With friends like Mike, who needs enemies?

As Rawlings continues to dig in his heels on marriage pledge, Prop 8 ruling serves as reminder of the impact one mayor can have

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NOT GOING AWAY | LGBT protesters gathered outiside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27 to call on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. This week LGBT advocates went inside City Hall, with five people speaking during public comments at the council's regular meeting. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

 

With all the jubilation this week surrounding the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Proposition 8, I couldn’t help but take a look back at how far things have progressed in California.

Given recent events in Dallas, my thoughts tend to settle on a moment four years before Prop 8 made its way to the ballot. I think of the moment the marriage battle in California began to make national headlines.

It was 2004 when a mayor, realizing that tens of thousands of his citizens were officially discriminated against under California law, ordered the San Francisco County Clerk’s Office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

While Mayor Gavin Newsom had no means to directly influence the law and while these marriages were eventually annulled by the state, his bold action created the environment necessary for real dialogue about equality.

What’s more, it taught our community the difference between elected leaders saying they support us and showing us their support.

Perhaps that is why Dallas’ Mike Rawlings’ refusal to join the mayors of almost every major U.S. city in signing a pledge in support of marriage equality, despite claiming to personally support it, continues to go over like a fart in a space suit.

If Rawlings were a Rick “Frothy Mix” Santorum or of similar ilk, his not signing the pledge would come as no surprise and we would have long since moved on.

But, this is a man who is supposed to be our friend. This is a man who campaigned hard for the Dallas LGBT vote. This is a man who has hosted a Pride reception at City Hall and tossed beads like an overgrown flower girl at last year’s Pride parade. For a man who claims to be so focused on making Dallas a “world class city,” signing the pledge just seems like a no-brainer.

Even more puzzling has been the way Rawlings has continued to defend his position — at first explaining that civil rights were a “partisan issue” that didn’t matter to the “lion’s share” of Dallas citizens, until that backfired magnificently, and now claiming that maintaining a position of neutrality has transformed him into some kind of weird ambassador for the queer community to the conservative religious communities of Dallas.

Apparently no one ever told Mayor Rawlings that when it comes to issues of civil rights, there is no such thing as a neutral position. To quote the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you remain neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

This is where our true frustration is coming from. Mayor Rawlings claims to understand marriage as a civil rights issue. He claims to understand that our community is discriminated against in thousands of state and federal laws, creating economic, educational, familial and health hardships for thousands of people in his city. Yet he chooses a position that serves only to validate those who would strip us of our humanity.

Perhaps he could have gotten away with this a few years ago, but in today’s world the majority of Americans now support equality and the LGBT community is no longer satisfied with neutrality, compromises or indefinite waiting. We are seeing evidence of this at every level of government, from City Hall to the White House where President Barack Obama stands to lose a significant percentage of the LGBT vote amid his prolonged “evolution” on marriage equality.

We understand that there is still much work to be done before full recognition of our equality becomes a reality. We know it will take time, resources and leadership to get us there. We don’t need our mayor to be as controversial as Gavin Newsom, but there is a way he can take a simple and powerful stand starting today.

It won’t cost the taxpayers a single penny. It won’t disrupt the business of the city for even a moment. It won’t even force people to change what they believe. It will, however, send a message to our state Legislature and to Congress that the people who live and work in Dallas, Texas, deserve equal treatment under the law.

It will tell 17,440 children in the state of Texas that their mommies and daddies are the same as the mommies and daddies of their peers. It will tell more than 14,000 individuals in our city who live in committed loving relationships that they will grow old with their partners in a city that respects them and values their contributions.

All our mayor has to do is pick up a pen and sign the pledge.

Daniel Cates is North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

LGBT advocates take their fight to have mayor sign marriage pledge to the Dallas City Council

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.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Dallas County adds trans protections

LGBT advocates who attended Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting gather on the steps of the administration building after the vote.

After listening to more than 30 minutes of public comments in favor of the proposal, the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday to add transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy.

About a dozen people from the LGBT community addressed the Commissioners Court prior to the vote, which came five weeks after the court voted unanimously to add sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 workers. Despite rumors over the last few days, no one spoke against the proposal.

Commissioner John Wiley Price provided the third and decisive vote in favor of transgender protections, joining fellow Democrats County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia. Republican Commissioners Maurine Dickey and Mike Cantrell voted against the transgender protections. (Watch video of the court’s discussion below.)

LGBT advocates who attended Tuesday’s meeting erupted in applause after the dramatic vote, and they gathered on the steps of the county administration building for an impromptu celebration moments later.

“The community’s participation is what made this happen — the letters, the phone calls, the people who showed up here,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who coordinated the community’s advocacy on the issue. “The fact that this was done in five weeks is what really surprises me. Five weeks is the blink of an eye in government time.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Chick-fil-A downplays anti-gay sponsorship; Gates on DADT repeal; Lady Gaga

1. Chick-fil-A is attempting to downplay its sponsorship of two upcoming events hosted by the anti-gay Pennsylvania Family Institute, releasing a statement Thursday on Facebook saying a “local operator” had simply agreed to provide greasy-ass food. In the meantime, however, LGBT blogs have uncovered several additional connections between the company and anti-gay groups. Fool me once …

2. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Pentagon is moving fast to end “don’t ask don’t tell,” with military leaders expected to begin training troops on the change “in a very few weeks.” The troop training is part of a three-step process outlined by Gates on Wednesday in his first public comments about DADT since President Barack Obama signed the bill repealing the policy.

3. Lady Gaga unveils Polaroid sunglasses that take photos, video (video above).

—  John Wright

Why doesn’t DISD’s proposed new anti-bullying policy specifically protect LGBT students?

Edwin Flores

Via Unfair Park, we noticed that the Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees is considering a new anti-bullying policy.

Which makes sense in light of all the recent bullying-related suicides across the country. DISD Trustee Edwin Flores tells Unfair Park that the district needs to make its policies more specific and comprehensive. What doesn’t make sense, though, is the fact that nowhere in the proposed policy does DISD spell out the types of bullying that will be prohibited, such as bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, and bullying based on gender identity and/or expression. In short, the proposed new policy, as written, DOES NOT specifically protect LGBT students.

If trustees truly want to be more specific and comprehensive — rather than just trying to score a few political points — they need to spell out what types of bullying will be prohibited. After all, it’s legal to fire someone for being in gay in Texas precisely because sexual orientation isn’t included in state employment law. Likewise, the absence of sexual orientation from DISD’s anti-bullying policy could be construed to mean that it’s OK to bully someone for being gay.

DISD has a nondiscrimination policy, passed in the 1990s, that includes sexual orientation BUT NOT gender identity, which explains why the district can so openly discriminate against a transgender girl who wants to run for homecoming queen. The nondiscrimination policy passed in the 1990s is non-inclusive of transgender people, and Andy Moreno is in some ways paying for it today.

The LGBT community shouldn’t allow DISD to put yet another non-inclusive policy on the books. How many more gay teen suicides will it take before the district addresses the real causes?

Trustees are set to discuss the proposed policy during their regular meeting, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 14 in the board room at 3700 Ross Ave. in Dallas. There will be an opportunity for public comments at the start of the meeting. Also, contact info for DISD trustees is available here.

—  John Wright