Council passes comprehensive resolution, ending more than a year’s work and beginning the process for full city equality
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)
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.
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.”
A small crowd gathered at the Legacy of Love monument on Wednesday to celebrate a federal judge’s ruling that declared Texas’ ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The quickly organized gathering, energized by activist Cd Kirven, listened to short speeches by LGBT leaders that included Resource Center’s Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink.
“I own my equality, and you need to own it, too,” Fink said. “A few people can’t carry it for everybody. When we show up in numbers, we are unstoppable.”
Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction earlier in the day after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. He said the couples are likely to win their case, and the ban should be lifted, but said he would give the state time to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”
Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL and organizer of tonight’s rally on Cedar Springs in Dallas, said the focus of the event has changed but he still wants to call on other elected officials to support equality.
“Obviously we want to celebrate the president joining the conversation,” Cates said. “That is wonderful, so we will celebrate that, but we will continue to call on the Democratic National Committee to follow suit and go ahead and endorse marriage equality and full federal equality. And we will also continue to call on our president to sign that executive order and to push for employment protections.”
On the Facebook page for the rally, GetEQUAL TX wrote, “While we have every reason to protest tonight, we now also have a reason to celebrate! Tonight we will make a clear call for elected leaders from Mayor Mike Rawlings to Members of Congress to the DNC to follow the President’s example and stand up for what they know is right!”
The group added that crews from several local TV stations will be on hand for the rally, which begins at 7 p.m. at the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.
LGBT advocates who attended today's council meeting gather in the Flag Room afterward. They are, from left, Daniel Cates, Patti Fink, Dennis Coleman, Cece Cox, Omar Narvaez and Rafael McDonnell. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)
It’s becoming clear that Dallas’ LGBT community doesn’t plan to let Mayor Mike Rawlings off the hook over his refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.
Five LGBT advocates spoke during public comments at the start of today’s regular City Council meeting, calling on Rawlings to sign the pledge — and asking the City Council to formally back pro-equality state and federal legislation.
“I’m here to ask Mayor Rawlings to do something, and I’m here to ask you as council people to support him in signing the pledge for marriage equality,” said Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, the first of the speakers. ”This is a matter of standing for justice. Pure and simple, that’s what it’s about. ”
Cox noted that Rawlings has argued that marriage equality doesn’t fall within the mayor’s duties.
“When one stands up for justice, it requires courage,” Cox said. “It requires going outside the regular rules and the regular lines, and that’s what I’m here to ask for today.”
Are you tired of hearing about Leisha Hailey yet? Too bad.
The CW 33 aired a piece last night about the saga involving The L Word star’s removal from a Southwest Airlines flight, and the station spoke to two prominent members of the local LGBT community: Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink and attorney Peter Schulte.
Fink appears to be leaning toward Hailey’s corner, while Schulte is taking a measured legal approach. I wonder how he’d feel if Hailey and her girlfriend had just been trying to get a gay divorce?
Here’s an excerpt from The CW’s story, which you can watch below:
“I don’t think it could have been excessive. And if in fact it was excessive, I’d like to see straight people thrown off the plane for the same reason,” Fink said.
Southwest says it wasn’t the kissing. The airline claims the couple started cursing loudly after the flight attendant spoke to them and that’s when they were removed.
Attorney Peter Schulte says if this was the case, Southwest acted appropriately.
“There are rules and there are laws that allow the crew who is there for their safety, for the passenger’s safety to take action to try to limit any disruption”, Schulte said.
Hailey has called for a boycott of the airline, but Schulte says she has no legal recourse.
“If there was a race or gender issue those are protected classes, but in this day and age there isn’t any protection because of someone’s sexual orientation”, Schulte said.
Southwest has prided itself as gay friendly and has an outreach program to the gay community.
The gay community is hoping this can be resolved amicably.
“I would hope they would be able to talk it out and come to some sort of conclusion,” Fink said
Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during Monday’s LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall.
About 50 people attended Dallas’ first-ever official LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall on Monday afternoon.
Mayor Mike Rawlings was among six council members who appeared at the event, organized by Councilwoman Delia Jasso and her LGBT task force.
Standing before a Pride flag draped from the wall of the Flag Room on the sixth floor, Rawlings spoke briefly at the start of the reception and drew cheers when he pledged to have “open doors” to the community.
“I met many of you during the campaign,” Rawlings said. “Some of you were supporting me, others were not. But I’ll tell you this: I knew that this was a fabulous community that I wanted to partner with when I became mayor. Thank you for what you have done for this city.”
Prior to the reception, Rawlings told Instant Tea he has no hard feelings about the fact that both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance endorsed his opponents in the election — with DGLA even issuing a rare warning against him.
“Not at all,” Rawlings said. “We must all have a spirit of understanding. I don’t have anything like that [hard feelings].”
Rawlings didn’t specifically mention the LGBT community during his inauguration address at the Meyerson Symphony Center earlier in the day. But at the Pride reception, he told attendees that the community fits with the major themes he outlined in the speech: becoming a city of diversity, opportunity and excellence.
“As far as I’m concerned, you are right on with my plan, and I want to be right on with yours, and so we will continue to talk, and I am just pleased that we are here to honor gay and lesbian Pride Month in the city of Dallas,” Rawlings said.
Even though Dallas has a “weak mayor” form of government where the city manager is the person with actual control over the city’s day-to-day operations, having mayor who supports LGBT equality is still very important for Dallas’ LGBT community, advocates said this week.
Voters go to the polls Saturday, June 18, to decide whether Mike Rawlings or David Kunkle will replace Tom Leppert, who resigned from office earlier this year to run to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. Although Leppert reached out to the LGBT community for votes, pledging his support on LGBT equality issues, when he ran against gay candidate Ed Oakley in 2007, in recent months he appeared to backtrack on those issues as he prepared for his senate campaign.
Oakley, a former City Council member, said this week that having elected officials who understand and embrace the diversity of the city played an integral part in progress the city has made on LGBT issues.
“We wouldn’t have passed [the] nondiscrimination [ordinance including protections for LGBT people] if Laura Miller wasn’t sitting in that [the mayor’s] seat,” he said.
Miller, who had campaigned on adding a nondiscrimination ordinance, put it at the top of her agenda when she came into office.
“The city manager could not have done that,” Oakley said. “The mayor accomplishes what he wants to accomplish.”
Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink agreed.
“Until Laura Miller made it [the nondiscrimination ordinance] a priority and put it on the agenda, it didn’t happen,” she said.
She said that although the city has a strong city manager form of government, the mayor can be an advocate, and he or she is the one that presides over the council that sets policy.
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez said the mayor is the face of the city.
“The mayor makes sure people and city services are being taken care of. He makes sure our civil rights are being protected. His big job is promoting the city,” Narvaez said.
And the city’s LGBT community can play a big role in who wins the seat this year.
In the general election on May 14, turnout in what are considered the top 10 precincts in the LGBT community, mostly in Oak Lawn and North Oak Cliff, was 38 percent, compared to a citywide turnout rate of only 11 percent.
And if early voting totals are any indication, LGBT voters have the chance to play an even bigger role in the runoff outcome. In the May election, 46,109 people voted early in Dallas County.
In the runoff, only 27,962 voted early.
Narvaez said that because voter turnout is traditionally low in runoff elections, the LGBT community could decide the mayor’s race.
“People [in our community] were heavily engaged in this election,” Narvaez said. “I don’t see them suddenly not voting for mayor.”
While DGLA and Stonewall Democrats have both endorsed David Kunkle in the runoff, Mike Rawlings has the support of many members of the LGBT community, including several gay former elected officials.
Both candidates actively sought the endorsement of both DGLA and Stonewall, and both have actively campaigned in the community.
Oakley said that Rawlings’ life experiences are different than some members of the City Council that Oakely served with who did not support LGBT issues.
“He faced our issues in the corporate world,” Oakley said.
He said that Rawlings’ company, Pizza Hut, had nondiscrimination policies in place and embraced diversity.
Fink said Kunkle has a prove, and public, record on LGBT issues.
“Kunkle has a proven record working in the community and being an advocate for us,” she said, noting that as police chief, Kunkle turned the LGBT Dallas police liaison position into a fulltime position and presided over the police department while an officer transitioned without incident and with his support.
“And we worked with him on diversity training,” she said.
Former Dallas City Councilmember Chris Luna said, “The biggest role the mayor plays is cheerleader, spokesperson and figurative head of government.”
He said that when something like the Rainbow Lounge raid in Fort Worth or a raid at a gay bathhouse happens, the mayor’s job is to say, “This is wrong. I’m going to go gather the facts.”
The mayor needs to know when something’s wrong, he said.
“That’s why so many people feel burned by Leppert,” he said.
Luna said that the mayor also appoints the chairs to all boards and commissions, which many council members served on before being elected to office and Rawlings was president of the park board.
The mayor makes committee assignments. When Councilmember Angela Hunt opposed Leppert’s positions, he took away those assignments away.
“The mayor helps distribute the power,” Luna said.
In the race between Kunkle and Rawlings, Luna said, “I have my preference, but from a community standpoint, we can’t lose.”
David Taffet (left to right), Alex Hanselka, Lerone Landis, Patti Fink (front)
Lambda Weekly has broadcast on 89.3 KNON-FM since 1983 and can be heard live Sundays at noon.
The show is one of the station’s original programs and it’s longevity makes it the longest-running LGBT show on the air anywhere. I’ve worked with the show since 1990 and I host along with Patti Fink and Lerone Landis. Alex Hanselka came on board last summer. He has now created a Web site, records the show and uploads them as a podcast. Listeners can also subscribe through iTunes.