In what several members called a historic vote, the Dallas City Council approved a Comprehensive Statement of Support for the LGBT community on Wednesday.
The council voted 13-2 to pass the LGBT equality resolution, with Vonciel Hill and Sheffie Kadane opposed. The resolution doesn’t change or enact specific policies, but authorizes the city manager’s office to pursue several initiatives, including fully equal benefits for LGBT employees, improving the city’s score on a national gay-rights index, and lobbying for pro-equality state and federal legislation.
“This is a historic day for Dallas — for equality, civil rights, inclusion,” said Councilman Jerry Allen, who chairs the committee that has worked on the resolution over the last three months.
Three council members — Adam Medrano, Scott Griggs and Philip Kingston — wore “NOH8″ T-shirts during Wednesday’s meeting to mark the occasion.
Medrano, who chairs the city’s LGBT Task Force, made the motion to approve the resolution.
Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins expressed support for the measure but chided city staff for introducing the resolution just minutes before a committee meeting two weeks ago.
“Never blindside me against by putting a piece of paper in front of my face minutes before I vote,” Atkins said. “It’s disrespectful.”
Kingston thanked Allen, who agreed to take up LGBT issues in the committee after a showdown at City Hall over another LGBT equality resolution last year. Griggs, who authored the unsuccessful 2013 resolution, thanked the LGBT Task Force for its patience and perseverance.
“This is wonderful, landmark day for the city of Dallas,” Griggs said.
Councilman Dwaine Caraway also alluded to the controversy over last year’s LGBT equality resolution — when several activists stood up and turned their backs on him in council chambers.
“I was trying to encourage you all to go and regroup and come back,” Caraway told those who attended Wednesday’s meeting. “Look at where we are today. … You guys stayed the course, and I’m going to be supportive of this.”
Councilwoman Carolyn Davis said: “I will be supporting this victory today for the community. I think this is the right thing to do.”
Kadane, meanwhile, said he believes the LGBT equality resolution itself is discriminatory.
“You’re bringing out and you’re considering one group only, and everybody in this city ought to be able to have these same rights,” Kadane said prior to the vote. “If two brothers are living together, they should have the same rights as the GLBT community.”
Councilwoman Hill didn’t comment before voting against the measure.
After the vote, Mayor Mike Rawlings thanked the LGBT community for “making the city better.”
“There’s not a better community in the city of Dallas than the LGBT community,” Rawlings said.
Rawlings has come under fire from LGBT advocates for refusing to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage two years ago — and for blocking consideration of an LGBT equality resolution last year. Two weeks ago, he delayed consideration of the current resolution so the council could discuss unspecified legal concerns in executive session, prompting fears that members would try to water down the measure.
But those fears didn’t materialize, as the council approved the resolution virtually unchanged from when it cleared a committee two weeks ago.
Prior to the vote, several LGBT advocates again addressed the council.
Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell said although the process hasn’t been perfect, the resolution is good.
“It’s a roadmap that’s going to be beneficial to the LGBT citizens of Dallas,” McDonnell said. “It is going to be a model for other cities around this country to follow in their quest for equality.”
Former Councilwoman Veletta Lill, a staunch LGBT ally, recalled being on the council when it passed a citywide nondiscrimination ordinance in 2002 and added domestic partner benefits in 2004. But Lill acknowledged that Dallas has fallen behind on LGBT issues since.
“Democracy, like a great garden, needs constant tending,” she said. “Times change, and occasionally things get overlooked.”
Activist Laura McFerrin, a longtime Dallas resident and small business owner, said she was speaking on behalf of her partner and their 3-year-old son.
“All of us pay our taxes. We create jobs in Dallas, and this is our home,” McFerrin said. “This is an important moment for you, Mr. Mayor, for all of you.”
David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, told the council that Cowtown has gained a competitive advantage over Dallas by enacting several LGBT initiatives in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid.
“If Dallas can’t do the same, it’s going to be Christmas in Fort Worth for the foreseeable future,” Henderson said.
Henderson’s comments garnered a response from Councilman Allen after the vote.
“Fort Worth, be watching us at the end of the day,” Allen said. “I applaud Fort Worth on being out front, but at the end of the day, we will use their flashlight and we will shine it brighter.”
The LGBT equality resolution states that “the City of Dallas is in full favor of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) employees of the city of Dallas, citizens within the city of Dallas, and visitors to the city of Dallas.”
The resolution goes on to direct the city manager to address disparate treatment of LGBT employees under the city’s pension plans, human resources policies and ordinances, and health care plan. It also directs staff to take action to improve the city’s ranking on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, and says the city’s legislative efforts will support measures that further equality and prevent discrimination against LGBT people.
The city manager will report quarterly to the Budget, Finance & Audit committee on progress related to the resolution, and specific policy changes must come before the City Council or other governing bodies for approval.
The full text of the resolution is below.