Dallas City Council approves resolution

Photos by Steve Ramos

—  Steve Ramos

A ‘landmark day for the city of Dallas’

Council passes comprehensive resolution, ending more than a year’s work and beginning the process for full city equality

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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)

 

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

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.

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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.”

Click here to read the resolution and here for more photos.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 7, 2014.

—  Anna Waugh

Dallas councilmembers call for equal treatment for gays in policies, services

Openly gay city of Dallas employees Theresa O'Donnell and John Rogers addressed the committee Monday about the benefits of marriage equality. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Openly gay city of Dallas employees Theresa O’Donnell and John Rogers addressed the committee Monday about the benefits of marriage equality. (Steve Ramos/Dallas Voice)

Several Dallas councilmembers called for a list of internal issues to be addressed where LGBT city employees are not treated equality compared to their heterosexual co-workers.

The request came Monday after two presentations before the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, one on the financial benefits of marriage equality and one on the city’s 2002 nondiscrimination ordinance.

Theresa O’Donnell, interim assistant city manager, touched on many of the 1,138 rights same-sex coupes are denied without marriage, including health, tax, estate planning and death benefits.

Some of those benefits, like military and veteran benefits, are granted to legally married same-sex couples regardless of where they live, including Texas, which has a constitutional marriage amendment. Others, like Social Security, are limited to the state where the couple lives.

Councilman Jerry Allen, who chairs the committee, asked how the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriage complicated the issue by state.

John Rogers, assistant city attorney, said it complicates the matter greatly because for couples in different states “it’s going to be very, very confusing about what benefits and rights they can or can’t get” as the agencies over federal laws define what their policy will be.

“Marriage is a commitment but it’s a contract. It’s a commitment entering into a contract,” Allen said. “If you live in Texas, you don’t have the same rights that you would if you lived in Hawaii.”

—  Anna Waugh

LGBT Task Force skeptical of open meetings, unlikely to be led by Griggs

Pam Gerber, left, goes over the city’s HRC Municipal Equality Index score with members during the LGBT Task Force meeting in May. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Pam Gerber, left, goes over the city’s HRC Municipal Equality Index score with members during the LGBT Task Force meeting in May. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Members of former Councilwoman Delia Jasso’s LGBT Task Force hope to find her replacement by August.

Jasso has chaired the Task Force since its creation in 2009. Its members have helped implement sensitivity training at for Dallas police and firefighters and began having city Pride events last June. Jasso lost her District 1 seat to Councilman Scott Griggs in May after redistricting placed them in the same district.

Several members met Tuesday night to discuss the process for selecting a sponsor and maybe a co-sponsor. The Task Force will email all council members a questionnaire about what they feel is the force’s role and what they envision as their role working with the group.

Those interested will then undergo private interviews before a new sponsor is selected. Council members return from summer break Aug. 7, so the Task Force anticipates selecting a new sponsor by mid- to late August. City staff won’t participate in finding Jasso’s replacement because it’s a conflict of interest. Several city employees, including the fire and police LGBT liaisons, often attend the meetings.

There was uncertainty about having one sponsor or co-sponsors, so members agreed to be open to the idea and see how the questionnaires and interviews go. When asked if Dallas Voice could attend the interviews, members said it would be better to have them be private so council members could be honest and frank. Discussion then arose about how the Voice began attending Task Force meetings. Jasso was asked if the Voice could attend last year and she agreed to open the meetings up to the press since this February.

Members then seemed uncomfortable that the Voice was present as press and not as a member of the group. They said when the group began that they didn’t want media present because Jasso and City Manager Mary Suhm would help change things in City Hall quietly and attention to that would have received negative attention from City Council. Members said it would fall to new leadership whether the paper would be invited to future meetings.

Members discussed the three council members who have expressed interest in taking over the Task Force: Griggs, Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: Dallas mayor says he’s not absent even though he’s in Brazil, blocks LGBT equality resolution

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Mayor Mike Rawlings

Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, an LGBT ally who is acting mayor because Mike Rawlings is traveling overseas, sent a request to the city secretary Friday afternoon to place an LGBT equality resolution on the council’s June 12 agenda.

As you can see from the memo below, the city secretary then forwarded Medrano’s request to Rawlings and City Manager Mary Suhm. However, the LGBT equality resolution doesn’t appear on the June 12 agenda that was posted to the city’s website later Friday, apparently because Rawlings — who opposes the resolution — has convinced the city attorney to take the position that Medrano doesn’t have the authority to place it on the agenda.

Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Rawlings, said early Saturday that questions about why the resolution doesn’t appear on the agenda should be directed to the city manager and the city secretary.

“They manage the agenda,” Blackmon said.

Pressed about whether she had any knowledge of what transpired Friday afternoon, Blackmon gave an identical response.

Agenda items must be posted 72 hours before the 9 a.m. Wednesday council meeting, which means the effective deadline is normally 5 p.m. Friday because the city secretary’s office is closed on weekends. However, the resolution could still theoretically be added to the agenda Saturday.

What this boils down to is a complicated legal question. Only the mayor and city manager can place items on the agenda. However, the mayor pro tem assumes the mayor’s duties if he’s absent.

According to Chapter 3, Section 11 of the city charter, “The city council shall elect one of its members as mayor pro tem, who shall perform the duties of mayor in the case of the absence or inability of the mayor to perform the duties of office, who shall, during that time, be vested with all the powers belonging to the mayor. The council shall also elect one of its members as deputy mayor pro tem to act in the absence of both the mayor and the mayor pro tem and to exercise the powers of the mayor during that time. (Amend. of 11-8-05, Prop. No. 13)”

Rawlings is apparently taking the position that even though he is in Brazil, he is not absent. The city charter does not define “absence.” It’s sad that Rawlings is going to these lengths to avoid having to vote on the LGBT equality resolution, and this maneuver should only add fuel to the fire beneath tonight’s march and rally at City Hall.

Medrano couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

More to come …

Memo

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Rawlings won’t put marriage equality resolution on council agenda

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Mayor Mike Rawlings

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has opted not to place a resolution in support of LGBT equality on the City Council agenda, according to his chief of staff, Paula Blackmon.

On Tuesday, Councilwoman Delia Jasso withdrew her previous support for the resolution, meaning it no longer has the five signatures necessary to force the mayor to place it on the agenda under the city charter.

Rawlings came out Tuesday morning in support of the concept of the resolution and said he would vote for it. However, after Jasso pulled her support, Blackmon said Wednesday morning that the mayor continues to believe that the resolution is a “misuse” of the council’s time.

“He believes as he has stated that it’s a misuse of council time, and doesn’t feel that it needs to be considered at this time,” Blackmon said. “He doesn’t feel that he should be putting it on the agenda, even though he supports it. He supports the concept, marriage equality.  However, it coming through the council as a resolution, he just doesn’t feel that’s an appropriate thing for this particular government body to consider.”

LGBT activist Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL TX called Rawlings’ decision not to put the resolution on the agenda even though he says he supports it “a bunch of bullshit.”

“Most of the community is pretty pissed at most of City Hall right now,” Cates said. “I’m very disappointed in city leadership at this time, and GetEQUAL TX is looking forward to expressing the outrage of this community in the coming days.”

—  John Wright

Flip-flopper Delia Jasso withdraws support for marriage equality resolution

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Councilwoman Delia Jasso

Lame-duck Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso, defeated in the May 11 election, has abruptly withdrawn her support for an LGBT equality resolution, meaning Mayor Mike Rawlings is no longer required to place the resolution on the council agenda.

According to an email from the city secretary to council members on Tuesday, Jasso has pulled her signature from a memo in support of the equality resolution that she signed in April. Jasso was one of five council members who signed the memo, the required number to force Rawlings to place the resolution on the agenda under the city charter.

When she signed the memo, Jasso was running against fellow incumbent Scott Griggs, who authored the resolution, in District 1. Griggs handiy defeated Jasso May 11 after they were both placed in the same district when council maps were redrawn in 2011.

In response to Jasso’s decision to pull her signature from the memo, Griggs noted that Rawlings publicly came out in support of the resolution for the first time only hours before — in today’s Dallas Morning News. Griggs said he’s hoping that even though he’s not required to and once called the resolution a “misuse” of the council’s time, Rawlings will still place it on the agenda.

Griggs has said he has the eight votes needed to pass the resolution — but the current council leaves office at the end of June. Before Jasso pulled her signature, the resolution was scheduled for a vote June 12.

“I’d still like it to move forward, and I think we’ve got the votes, and I’m enthusiastic about the mayor’s support,” Griggs said. “I think it would send a great message.”

Rawlings chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said Wednesday morning that the mayor does not plan to place the resolution on the agenda.

—  John Wright

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says he’ll vote yes on marriage equality resolution

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Mike Rawlings

Even though he believes it’s a “misuse” of the council’s time, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to vote in favor of a resolution supporting marriage equality and LGBT employment protections, according to Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports marriage equality, sparked outrage in the LGBT community when he declined to sign a pledge from Mayors for the Freedom to Marry in January 2012.

Since Councilman Scott Griggs announced his pro-LGBT resolution in December 2012, Rawlings has repeatedly declined to say how he would vote on the issue.

Earlier this month, when Griggs placed the resolution on the agenda and said he had the votes needed to pass it even without the mayor’s support, Rawlings again drew the ire of the LGBT community by stating that he thought the resolution was a “misuse” of the council’s time — but he still refused to say how he would vote. The resolution is now on the council’s agenda for June 12.

Rawlings told The DMN’s Floyd he still doesn’t believe marriage equality is a city issue — and he still doesn’t plan to sign the pledge, which he’s now calling “a Grover Norquist thing.” (WTF?)

It’s also interesting that Rawlings shared his decision with the Morning News and not the Voice, which has been asking his office about the issue for six months. Bitter much, Mike?

That’s OK, we’ll still take your vote, but don’t think for a second this gets you off the hook for your lack of support for the LGBT community over the last two years. If Rawlings plans to run for re-election in 2015 and expects to win the LGBT vote, he’s got a long way to go.

—  John Wright

Rawlings sets LGBT equality resolution for June 12 but won’t say how he’ll vote

Daniel Cates says Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, confirmed today that Rawlings plans to place an LGBT equality resolution on the City Council agenda on June 12 — which just so happens to be right in the middle of National LGBT Pride Month.

As we reported last week, Rawlings is required to place the resolution on the agenda on or before June 12. He has chosen the latest possible date. The resolution would express the council’s support for marriage equality and LGBT employment protections.

Rawlings, who claims he personally supports marriage equality, made national news when he said he believes the resolution is a “misuse” of the council’s time because the city doesn’t have jurisdiction over marriage. Rawlings also said last week he hadn’t made up him mind how he’ll vote on the resolution.

Councilman Scott Griggs, author of the resolution, counters that it won’t take much time at all and would send a powerful message to officials in Austin and Washington, D.C. — not to mention Dallas’ LGBT residents.

Blackmon said today that Rawlings will wait until after Municipal Elections on Saturday before commenting further on the resolution.

Griggs says he has the eight votes needed to pass the resolution — with or without Rawlings’ support.

Those who’ve indicated they’ll vote for the resolution are Griggs, Delia Jasso, Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano, Monica Alonzo, Jerry Allen, Dwaine Caraway and
Sandy Greyson.

Those who haven’t publicly said how they’ll vote are Rawlings, Sheffie Kadane, Ann Margolin, Linda Koop, Tennell Atkins, Carolyn Davis and Vonciel Hill.

To email council members, go here. For phone listings, go here. To find out which district you live in, go here.

—  John Wright

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings suggests LGBT civil rights are a waste of time

Mayor Mike Rawlings speaks during an LGBT Pride Month Reception at City Hall in June 2011.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings told The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday that he thinks a proposed City Council resolution backing marriage equality and LGBT employment protections is “a misuse of City Council time.”

As we reported Tuesday, Councilman Scott Griggs, who authored the resolution, says he believes it has the eight votes needed to pass. Griggs filed the resolution last Friday, and Rawlings now has until June 12 to place it on the council agenda.

Later Tuesday, Rawlings’ chief of staff told the Morning News that the mayor hadn’t read the resolution, even though he received a copy of it three weeks ago. Then, on Wednesday, Rawlings told The DMN’s Rudy Bush that while he personally supports marriage equality, he doesn’t think the council should debate political issues over which it has no power:

“I don’t want to be talking about late-term abortions, or gun control, or GITMO,” he said.

To do so is “a misuse of City Council time.”

Well, personally I’d argue that the city should be involved in gun control. Besides, Rawlings has not been shy about getting involved in other issues the city doesn’t control, including public education.

Furthermore, although the city doesn’t have direct control over marriage equality or employment discrimination outside its limits, the council can certainly exert some influence.

Dallas has had an ordinance banning anti-LGBT employment discrimination since 2002, so it would only be logical for the council to give its blessing to a statewide law — especially when enforcement of the city’s ban has been inhibited by the lack of a state or federal statute. In fact, Rawlings reportedly agreed last year to travel to Austin and lobby in favor of statewide LGBT employment protections. But now he’s getting cold feet about a council resolution?

The “misuse of City Council time” excuse is similar to one Rawlings used last year when he refused to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality. At the time, he said he wanted to focus on “substantive” things, not “symbolic” ones like the pledge.

But symbols do matter, and any expert will tell you that the U.S. Supreme Court, which is about to decide two key marriage equality cases, is influenced by public opinion.

And those 300-plus mayors from across the U.S. who did sign the marriage pledge? Turns out they ended up filing a friend-of-the-court brief in one of the marriage equality cases. Now, what could possibly be more substantive than that?

—  John Wright