The Dallas City Council received an earful Wednesday morning from LGBT advocates who urged members to pass an equality resolution next week.
Dallas activist Omar Narvaez reflected on the failure of the marriage equality resolution last June. When advocates showed up to express disappointment in a lack of council support, councilmembers requested the resolution go through committee. Resolutions don’t normally go to committee before council consideration.
“This resolution is not a binding resolution. It was written so we could do work as a city, together, openly, honestly,” Narvaez said. “Back in June, this room was filled with red. And we were told you didn’t do it the right way. You didn’t come to us the right way. You have to go and do it a different way than all other communities.”
He said that with the support of the resolution in committee last week, the LGBT community did what members requested, and advocates expect a favorable vote next week.
“All we’re asking is for an equal chance,” he said. “Elevate us up to where you already [are].”
The resolution is a comprehensive statement that directs city staff to fix inequities among city policies like pensions and healthcare for the LGBT community. It was slated to go to a vote Wednesday but Mayor Mike Rawlings delayed the resolution, which will be discussed in executive session Wednesday by the council before a vote next week.
Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride Initiative, recalled the history of when Rawlings’ refused to sign the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry pledge two years ago. She said the discussion about the resolution in executive session was an effort to water down the measure.
“The purpose is clear to alter the meaning and substance of the resolution into something simplistic,” Gaither said.
Narvaez and Gaither were among several speakers who addressed the council. Behind them, dozens of supporters formed a sea of red in the council chambers.
Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center, recalled the history that the LGBT community had with the city of Dallas, dating back to the early 1990s when the police department debated hiring a lesbian officer to when the council voted to include sexual orientation in the city’s nondiscrimination policy.
And while those battles were hard fought, Cox reminded the council that the city’s leadership has stood with the LGBT community.
“This city has a history of standing up for equality, and that’s where we are today,” Cox said. “There’s an opportunity to do the right thing in the resolution that is before you. It’s a chance to stand up for equality.
“It’s not law. You’re not being asked to pass a law,” Cox added about the resolution. “You are faced within our community to say that you stand for equality for the LGBT citizens that you represent and that live in the city and that work in this city and for the visitors that want to come here.”
Steve Rudner, president of the Equality Texas Foundation, spoke about his children and his gay son, who wouldn’t have the same benefits and rights if he chose to work for the city of Dallas.
“It’s not possible for me to explain why the city of Dallas treats one of my children as a second-class citizen.” he said. “I’m not looking for special rights for my children and for all of the citizens in this city. I’m looking for them all to be treated equally.”
He urged the council to take the right action next Wednesday when the resolution goes to a vote or face the nation’s scorn as Arizona is being scrutinized for its recent anti-gay efforts.
“Mr. Mayor and members of the council, the eyes of the world are upon you,” Rudner said. “This is a historic moment. Will we be a community that fosters discrimination [and] be shunned by the whole world as you see happening in Arizona? Or will we the city that is open, inclusive, tolerant, attractive to employers and academics?”
None of the councilmembers or the mayor commented on the speeches.
When the council later went into executive session, advocates gathered outside the council chambers, briefly encouraging those who showed up to call their councilmembers over the next week to ensure the resolution passes.
“When we stood up like this, that showed them that we mean business,” Narvaez said about the unity in the LGBT community’s attendance. “LGBT is everything. We are all one family.”
Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said the community’s presence made a difference since June, and the creation of the new resolution and the continued pressure on the council will make a difference as well.
“They saw us today,” Fink said. “And they’re going to vote with us.”