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A bumpy ride for an equality resolution in Dallas

The saga begins when Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings unenthusiastically agreed to putting a resolution in support of marriage equality on the Dallas City Council agenda.

On the right side of history

After weeks of sidestepping the question, Mayor Mike Rawlings says he will vote next month in favor of a Dallas City Council resolution supporting the right of same-sex couples to marry.

“I will vote for this resolution as written,” he told me during a conversation last week. “This is an important issue, and I did not want to turn this into a sound bite.”

The resolution was proposed for council consideration last month by council member Scott Griggs, who said he has enough votes to get it passed.

Rawlings didn’t exactly put on a poker face to conceal his irritation at the timing. Griggs’ announcement came less than two weeks before the May 11 elections, in which Griggs was running against fellow council member Delia Jasso for the same seat because of a redrawing of district boundaries.

Jasso was among those who supported the amendment, but Rawlings suggested that Griggs — who ultimately won the race — wanted to shore up support among gay and lesbian residents in Oak Cliff.

“To do this for what seem to be political reasons is not good judgment,” Rawlings said earlier this month. He characterized what he viewed as a symbolic debate on a divisive constitutional issue as a “misuse of the council’s time.”

Griggs politely responded that he felt the issue was “timely” and “relevant” and that he looks forward to the resolution’s passage.

Now, with council elections in the rearview mirror, Rawlings says he has decided to join the council majority supporting the measure.

But that was before one of the Council members that supported the resolution flip-flopped on bringing it to a Council vote.

Lame-duck Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso, defeated in the May 11 election, has abruptly withdrawn her support for an LGBT equality resolution, meaning Mayor Mike Rawlings is no longer required to place the resolution on the council agenda.

According to an email from the city secretary to council members on Tuesday, Jasso has pulled her signature from a memo in support of the equality resolution that she signed in April. Jasso was one of five council members who signed the memo, the required number to force Rawlings to place the resolution on the agenda under the city charter.

The Morning News explains why that matters.

For Griggs, getting five signatures on his marriage equality and anti-discrimination resolution was crucial. Under the city charter, only the mayor or city manager can singly place items on a voting agenda. But five council members together have the power to force a vote.

Mayor Mike Rawlings has strongly opposed having the council take up the debate — not because he’s against gay marriage but because he doesn’t want the council to spend its time on politically charged issues over which it has no control.

[…]

Rawlings has said that if the resolution did make it to a council vote, he would support it. But now that Griggs’ resolution lacks the needed five votes, the mayor has no intention of placing it on an upcoming agenda, said his chief of staff, Paula Blackmon.

“The mayor has continually stated he believes this is out of the realm of the City Council and does not plan to keep it on the agenda,” Blackmon said.

That throws the plan for a council vote into doubt — at least for now.

But in an interview with the Dallas Voice, a publication serving the city’s gay community, Griggs said he believed the resolution could still move forward.

“I think we’ve got the votes,” he said.

If the current council is unable to take up the issue, it’s not clear whether the new council, which will be seated in June, will agree to support — or even debate — gay marriage.

In addition to Hunt and, until her about-face, Jasso, those who supported Griggs’ resolution were Pauline Medrano and Monica Alonzo.

Hunt is leaving the council, but both candidates vying to replace her, Bobby Abtahi and Philip Kingston, support the resolution. Adam Medrano, who succeeds his aunt, Pauline Medrano, is also expected to be supportive. Alonzo was re-elected.

It’s not clear where council member-elect Jennifer Staubach Gates stands on the issue. Lee Kleinman, who is succeeding council member Linda Koop, said he agrees with the mayor that the issue is not one the City Council should take up.

The story isn’t clear on this, and I don’t know Dallas city politics, but my interpretation is that while Griggs may have five supporters among the new Council members to force a vote again, he may or may not have the eight votes needed to get it passed. Resolutions like these don’t carry any weight and thus don’t have any practical effect like an anti-discrimination ordinance or domestic partner benefits (even if you can’t call them that), but they do matter, as an expression of one’s values. The more clear you can make what the real consensus, mainstream position is, the better. It’s clear now that it would have been better for Mayor Rawlings to have agreed to do this sooner rather than later, when it also might have helped provide some support for pro-equality measures in the Legislature. I have no idea what happens from here, but I wish CM Griggs the best of luck in picking up the pieces and trying again.

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