Dallas mayor not budging on gay marriage resolution

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by JONATHAN BETZ

WFAA

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:40 PM

DALLAS –- The taunts have followed Mayor Mike Rawlings for more than a year.

This time, protesters stood beyond the country club walls, waving rainbow flags, and shouting, “Mr. Mayor, do you hear us?”

Thursday, Dallas’ mayor made it clear he may hear the pleas, but he isn’t following them.

“I think marriage equality is very important for this country,” he told reporters. “I support a lot of things, but I wouldn't support a resolution at city council.”

Days after a gay marriage resolution to the city council suddenly collapsed, protests greeted Mayor Rawlings Thursday afternoon at the Lakewood Country Club, where he spoke at a chamber luncheon.

Activists are again zeroing in on the first-term mayor.

For more than a year, he has repeatedly refused to push forward a resolution to the city council that would support same-sex marriage; even though Rawlings insists he believes gay people should be able to marry. He even rode in a gay pride parade months after he was elected.

“Out of one side of his mouth he supports us,” said protester Jen Harris, “and out of the other side - when it really counts - he doesn't.”

The mayor contends making his support official is simply a waste of city time. The council has no power to allow gay marriage, so why bother debating it, Rawlings argues.

“While we personally support marriage equality, I support city council focusing on the issues that they have jurisdiction over," Rawlings said. "And they have no jurisdiction over this.”

After his speech, the mayor unexpectedly waved off his waiting SUV and walked beyond the walls to personally greet the protesters.

C.D. Kirven used the moment to personally appeal to the mayor.

“Why won't you just put it up for a vote?” she asked him. “If it fails, and it doesn't have the votes, it’s on us!”

The mayor didn’t respond and quickly returned to the car, as protesters shouted “shame.”

Protesters say they simply want Rawlings to sign a pledge or introduce the gay marriage resolution. Only he or the city manager can place the item on the agenda. Otherwise, five council members can force it.

Hundreds of other cities have supported similar resolutions, including other major cities in Texas.

After months of wrangling, the gay marriage resolution finally seemed near for Dallas.

Councilman Scott Griggs was prepared to introduce it himself, but lost support when outgoing Councilwoman Delia Jasso (who lost to Griggs’ in the recent election) recently dropped her endorsement.

Griggs did not respond to questions from News 8 on whether he intends to re-introduce the legislation later, when he has more support.

Still, critics insist the mayor can simply put the issue to rest. The gesture would be purely symbolic, but activists say it carries a lot of weight.

“It is absolutely symbolic support, but it makes a huge difference,” said activist Daniel Cates with GetEQUAL Texas.

He said Rawlings’ support could sway lawmakers in Austin as they consider gay rights legislation.

“Look at the difference that President Barack Obama coming out in support of marriage equality made in just a very short amount of time," Cates said. "[Rawlings] can believe whatever he wants to privately, but publicly, he's failing us big time.”

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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