Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings began 2012 by disappointing many in the LGBT community. He ended it by doing the same.
During the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., in January, the gay-rights group Freedom To Marry asked participants — and mayors across the country — to pledge their support for marriage equality.
Rawlings, who had expressed tepid support for marriage equality during his 2011 campaign, declined to join Mayors for the Freedom To Marry.
Rawlings said while he personally supported marriage equality, he wanted to avoid partisan political issues or social debates that didn’t directly impact city government.
The LGBT community wasn’t satisfied, to say the least, especially after learning that hundreds of mayors had signed the pledge and Dallas was the largest city — both in Texas and the U.S. — whose mayor had not.
A “Sign the Pledge” rally outside Dallas City Hall drew more than 100 — and was followed the next day by a closed-door meeting between Rawlings and about 25 LGBT leaders at Resource Center Dallas.
Despite heartfelt pleas from longtime same-sex couples during the meeting, Rawlings wouldn’t budge. A few days later he projected a new spin:
The mayor argued his decision not to sign the pledge put him in a position to advocate on behalf of LGBT civil rights among religious conservatives.
He also reiterated a desire to focus on the substantive rather than the symbolic, but failed to produce any specific LGBT-related initiatives.
Come June, the mayor didn’t attend any of the city’s four official LGBT Pride Month events — two of which took place at City Hall. He did record a video message that was played at one.
“Sometimes we haven’t agreed. But you’ve stayed steadfast, talked about the issues that are important to you and treated me with a real honor and respect,” Rawlings said in the message. “Your style, your character, it’s truly something to be proud of. I love the way you advocate for your issues. I’m proud just to have you in Dallas.”
In September, Rawlings appeared in the Dallas Pride parade for the second consecutive year, but there were whispers among activists about people turning their backs — or even booing Rawlings — as the city float rode by.
Two months later we learned the mayor’s refusal to sign the pledge was among factors that hurt the city’s score on HRC’s first-ever Municipal Equality Index, and Dallas received a surprisingly low 76 out of 100.
Finally, in December, Councilman Scott Griggs announced his plan to introduce council resolutions in support of marriage equality and a statewide ban on anti-LGBT employment discrimination. Unlike seven other council members, Rawlings has declined to express his support for the concept of the resolutions — saying he needs to see them and discuss them with Griggs before taking a position.
As the New Year approached, activist Cd Kirven expressed a sentiment that’s undoubtedly shared by a majority of LGBT voters in Dallas.
“I don’t even see any progress or evolution on the mayor’s part. I see him privately supporting us and not publicly supporting us and, to me, that’s unacceptable,” Kirven said.
“So until I get both private and public support from the mayor, my goal will be to try to find a candidate to get him replaced as mayor, somebody who can support LGBT families.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 28, 2012.