Scott Griggs’ measure backing  marriage equality, state ENDA would have been more useful in January, is no substitute for true leadership

Daniel-Cates-VPWhen the Dallas City Council takes up a pro-LGBT resolution in June, it will have been seven months since the measure was first introduced by Councilman Scott Griggs.

If passed, the resolution would express the council’s support for marriage equality and a statewide bill amending Texas’ employment protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Griggs says he intends the resolution to not only send a message to the North Texas LGBT community that they have support from city leadership, but also to put pressure on lawmakers in Austin and Washington.

No doubt, the early part of 2013 would have been a perfect time to pass such a resolution. We have been in the middle of the 2013 Texas Legislature — which only meets on odd-numbered years for a short 140 days. We have also seen more support in our Legislature than in any previous gathering with many pro-LGBT bills gaining broader support.

However, time is running out. When the City Council meets to vote on the resolution June 12, the Texas Legislature will be resting up for another 140 days of hard work in 2015. This resolution, when passed, will be nothing more than a smile in our direction. The immortal words of Alanis Morrisette come to mind: “It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife.”

Why did it take so long to bring this resolution to a vote? In truth, leadership just wasn’t there.

Let me preface the following by saying I am appreciative of the gesture. Not that many years ago, the thought that a Dallas City Council would even consider such a move was mere fantasy. Not that long ago, our community was happy just to have a handful of council people who would take our calls. This is a sign of progress. However, our community is learning that we need more than grand gestures and heartfelt handshakes — we need leadership.

Part of me wants to blame Mayor Mike Rawlings for this lack of representation. After all, the man clearly gets a C-minus (I’m feeling generous) on his report card for LGBT support. After side-stepping the signing of a “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” pledge, he said he would rather focus on concrete solutions for the LGBT community, like putting pressure on the state for employment nondiscrimination. The mayor’s office even promised to send a city representative to Austin for LGBT Lobby Day. None of these things materialized, leaving LGBT activists with Equality Texas, GetEQUAL TX and countless others to fight for passage of Senate Bill 237 (The Fair Employment Act) without the help of our “friend,” Mayor Rawlings. The bill still sits in committee with one vote needed to get it to the Senate floor.

Now Rawlings has repeatedly referred to Griggs’ resolution as a “misuse of city council time.” Sad to say, this late in the game, he is almost correct. Almost.

But it seems the mayor is not the only city leader who needs to learn the difference between friendship and leadership. Perhaps the assumption that the mayor would once again hog the LGBT ire spotlight by saying something completely boneheaded was just too much? Where were Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano and Delia Jasso? Other than telling the Dallas Voice that they were supportive of the measure, what steps did they take to ensure its quick passage? Griggs says he didn’t want to bring the resolution up for a vote until it was clear that it would pass — a smart move, but one that carried no real sense of urgency.

A better understanding of the needs of this community might have prompted our friends on the City Council to move faster, passing these measures in January when they could have helped to bring about actual change here in Texas. This late, a vote in our favor may feel good, but the more than 30 percent of LGBT Texans who have reported being fired and the 100 percent who must live in fear of losing their jobs simply because of who they are? Well, they will have to wait until 2015.

Being a friend to our community means more than riding in the Pride parade, hosting a Pride reception at City Hall or even writing resolutions on our behalf. Being a friend, especially being a friend we have elected to lead our city, means real leadership on issues that matter to this community. Don’t just say it. Do it. Don’t just support us. March by our side.

The business of changing Texas and the rest of the nation is a dirty one. It is time for all of us, even our city representatives, to get a little grit under our nails. The LGBT community is proud to have friends in our local government, but we have evolved beyond proclamations and parties. It is time to get serious about civil rights. It is time to move. It is time to lead.

Daniel Cates is North Texas regional coordinator for the direct action group GetEQUAL TX. He can be reached at daniel@getequaltx.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 17, 2013,