They began by chanting, “Sign the pledge, it’s not too late, how long do we have to wait?” An hour later, they ended by singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
About 100 LGBT protesters gathered outside the main entrance of Dallas City Hall on Friday night, to call on Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage. With several TV news cameras rolling, the protesters waved rainbow flags, banged cowbells and held signs with messages like, “We the people. Gays need not apply.”
The protest, organized by GetEQUAL, came more than three years after one of the largest gay-rights demonstrations in Dallas history took place at the same location — in response to California voters’ decision to approve a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2008.
“All we are asking is for Mayor Rawlings to acknowledge our validity, our equality, as human beings,” Meg Hargis of GetEQUAL, who MC’d Friday night’s rally, yelled through a megaphone. “Mayor Rawlings, without actions your words are meaningless. We do not need your smiles. We do not need your words. We need you to act before history remembers you as the coward that you are.”
Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas told the crowd he’s unsure what will happen Saturday when Rawlings is set to meet with about 25 leaders from the LGBT community in a private, invitation-only gathering.
“But I am going to tell you this,” McDonnell said. “We are going to try like hell to get him to change his mind.”
Rawlings agreed to meet with the LGBT leaders in response to outcry over his decision not to sign the pledge, which was unveiled by the group Freedom to Marry during a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. About 100 mayors from across the country have signed the pledge, including six from Texas. Dallas is the largest city in the U.S. whose mayor hasn’t signed. Rawlings has said he supports same-sex marriage but won’t sign the pledge because he doesn’t want to get involved in social issues.
Mark Reed, a national board member for GetEQUAL, kissed and hugged his husband, Dante Walkup, in front of TV cameras before yelling to the crowd: “Mayor Rawlings, this is the love of my life. We deserve to be equal.”
“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” Reed said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The LGBT speakers were at times drowned out by a few anti-gay counterprotesters who stalked nearby in City Hall plaza and yelled through an amplification device. Some LGBT protesters engaged the counterprotesters, with the parties getting in each other’s faces at one point, but there was no violence. One of the counterprotesters who identified himself only as Melvin said he didn’t want to give his full name to avoid getting hate mail. Another counterprotester identified himself to Channel 33 The CW as Will Stanford.
Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, said as the rally wound down that he was pleased with the turnout.
“If he hasn’t gotten the message by now, I don’t know what we could possibly do differently,” Cates said of Rawlings.
“We’re not going to accept compromises,” Cates said, referring to the possibly that Rawlings will offer other concessions to the LGBT community. “We want him to do all those things — and sign the pledge.”
Saturday’s meeting is at 11 a.m. at Resource Center Dallas. Check back for a report Saturday afternoon.
More photos from Friday night’s protest below.