Almost 3 months after pro-LGBT measure died amid controversy, Scott Griggs has rewritten it and plans to send it to committee this fall
LGBT advocates may soon have another shot at getting a resolution in support of job nondiscrimination and marriage equality passed by the Dallas City Council.
Councilman Scott Griggs, the resolution’s author, said this week he plans to bring it before a committee in coming months. Committee meetings begin next week.
It’s been nearly three months since a showdown at City Hall between LGBT advocates and council members who opposed the resolution after it failed to make it onto the June 12 agenda. This was after former Councilwoman Delia Jasso pulled her support from a memo, which meant the council was no longer required to consider the item.
Mayor Mike Rawlings later intervened while on a business trip in Brazil to prevent a last-ditch effort by former Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano to place the item on the agenda as acting mayor, leading to emotional testimonies from activists on the day the resolution was originally scheduled to be considered. Before Jasso pulled her support, Rawlings came out publicly in favor of the resolution but said he didn’t think it was something the council should consider.
Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ outgoing chief of staff, said in an email this week: “As you know he [the mayor] supports marriage equality and will continue to do so but as supporting a specific resolution he will need to review the exact wording.”
Griggs has rewritten the resolution to include the landmark rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court in two marriage equality cases in late June. He said he’s sent the draft to Councilman Adam Medrano, who chairs the LGBT Task Force, to get the group’s input on the language.
“I ultimately want to get it passed,” Griggs said. “The first step is working with the Task Force to get their feedback.”
The Task Force, once led by Jasso, met last week to set priorities for the coming months and included the resolution on its list. Griggs said he thinks the group’s input will help the resolution succeed.
“I think they’re going to work diligently on it and I look forward to their revisions, ideas and changes,” he said, adding that he still thinks the measure will pass. “I’m still very positive. We’re using a collective approach. … I do think it will pass.”
Two committees where the resolution could go are Finance and Audit, chaired by Councilman Jerry Allen, and the Quality of Life and Environment, chaired by Councilman Dwaine Caraway. Both Allen and Caraway expressed support for the measure at the June meeting and suggested it come to their committees in the future.
Caraway did not respond to a request for comment. Allen said in an email that he was in the “process of communicating with staff to determine next steps.”
The Quality of Life Committee appears to be a more favorable makeup. In addition to Caraway, the committee’s members are Medrano, Carolyn Davis, Sandy Greyson, Rick Callahan and Lee Kleinman.
Medrano and Greyson have said they support the resolution. Davis spoke favorably of the measure in June but did not take a position. Callahan doesn’t support marriage equality but supports civil unions, according to his response to a Dallas Voice candidate questionnaire. Kleinman didn’t respond to the questionnaire.
On the Finance Committee, two of the five members have backed the effort and two have come out against it. Allen and Councilman Philip Kingston are in favor of the resolution, but Councilman Sheffie Kadane spoke out against it in June for religious reasons. Councilman Tennell Atkins hasn’t chimed in on the issue, but Councilwoman Jennifer Gates responded to the Dallas Voice questionnaire that she was not supportive of the council addressing the issue.
On the full council, the resolution has at least seven of the eight votes needed for passage: Griggs, Medrano, Caraway, Davis, Allen, Kingston and Monica Alonzo.
Despite mixed support in the committees, Griggs said he thinks they’re the best avenue for seeking input from more of the council and ensuring the resolution’s passage.
“It’s moving forward,” he said. “We have a good first draft to get things moving. …I think we’re going to have a very active coalition-building process.”
While there isn’t a set timeline to bring the matter before committee, Griggs said “it would be preferred” for the resolution to pass before the Texas
Supreme Court hears oral arguments Nov. 5 in two gay divorce cases.
Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager at Resource Center Dallas, said the resolution couldn’t hurt the efforts at the state’s high court as the resolution’s passage “will feed into a larger momentum.”
He said its greatest impact could be on future nondiscrimination fights like the current one in San Antonio over a citywide ordinance.
“It would be good for Dallas to fight for broader workplace protections,” McDonnell said. “There’s a need for those protections on a broader scale than we have right now.”
Dallas has had a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance barring discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity since 2002. In Austin, which has a similar ordinance, the City Council passed a resolution last fall in support of same-sex marriage — and other cities have added statewide workplace protections to their legislative agenda.
McDonnell said the resolution would send a message to cities like Arlington, Lewisville and Denton about the importance of workplace protections.
He said renewed efforts to move the resolution forward show the fight isn’t over, as some activists thought in June.
“There is a path forward,” McDonnell said. “A lot of people were concerned that what happened in June was it. That this was done. This coming back up is good.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 30, 2013.