refused to place it on the agenda since Councilwoman Delia Jasso removed her signature from a memo that would have required him to do so. Medrano’s request was a last-ditch effort by supporters to get the resolution on the agenda before a new council is sworn in later this month, and before the Supreme Court rules in two marriage-equality cases.

After a rally downtown this past Saturday, LGBT advocates reportedly plan to address the City Council on Wednesday about the resolution during public comments.

“I need your assistance sending a message to Dallas City Hall that our lives ARE important,” Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox said on Facebook earlier today. “I will be among several speakers Wednesday morning, June 12, to address the Dallas City Council about the recent debacle over LGBT equality resolutions. If you are able to attend, the meeting starts at 9 a.m. at City Hall, and wear red as a show of unity. We need to PACK THE CHAMBERS in red–please share this with your friends.”

Those who want to address the council about the LGBT resolution not making the agenda can do so by registering to speak with the city secretary at 214-670-3738 by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

—  Anna Waugh

Hundreds march in support of Dallas equality resolution (photos, video)

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GetEQUAL TX and Hope for Peace and Justice rallied at City Hall on Saturday to demand an equality resolution be placed on the Dallas City Council’s agenda. Love is Stronger was the theme for the protest.

More than 100 people gathered at 6 p.m. on City Hall Plaza. Several people, including straight allies, spoke before the group marched across Downtown to Razzle Dazzle Dallas, which took place at Main Street Garden and opened at 7 p.m.

Before leaving City Hall Plaza, GetEQUAL TX regional coordinator Daniel Cates drew a line with chalk on the ground and compared it to William Travis drawing a line in the sand at the Alamo.

Cates said Mayor Mike Rawlings had gone too far in calling the equality resolution a waste of time and asked everyone to cross the line with him.

The march headed from City Hall west to Griffin Street, then north to Main Street, before traveling the final four blocks to Main Street Garden.

Along the route, people in cars honked and waved. People in restaurants ran out to take pictures and some along the route joined the march.

No protesters or detractors made themselves known along the route. One group of 10 street preachers reading from the Bible on Main at Akard Street stood silently as the procession passed.

Inside the park, the rally continued on the main stage. Several speakers, including Midway Hills Christian Church Senior minister the Rev. Arthur Stewart and Congregation Beth El Binah Rabbi Steve Fisch, addressed the crowd.

More photos and video below.

—  David Taffet