Dallas suburb only protects LGBT employees from discrimination


Rafael McDonnell

JAMES RUSSELL  |   Staff Writer

It passed with little fanfare, but it is official: the city of Mesquite now protects LGBT applicants and employees from discrimination.

But getting that information was quite a struggle for Rafael McDonnell, advocacy and communications manager for Resource Center.

He didn’t even know when it passed.

“Something happened, it’s just not clear what or when,” McDonnell said of the Mesquite council’s vote.

After reading a Dallas Morning News article in June noting that Mesquite was one of many Dallas suburbs considering extending employment protections, McDonnell asked the city for clarification, according to e-mails he provided to Dallas Voice.

But he hit a dead end.

Rick French, director of human resources and civil service for Mesquite, told McDonnell in an email, “It is my understanding that you have communicated with the city of Mesquite to assist with our non-discrimination policy. The city of Mesquite recently completed an open request for proposals to secure the services of legal counsel that specialize in employment law. As a result of that process we entered into an agreement with the firm providing the optimal proposal. We believe we have this matter sufficiently addressed and we appreciate your interest in the city of Mesquite.”

McDonnell said he was confused by city officials’ failure to release information on the ordinance and by their failure to reach out to the LGBT community for help.

“The guy could’ve just Googled us,” McDonnell said.

On Friday, Dec. 11, McDonnell checked with French again.

Did Mesquite approve the change to the city’s nondiscrimination policy? Did he have a copy of the proposed ordinance?

Yes, French wrote. A law firm chosen through a request for proposal process worked with the city attorney’s office to draft and implement a proposal.

Wayne Larson, manager of communications and marketing for the city of Mesquite, was able to produce the ordinance when Dallas Voice requested it, although it took some digging, and some clarification between both parties.

The city’s ordinance protects applicants and recruits from discrimination based on a variety of classes, including sexual orientation and sexual identity.

After reading the ordinance, McDonnell, had both criticism and praise for it.

“It’s always good when a city adds nondiscrimination protections,” McDonnell said. “It shows the organization is doing the right thing.”

But when it came to the language, and the phrase “sexual identity” in particular, McDonnell had reservations: “I’m concerned the language they used is imprecise at best and inaccurate at worst.”

The city also should have asked the LGBT community to contribute as well, adding that his interaction with city officials rubbed him the wrong way.

“The letters reflect poorly on the customer service. No one should get a response that dismissive,” he said, referring to French’s email to him. “I’m concerned about their LGBT employees, given the dismissiveness.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2015.