Council passes comprehensive resolution, ending more than a year’s work and beginning the process for full city equality
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.
“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.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 7, 2014.