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

Scott Griggs files marriage equality resolution, says it has votes to pass

Griggs.Scott

Scott Griggs

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs says he has the eight votes needed to pass a resolution in support of marriage equality and statewide LGBT employment protections.

Griggs has said he didn’t want to place the item on the agenda until he was sure it had the eight votes needed to pass. He told me Friday that in addition to the seven council members who’ve previously indicated support for the resolution, Sandy Greyson is now a yes. Greyson couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm her position. The other seven supporters are Griggs and co-author Delia Jasso, along with Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano, Monica Alonzo, Jerry Allen and Dwaine Caraway.

It remains unclear whether Mayor Mike Rawlings will vote in favor of the resolution.

The only definite “no” vote is Vonciel Hill, who has made her anti-gay positions clear. Another likely “no” is Sheffie Kadane, who attends First Baptist Church of Dallas. Linda Koop, Ann Margolin, Carolyn Davis and Tennell Atkins are question marks.

Griggs filed a memo Friday with the five signatures needed to place the resolution on the agenda, and Rawlings now has 30 days plus one meeting to do so. The latest the mayor could place the item on the agenda is June 12.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, confirmed Monday she had received Griggs’ memo.

“Yes I received the signed memo this morning and will have to check with attorney/city secretary/city manager on timing,” Blackmon wrote in an email.

Asked whether the mayor would vote for the resolution, Blackmon said Tuesday: “I do not know. We take one agenda item at a time.”

Blackmon reportedly told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday that Rawlings was traveling and had not seen the resolution. However, Griggs copied Dallas Voice on a draft of the resolution he sent to both Blackmon and Rawlings on April 9. (Click here to see a screen grab of the email.)

The City Secretary’s Office sent over the below copy of the memo and resolution.

—  John Wright

Dallas City Council candidates woo LGBT voters at DGLA forum

Candidates at the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s LGBT forum at Sue Ellen’s on April 14. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Candidates at the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s LGBT forum at Sue Ellen’s on April 14. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Eight candidates vying for the LGBT community’s vote in the May 11 City Council election spoke about their support and advocacy during the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s forum Sunday.

LGBT allies and incumbents Delia Jasso and Scott Griggs, who are facing off in a redrawn District 1, attended, as did DISD Trustee Adam Medrano and openly gay real estate developer Herschel Weisfeld in District 2, Claudia Meyer in District 3, and Bobby Abtahi, Philip Kingston and Jim Rogers in District 14.

Several candidates addressed the need of the city to provide more funding and education on HIV prevention, especially among young minorities. Weisfeld and Abtahi said the city should spend more funds on educational programs.

“When you prevent one person from contracting HIV, it pays for the whole program,” Abtahi said.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas City Council candidates to screen for Stonewall Democrats on Saturday

Stonewall

Twelve candidates or their surrogates from six Dallas City Council races will appear at Resource Center Dallas on Saturday as they vie for endorsements from Stonewall Democrats.

Everyone is invited to attend the candidate screening sessions, but only those who have been members of Stonewall Democrats for more than 30 days may vote on the endorsement recommendations, which will be ratified at the group’s next general meeting on March 19.

Opening remarks and instructions begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, and candidates will appear by district. Oak Cliff-area races will be covered in the morning, with Oak Lawn-area races in the afternoon.

Stonewall political chair Jeff Strater is organizing the screenings. He said each candidate will be given three minutes to make a statement and then members can ask questions for seven minutes.

Under Stonewall’s bylaws, the organization may endorse only Democrats, even though the races are nonpartisan.

Of the seven people running in District 14, five have predominantly Republican voting histories, according to Strater. Phillip Kingston signed a pledge affiliating with the Democratic Party to qualify for the Stonewall endorsement. Bobby Abtahi’s most recent voting is in Democratic primaries, which qualifies him without signing a pledge, Strater said. Only Jim Rogers has a record of voting exclusively in Democratic primaries.

The full schedule for Saturday’s screenings is below.

—  David Taffet

Mayor Rawlings still won’t commit to backing pro-equality resolutions

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

Mayor Mike Rawlings is still debating whether to support two pro-equality resolutions planned by Councilman Scott Griggs.

In a post yesterday, we reported that Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said she hadn’t spoken to him about the recent meeting between him and Griggs, who said he thought it was a “positive meeting.”

Blackmon told us today that the mayor did not disclose any information except that he and Griggs had met briefly.

Rawlings told us a few weeks ago that he was still unsure about his position on the resolutions after meeting with Griggs. He said he told Griggs that he personally supports the subject of the resolutions of marriage equality and prohibiting anti-LGBT job discrimination statewide.

“I’m still in the exploring mode at this point because I believe in marriage equality personally,” Rawlings said. “I also believe in the focus of the city of Dallas making sure that we discuss and debate issues that we can impact and we need to decide where this issue is on that scale.”

As for job nondiscrimination, Rawlings said the city of Dallas already protects LGBT people with a city ordinance, so it’s “something that we believe in and actually live.” He said the issue is “complicated at the state level” and questioned whether the resolution supporting the issue was the council’s job.

“The city acts that way and we don’t discriminate in that regard,” Rawlings said. “The question is, do we have jurisdiction over other businesses?”

—  Dallasvoice

Scott Griggs is ‘very optimistic’ his pro-LGBT resolutions will pass

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs addresses LULAC #4871—The Dallas Rainbow Council on Thursday at Havana on Cedar Springs Road.

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs says he wants to obtain signatures from eight or more council members — a majority — before he brings forward resolutions in support of marriage equality and statewide LGBT employment protections.

Only five signatures would be needed to place the resolutions on the agenda for a council vote, but Griggs said because it’s an important issue, “You want to know where you are going into it.”

Dallas Voice reported in December that seven of 15 council members have said they support the concept of the resolutions, which Griggs now hopes will pass sometime this spring.

Griggs said he met with Mayor Mike Rawlings recently to discuss the resolutions, which the mayor has not yet publicly endorsed. Griggs called it a “positive meeting” but would not comment on whether he thinks Rawlings will come around.

“I’m not in a position to speak for him or any of my colleagues on a particular vote,” Griggs said, adding that he’s “very optimistic” the resolutions will pass the council.

—  John Wright

Griggs, Jasso to battle for gay vote in District 1 after lawsuit dropped

Scott Griggs and Delia Jasso

It’s looking more and more like next year’s District 1 Dallas City Council race will pit incumbents Scott Griggs and Delia Jasso against each other.

The Dallas Morning News reports that plaintiffs have dropped a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s redistricting map on the grounds that it discriminates against Hispanic voters. The map placed Jasso, who currently represents District 1, and Griggs, who represents District 3, in the same North Oak Cliff district.

The news brings added significance to resolutions Griggs says he plans to introduce next year in support of marriage equality and statewide ban on anti-LGBT employment discrimination.

I don’t think there’s any doubt the resolutions are partly designed to help Griggs compete for the gay vote against Jasso, who created the city’s LGBT Task Force after taking office in 2009.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the resolutions are overdue, and Jasso is among seven council members who’ve said they’ll support them.

The downside is that both Griggs and Jasso are LGBT allies, and one of them will likely be leaving the council.

The filing deadline for May 11 city elections is March 1.

—  John Wright

Gay Oak Cliff preservationist appointed to Dallas Landmark Commission

Recently appointed Landmark Commissioner Michael Amonett is shown sitting in the rubble of an Oak Cliff church he tried to preserve as president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League.

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs appointed former Old Oak Cliff Conservation League President Michael Amonett to the Dallas Landmark Commission. While Amonett’s appointment, approved Aug. 1, may be viewed by some as some as controversial, Griggs doesn’t see it that way.

“He’s a strong advocate for preservation and conservation,” Griggs said. “I can’t think of anyone better for Oak Cliff and for Dallas.”

Amonett said he’s just learning what the job entails and knows he can’t just declare buildings historic against a property owner’s will.

“But I’m passionate about old buildings,” he said.

As president of OOCCL, Amonett fought with Oak Cliff developers and the city about tearing down historic landmarks.

One of his biggest battles concerned tearing down an Oak Cliff church to build the new Adamson High School. The building was architecturally significant and the property played into the history of the JFK assassination. In addition, Adamson alumni wanted their school renovated, not destroyed.

DISD agreed to give Amonett six months to find a buyer for the church property. OOCCL was unable to find a buyer and the building has been torn down to build tennis courts for the replacement high school.

As a member of the Landmark Commission, Amonett would have been able to recommend landmark status for the church. Other members of the commission generally abide by the recommendation of the commissioner for that district.

Griggs said the first big case for Amonett will come before the commission in September and relates to preservation of the oldest building in North Texas thats still in its original location. The site includes a cabin built at about the same time as the John Neely Bryan cabin in downtown Dallas, as well as a barn, cistern and other structures. The building stands on city park property in far southwest Dallas near Mountain Creek Lake.

Griggs said the chimney was built with interlocking stone and no mortar and still stands. He said he’s confident about preservation of the site with the case in Amonett’s hands.

—  David Taffet

Dallas fundraiser for out lesbian House hopeful Ann Johnson raises almost $3K

Ann Johnson speaks at a fundraiser July 24 at Stoneleigh P in Dallas about changes she wants to make to education and healthcare if elected to represent Houston’s District 134 in the state Legislature. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

A cozy crowd gathered Tuesday to mix and mingle with out lesbian Ann Johnson, the Democratic candidate for Houston’s House District 134, at Stoneleigh P restaurant in Dallas.

New Leaders Texas hosted the fundraiser for Johnson that drew about 40 people. New Leaders Executive Director Kathleen Thompson said the event raised $2,645. Johnson faces one-term incumbent Republican Sarah Davis in November. If Johnson wins, she and El Paso’s Mary Gonzalez would become the first two openly LGBT women in the Texas Legislature.

Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs introduced Johnson, noting their similarities in age,  attending law school in Houston, working with their fathers, and both taking on incumbents, as Griggs did last year.

He said that Texas has Republican 2-1 majority in the state Legislature, but electing Johnson is a step toward changing that imbalance.

“In Texas, we can decide what we want to be and we can go be it,” Griggs said. “This is a moment to start to make that change, to start to make a difference.”

Johnson’s father, Jake Johnson, was a state representative in the 60s and worked on Barbara Jordan’s campaign. Jordan was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate since 1883 and was the first black female from the South elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson’s mother is former Civil District Judge Carolyn Marks Johnson.

“I am fortunate that both of my parents taught me the honor of public service,” Johnson told the crowd Tuesday. “Houston has this incredible history of making a difference and being diverse.”

While she did not touch on her sexuality, focusing on her two major campaign issues of education and healthcare, Johnson had her partner Sonya at her side Tuesday proudly talking about the campaign trail.

As a cancer survivor, Johnson expressed her desire to back healthcare funding for all Texans, saying affordable healthcare and education are areas where Texas can go from one of the worst states to one of the best.

Texas ranks 43rd in the U.S. for graduation rates, 45th for SAT scores, a fact that Johnson said she’s focusing on changing if elected by providing better funding to public education.

“I have vision to take us from worst to first,” she said. “If we go from worst to first, we can create a public education system that we can be proud of.”

More photos and video below.

—  Dallasvoice