Rawlings won’t budge on marriage pledge

Dallas mayor says decision not to sign document puts him in position to advocate for LGBT equality among religious conservatives

STANDOFF  | A pro-LGBT protester, left, squares off with an anti-gay counterprotester during a “Sign the Pledge” rally organized by GetEQUAL outside Dallas City Hall on Jan. 27. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said this week that he has no plans to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage anytime soon.

But Rawlings added that he believes his decision not to sign the pledge puts him in a position to advocate on behalf of LGBT civil rights among religious conservatives in Dallas.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports legalizing same-sex marriage, has come under fire from the LGBT community for refusing to sign the pledge from the national group Freedom to Marry.

Rawlings has argued that the pledge — which now bears more than 100 signatures from mayors across the country — creates a divisive and partisan social issue that falls outside the mayor’s scope.

“I’m not going to sign it at this point, and part of it is because of the reaction that I’ve gotten throughout the whole community, and I realize whether people appreciate it or not, that I’m in a very interesting position where I can convene a lot of great dialogue because of the position that I’ve taken,” Rawlings told Dallas Voice during an exclusive interview in his office on Tuesday, Jan. 31. “After thinking about it, it’s probably the best thing that I kind of stick by my position here, but also do what I said in that meeting, which is work hard to figure out how I can best help this [the LGBT] community to gain the civil rights they need.”

Rawlings was referring to a meeting last Saturday, Jan. 28, which he attended with about 25 LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas, in response to his refusal to sign the pledge.

The meeting included several longtime local same-sex couples, including Jack Evans and George Harris, and Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong.

Over the nearly two-hour meeting, which was at times heated and emotional, the couples and other LGBT leaders told Rawlings their stories and made their case as to why they feel the mayor should sign the pledge.

Outside the Resource Center following the meeting — which came the morning after about 100 LGBT protesters had gathered at City Hall — Rawlings wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he would change his mind. But 72 hours later, he hadn’t budged.

“I don’t see myself changing in the short-term,” Rawlings said Tuesday. “I think if there was another movement that I could understand what it was going to accomplish better, I might join that entity. It’s not like I’m going to be anti-public on this issue, but I think this pledge itself is something that has allowed me to be a broker of discussions now in the city of Dallas. There’s some silver lining in this cloud.”

MEETING WITH LGBT LEADERS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings greets gay couple Jack Evans, left, and George Harris, who've been together more than 50 years, before Saturday's meeting at Resource Center Dallas. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Rawlings said he’s spoken to as many people who support his position as oppose it. But he acknowledged that when it comes to emails and messages on Facebook and Twitter, the vast majority have been in support of signing the pledge. Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said his office has received thousands of emails in the last two weeks.

“The other night [someone] said, ‘Thank you for not getting caught up in the hype of this thing, but I see you support marriage equality,’” Rawlings said. “And I said, ‘Yes, tell me about your position.’ And I realize there are so many people out there who really support what the LGBT community is trying to accomplish, but they are not interested in getting caught up into a polarizing movement.

“I’m very excited about the ability now to have this conversation,” he added. “I’m tired of talking about the pledge, but I think we’re just at the front end of having a conversation about LGBT civil rights.”

Rawlings has also said he wants to focus on substantive things he can accomplish as mayor to support LGBT civil rights.

But as of Tuesday, he said he hadn’t identified what those things will be. He said he plans to set up another meeting with Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, and others LGBT leaders to discuss specifics.

“There’s no question I’m a little ambivalent about my role now with the LGBT community, because I think that many people feel that I have sold them down the river, and I don’t want for political purposes to act like, ‘Oh, but I love you,’” Rawlings said. “I don’t want it to be disingenuous. I want to earn my respect in that community by putting my actions where my speech is on this.”

Rawlings said he thinks that for religious conservatives, civil marriage is secondary to the sacrament of religious marriage.

He said as mayor he wants to focus on “starting to de-mystify this for the faith-based community, and making sure we separate sacraments from civil rights.”

“If we ever are going to get to a better place, we’ve got to have room for people’s civil rights and personal religious beliefs in the same city,” he said.

“I’m a believer. I understand that tradition. I understand why that’s important. Some great conversations are starting to take place that I didn’t think I could ever have.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Feedback • 12.16.11

An Open Letter to Rick Perry

Dear Gov. Perry,

Your antics since you announced your bid for the Republican presidential nomination have already almost pushed me over the edge. You have long-since made me regret having voted for you the first go-round (before seeing the light). There have been multiple times that I have been embarrassed by you in much the same way that residents of Alaska must have been embarrassed by their then-governor Sarah Palin.

But the video commercial you released last week crossed the line. I am not only embarrassed that you are our state’s top elected official, I am ashamed of — and for — you.

It’s so apparent that you are making a completely unveiled attempt to pander to religious conservatives with this babble about “Obama’s religious war.”

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Yes, there are people across the nation — and unfortunately, many of them here in the South — who will identify with your narrow-minded and hateful ideologies. But you, Mr. Governor, do not represent all Texans and certainly could in no way ever assume a position where you lead on behalf of an entire nation.

Your comments are hateful and full of fear. They are misinformed with respect to the ideals our country were shaped by and founded upon. And they place you absolutely on the wrong side of history — the same whitewashed tomb of people who opposed women’s rights, civil rights for people of all races and rights for the handicapped.

So here is what I say to you, oh woefully out-of-touch public servant to the people of Texas:

I’ve been a Christian my entire life and I believe in essentially the same creator, center of the Universe, life-giver, omniscient, all-loving being you claim to believe in — the very same Essence that millions of human beings believe in across the world. And although I no longer occupy a pew within a specific religious body, I respect your right to do so.

So go ahead on into your house of worship and occupy your pew. Worship the way you want to worship, say what you want to say, follow whatever rules they ascribe, judge those within your body, and exclude whomever you want to exclude. I will not judge you.

I would appreciate it, however, if you would behave in kind and refrain from bringing your hateful judgment to me or to any of my fellow human beings and their families.

Keep it there, inside your religion; it is not welcome in my house, my state, my nation.

Remember, the lines drawn between church and state are there for a reason. Our country was founded on the pursuit of liberty and the desire for religious freedom — not on narrow-minded ideologies that discriminate against a minority. These people did not want to come to the New World to impose their religion on others but rather to worship the God they wanted to worship. Period, end of story.

Though it’s true that many of our founding fathers were chauvinists and slave owners, I believe many of them had a seed of foresight to believe that the statement “all men are created equally” applied (or would apply) to both genders, all races and eventually all sexual orientations.

Our respectable President Barack Obama — who leads in a way you apparently will never be able — did not start a religious war. Prayer in school has been an issue of contention since I was a child. And gays serving in the military have nothing to do with an attack on your religion.

What a foolish comparison; high school students come up with more reasonable — and creative — theses than that.

“Gays in the military” no more impedes your right to worship than women being allowed to vote or allowing a black man to drink from the same water fountain as someone of your race did. Yet religious people somehow once supported such absurd and un-Godly beliefs as those, too.

People who dare breathe such views today are frowned upon, eschewed and pitied. At least generally, they have the sense to keep those thoughts to themselves.

You, sir, are not the only one who wears the name “Christian.” I know many such people who are heterosexual and accept their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. And I know many homosexual Christians who sit in pews and worship Jehovah and obey the two greatest commandments: loving God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength and loving their neighbors as they love themselves.

(You would be a wise student to note that it does not say “love only your heterosexual neighbors.” Are you, Mr. Perry, doing that?)

It seems to me that every time you open your mouth and say something hateful, you diminish the very witness of the Christ you claim to follow. Your unkind words belie any love that your namesake should evoke.
We don’t need you to save us, nor do we need your judgments or your pronouncement of some ridiculous war made up to get yourself attention within a small group of narrow-minded, religious people like yourself. We are not trying to destroy your religion or asking for admission into your religious sects; further, we are not asking your leaders to perform our marriages.

We demand, however, that you respect us and our families. The United States of America is not just the home of Republican, Christian heterosexuals; it is our home too and at home, we are created equally — every last one of us.

Please, sir, do not attempt to force your religious beliefs on my humanity. As a homosexual, I am no less deserving of rights than any heterosexual. You are my governor, not my judge.

Fear-mongering public servants like you will become relics that students of government and politics will study as examples of narrow-mindedness and shameful behavior. When they study the great women and men of politics, you will be absent from among them; I rather think you will be in the category of those rued and pitied — George Wallace will keep you company there.

Rick Perry, you should be ashamed of your ridiculous video. You should immediately apologize and reconsider whether running for the office of president of the United States is something you’re cut out for.
By your words and your actions — embarrassing gaffes and soundbites nothwithstanding — you continue to prove you are not the man for the job.

Respectfully,
Todd Whitley, Granbury

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

GOP frontrunner Rick Perry tries to assure social conservatives that the gay rumors aren’t true

Gov. Rick Perry

In an apparent reference to longstanding rumors that he’s gay, Texas Gov. Rick Perry assured a group of influential social conservatives over the weekend that “there is nothing in my life that will embarrass you if you decide to support me for president,” according to this report from the Texas Tribune.

Perry spoke during a private gathering in Texas’ Hill Country attended by hundreds of social conservatives including several prominent anti-gay bigots, such as Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. The gathering was organized by David Barton, the WallBuilders founder and so-called “Christian historian” who recently suggested that four Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of same-sex marriage in New York should be scalped.

According to the Tribune, those in attendance asked Perry about a range of hot-button social issues, including abortion, immigration, gay marriage and hate crimes. Perry’s wife, Anita, was even asked whether she shares her husband’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage, to which she replied that she does. From The Tribune:

While job creation is the chief campaign message, winning evangelical voters is a major part of Perry’s nomination strategy. Polls show they make up some 40 percent of the electorate in some states, and social conservatives are expected to play a huge role in the outcome of the race in first-test Iowa, where Perry is giving native daughter Michele Bachmann a run for her money. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained minister, won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

Research published last weekend by the Palm Beach Post shows that “white, born again evangelicals” also make up more than a third of the vote in the GOP electorate in Florida, a key state that is expected to draw a lot of attention from Perry.

Perkins, the Family Research Council president, said religious conservatives will increasingly become comfortable with the Texas governor once they get to know him and examine his record in detail.

“I think he has the answers that are satisfactory when those issues are brought up,” Perkins said. “I think he is addressing them with the leaders in that community and as that information disseminates, I think he will be fine.”

—  John Wright

God doesn’t answer prayers of religious leaders who fought SA production of ‘Corpus Christi’

After unsuccessful efforts by religious conservatives to have it canceled, Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi opens tonight at the San Pedro Playhouse in San Antonio, the Express-News reports:

As it has across the country, the play has sparked some discord. Interfaith leaders met with Playhouse staff and asked that it be canceled. After their request was denied, they held a news conference last month denouncing the show and its portrayal of Christ.

[Greg] Hinojosa agreed to direct it, he said, because he was moved by the play’s message.

“For so long, gay people have been denied being able to sit at the table of spirituality,” he said. “Terrence McNally is very clear with his Jesus/Joshua character. His message is of love and acceptance and the divinity in all of us.”

Hinojosa has struck up a correspondence with McNally as a result of his work on the play. McNally has sent him several encouraging emails, noting that the play has prompted heated responses since its premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1998. At that production, patrons had to walk through metal detectors.

The San Pedro Playhouse will have additional security throughout the show’s run, its first in San Antonio, to ensure the safety of audience members and of the cast and crew, said Frank Latson, artistic director of the playhouse.

QSanAntonio has more on the correspondence between McNally and the play’s director, including the full text of an email from McNally to Hinojosa:

“It’s hard to work under such intense scrutiny,” McNally wrote. “I don’t envy you the pressure you’re under. I hope you and your cast stay safe and calm and creative and JOYFUL and that your voices are heard. I wish I could be with you in person but I am truly swamped with work in NYC.

“Let me know how I can be helpful from afar.

“Tell the cast how grateful I am to them. I won’t pretend the next weeks are going to be easy but I am confident they will be rewarding.”

—  John Wright

ACLU executive director to speak on BOE’s highjacking of public school curricula

Back in May, we published this story about the new social studies curriculum approved by the Texas State Board of Education that, according to activists, completely ignored the Lone Star State’s LGBT community and the contributions that community has made to the state over the years.

Randall Terrell, political director for Equality Texas, had attended a public hearing on the changes, and he said the SBOE, weighted with religious conservatives, was using the curricula to impose the religious beliefs of some board members on the state’s public schools. He said: “They want this to be a theocracy, based on religious law, but with their own personal version of religion. And it’s incredibly narrow. There’s nothing in this about being for the benefit of the kids. It’s all definitely to perpetuate their world view, their religious views.”

And some of those revisions, Terrell added, were just “bat-shit crazy.”

The LGBTs weren’t the only ones condemning the curricula changes. Folks with the Texas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union had some pretty strong words to say about it, too — and they still do.

Texas ACLU Executive Director Terri Burke will be in Dallas on Wednesday, Sept. 15, to talk about “the State Board of Education’s recent abuse of its authority, including the efforts of some members to insert personal ideology into curriculum content. She will also discuss issues of importance to voters in the upcoming State Board elections in November,” according to an ACLU press release sent out today.

Burke’s speech, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session, begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff, 3839 W. Kiest Blvd. The meeting is open to the public, and admission is free.

—  admin