It’s that time of year when we look back at what was and give serious thought to what we need to do to become better people in the year ahead. Which, come to think of it, probably explains why we drink so heavily on New Year’s Eve. Either direction we look offers a good reason for a good stiff belt.
By “we,” we mean us, not you, Dallas. We know we have issues that only alcohol can solve. You? You're perfect just the way you are.
Well, maybe nobody's perfect, but looking back at 2015, we can say with authority that you're pretty damn good.
Darned decent, at the very least.
OK, let’s be honest, Dallas. All your friends have gotten together and we agree: You could use just a skosh of work to grow into the heaping mound of perfection you have the potential to become. To help, we’ve combed through the news of 2015 and come up with 15 simple resolutions for 2016. Some of these apply to Texas as well, but as long as you’re bound to stay in that toxic relationship, we figure you might as well work on it, too.
Don’t worry, we don’t expect anyone to go on a diet. We’re trying to be helpful, not delusional.
Don’t Worry About the Weed, Because the Weed Is Good
Texas saw multiple efforts to loosen its strangling marijuana laws fail during the 2015 legislative session — state Senator David Simpson’s “weed should be legal because God doesn’t make mistakes” plan was our favorite — but progress late in the year in Dallas saw a local reform effort finally bear fruit.
Thanks largely to a push from City Council members Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston, the Dallas Police Department is slowly moving toward implementing a cite-and-release policy for marijuana possession. Those holding would still be subject to the same penalties they are now, a fine and as much as six months in jail, but they would be given a citation instead of being immediately carted off to jail. The overbooked county jail will have more free beds, and people’s lives won’t be disrupted by a night at Lew Sterrett.
Next up, potentially, is some sort of local decriminalization, something Kingston, especially, wants.
“I just don’t think we’re serving public safety by making marijuana arrests,” he said. “This is [the police] department wasting resources.”
Fix the Damn Streets
If Dallas were a car — let’s say a Chevrolet Suburban — it would look super slick, with a new paint job and lots of chrome and maybe a lift kit. But then you hop in and notice that, while the stereo system works great, the engine coughs and sputters and belches out worrisome quantities of smoke.
Such is the state of Dallas' infrastructure. While the city has spent lots of money building fancy baubles like designer bridges and convention center hotels, it has allowed its infrastructure to crumble. Fixing the streets alone is projected to cost nearly a billion dollars on top of the city’s annual expenditures, to say nothing of the aging water and sewer systems, traffic lights and buildings. City staff estimates that it will take an extra $90 million per year — about twice the funding level in recent years — just to keep streets from degrading further. The city’s 2016 budget allocates an additional $6 million for street repair.
Nudging that figure upward in next year’s budget will help close the gap between what the city needs to spend and what it’s actually spending, but the city has deferred maintenance for too long for that to suffice. It needs a large-scale injection of capital. Legalizing and taxing marijuana gets our vote, and we even have a campaign slogan: “Say Yes to Pot and No to Pot Holes!” Sadly, despite Philip Kingston’s best intentions, legal weed in Texas seems about as likely as a Cowboys Super Bowl win, so the city is going a more traditional route and is already dreaming up a wish list for its 2017 bond package. Traditionally, Dallas has used its bond packages to finance its big, prestige projects. This one should focus on fixing the basics.
Hug a Tree
City Hall talks a good game when it comes to the Great Trinity Forest. It’s constantly touting its affection for the massive expanse of untrammeled woodland that hugs the Trinity River through much of Dallas’ southern half as a precious natural asset that must be cherished and preserved for future generations.
But you only hurt the one you love, and sometimes it’s easy to believe the forest would be better off if Dallas just went back to ignoring it. In 2014, the city’s Trinity Watershed Management department chopped down hundreds of trees in violation of municipal regulations, turned a large swath of prairie into a mud pit and illegally drained a federally protected wetland pond. Last year was more of the same. Just this fall, work on the Joppa Connector trail had to be halted when the city admitted it hadn’t obtained the required federal permit for doing construction in wetlands.
This sets the stage for 2016, when the big environmental fight in the city will be over … the Great Trinity Forest. The Sunday before Christmas, Trinity Forest watchdog Ben Sandifer stumbled on a backhoe that had recently cut a road-sized swath through wetlands running between the Trinity River Audubon Center and a pond that serves as a nesting ground for various bird species, including great horned owls and black-bellied whistling ducks. According to City Hall, the path was cut by Oncore, the main contractor on the golf course, which is building a fence to keep hogs from wandering onto the fairways.
All of which points to an easy and obvious resolution for the city: Stop screwing up nature. The city doesn’t need to do anything positive for the environment, it merely needs to stop being a cancer. Stop bulldozing trees, stop draining ponds, stop building without permission in federally protected wetlands. Simple stuff. We put the over/under at three weeks.
Hug a Muslim
The year in Islamophobia started, as these things tend to do, with a Facebook post. On February 6, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne posted a screed vowing to protect Irving and the American people from the creeping influence of Sharia law. The perceived threat was, in fact, a wholly nonthreatening religious arbitration panel similar in scope, authority and unambiguous constitutionality to those employed by Judaism, Christianity and other religions. Next came Farmersville, where over the summer residents freaked out about a proposed Islamic cemetery which was, in fact, just a place to bury dead people. In September, back in Irving, police handcuffed and detained a 14-year-old named Ahmed Mohamed on suspicion of having a hoax bomb, which was, in fact, a clock. Then, the self-styled Bureau of American Islamic Relations (actually just a bunch of yahoos with guns) began showing up to protest suspicious gatherings of Muslims, which were in fact mosques. And so on.
It’s true that some Muslims have committed grotesque acts of violence this year, most recently the massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, California. But so have non-Muslims such as Dylann Roof, who shot up a church in South Carolina. The vast majority of Muslims, like the vast majority of Christians, are peaceful.
With a new year comes a new opportunity for North Texas to press reset on its relationship with its Muslim community. Though it’s probably too much to expect everyone to visit a local mosque or converse with an actual Muslim to experience firsthand how nonthreatening mainstream Islam can be, things can be done to ease suspicions. The responsibility falls on both sides.
Don’t Fight Progress
Even former supporters acknowledge that former Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles, who abruptly resigned in June, was kind of a dick. He alienated teachers with inflexible mandates, such as the one requiring them to keep their doors open at all times; he picked fights with the bosses on the board of trustees, going so far as to have his arch-nemesis on the board, trustee Bernadette Nutall, physically removed from Dade Middle School; and he generally seemed incapable of navigating the landmine-studded politics of a big urban school district.
Nevertheless, Miles succeeded in passing several landmark reforms, among them rigorous, standardized principal evaluations and a performance-pay system for teachers that rewards competence rather than simply longevity and advanced degrees. He also began to push for schools of choice like Mata Montessori, which operate like magnets without the stringent admissions requirement. On a large enough scale, such campuses can chip away at DISD’s deep racial and economic segregation.
In his second stint leading the district, new Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has made no serious attempt to dismantle Miles’ legacy. Still, he’s more timid as a reformer and more prone to compromise with the board’s status-quo voices. In a recent discussion of pre-K expansion — perhaps the single most powerful tool for improving educational outcomes in the district — Hinojosa seized on doubts about the district’s ability to handle the cost. Cost is an important consideration, but DISD needs a superintendent willing to plow through such hurdles, not be stopped by them.
The real question in 2016 is whether Hinojosa will stand aside and allow the anti-reform elements on the school board and in the teachers unions to chip away at the Miles-era reforms, especially the teacher merit-pay system that replaced the old, straight seniority-pay plan.
Generally, three key indicators will show whether merit pay is being preserved, all in the budgeting process. One will be the overall teacher compensation budget. The unions and their supporters on the board will push to get all teacher salaries nudged back up to a flat, across-the-board parity based on seniority.
If that happens, it will cost the district a lot more money than the district is paying out now. So if the total teacher pay budget goes up for the same number of teachers, that means true merit pay is out the window.
Some of that will come into view even before the budget process begins. No later than March, Hinojosa should present the board with a strategic plan for the year. Miles tied his strategic plans to the budget: Department heads had to show how their budgets would reflect the strategic goals in the plan.
If Hinojosa decouples his plan from budgeting, it means he’s diving into fuzzy-land where nobody can get a hard count on what’s really being done or not done.
Another big indicator will be the fund balance. Under Miles, the district’s fund balance — its savings account for a rainy day — went from $180 million to $350 million. When Hinojosa was superintendent the first time, his regime suffered disastrous budget shortfalls that forced last-minute layoffs of hundreds of teachers.
That only happens because the fund balance is being used to paper over expenditures somebody doesn’t want to talk about, like paying people more than what has been budgeted for them, for example.
So those are what to watch for: 1) teacher compensation bloat, 2) no strategic plan or a fuzzy one not tied to money, and 3) a hole in the bottom of the fund balance. That’s how we’ll know whether the district is still sailing a strategic course or has been becalmed again by the status quo-sters.
OK, You Can Fight Some Progress
Hiding in the jungle of freeways that help people commute from Dallas to the suburbs are a few inner-city neighborhoods that are “cool.” OK, maybe “charming” is a better word. Bishop Arts District, for example, is considered by many here to be “cool,” though some people — well, us, mainly — wonder what kind of gritty, cool neighborhood has people hopping on the freeway and cruising down to line up to pay $5 for a slice of pie.
The low-key businesses directly outside of the Bishop Arts district, on the other hand, are a different story. Technically not in the grid that is officially designated Bishop Arts, these businesses could in fact be considered cool. Toward Zang Boulevard there are off-beat shops like Red Pegasus comics, whose owners broke the Internet when they temporarily closed to get married after the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. (A note they left on the door about their impending nuptials had gone viral). There are also more casual dining options, like Zoli’s NY Pizza and Ten Bells Tavern, a bar with a patio where cats roam freely. How very Portland. Ten Bells' owner affectionately referred to this section of Bishop Arts as the “weird” part in one community meeting. Unfortunately for her and the other “weirdos,” this section of Bishop Arts does not have the same zoning protections that businesses inside the Bishop Arts district have.
Residents and business owners learned that the hard way this year when a developer named Alamo Manhattan announced plans to build three mixed-use residential/commercial complexes over the spot where many of the current “cool” businesses reside. The project is part of the city’s so-called Bishop Gateway project, in which taxpayer funds would be used to
give Bishop Arts a chic new entrance. The problem is that plenty of people think Bishop Arts is fine the way it is, without an official “gateway.”
When the neighborhood spoke out and protested, Alamo revised its blueprint. A new plan it rolled out subsequently shows that its project will be smaller scale, to better fit in with the low-rise, brick buildings that give Oak Cliff its unique look. Several of the current businesses that appeared to be in jeopardy — like Red Pegasus and Ten Bells Tavern — appear to be safe under the new plan. Still, some of the existing businesses will have to go. Zoli’s has already announced plans to leave this spring to make room for the impending gateway. "I think that it’s pretty much a done deal,” says Kenneth Denson, one of the co-owners of Red Pegasus comics. His shop is across the street from where Alamo’s project will go, but not directly in the line of fire. His lease is good for a few more years and he’s not sure what will come next. "We're going to try to stay here until the end of our lease,” Denson says.
Meanwhile, local business owners learned that they could give “weird” Bishop Arts the same protections as official Bishop Arts, essentially shutting new development out, by filing for a zoning change. But that’s more complicated than it sounds. Changing the zoning in a Dallas neighborhood is a long and complicated process that can cost thousands of dollars. Michael Amonett, a hairdresser in Oak Cliff, took it upon himself to try to raise that money through GoFundMe. He recently reached his goal of $10,000 in donations and says he now plans to file the case next year, after the holidays. The race pitting preservationists against developers continues.
Stop Trying to Frame People for Crimes Just Because You Disagree With Them
Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs says he will go into 2016 wiser but unbowed. In 2015 he survived an attempt by the city attorney — supposedly his attorney as a council member — to bring what turned out to be totally bogus felony criminal charges against him for allegedly threatening a city employee with physical mayhem.
That contretemps was barely behind him when he found out the attorney for the board of the Dallas Police and Pension Fund, also supposedly representing him because he was a member of that board, had been paying a consultant to dig up dirt on him after Griggs publicly criticized management of the fund.
Both lawyers resigned their positions after their actions were made public. Now as Griggs looks forward to 2016, he’s hoping to see more of the same kind of action:
“Hopefully we can get some more house-cleaning done at City Hall,” he tells the Observer. “I don’t think [City Attorney] Warren Ernst or [pension fund board attorney] Gary Lawson is either the beginning or the end of the problem.”
He says the personal attacks of the past year have made him more careful but no less committed to reform: “The determination is still there, but now I have a better feel for how the other side plays, the extremes they are willing to go to [to] protect their interests, which really aren’t the city’s interest or the public’s interest.”
Stop Saying People Are Traitors Who Should Be Hanged Just Because You Disagree With Them
Texas gun people got everything they could’ve imagined they wanted in 2015. The Legislature legalized Yosemite Sam cosplay in the form of the open carrying of handguns and mandated that Texas’ public college campuses allow students and professors to carry concealed weapons.
But it wasn’t enough. Kory Watkins, the firebrand leader of Open Carry Tarrant County, suggested that state officials were committing treason by requiring any sort of license at all to do anything with a gun; dontcomply.org, a local gun rights group, held a mock mass shooting at the University of Texas to protest faculty coming out against campus carry and the idea that any space should be a so-called “gun-free zone.”
Open carry starts New Year’s Day. Campus carry starts in September. The attack on any space that’s not overrun with firearms starts now.
Be a More Considerate Coworker
Newly elected Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk had a bumpy 2015 in the same way that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had a bumpy summer of 1914. After becoming the only Republican holder of countywide office by beating incumbent Craig Watkins, Hawk admitted that she’d sought treatment for painkiller addiction in the midst of the campaign. Soon after taking office, she fired some top aides who she bizarrely accused of spying on her.
And then she vanished without explanation over the summer, until The Dallas Morning News snooped around and discovered she had been receiving treatment for a bout of severe depression. After a few more weeks of in-patient care at a clinic in Houston, Hawk returned with the help of friend and political consultant Mari Woodlief.
Hawk's defenders lambasted the coverage of her disappearance, claiming she was a victim of a sexist double standard, which is almost certainly partly true, the question being whether she was a victim. She also won praise for her courage for admitting she suffered from depression, which is understandable if you're backward enough to think that depression is something shameful that must be covered up and then confessed to in a country where 1 in 10 people have been prescribed antidepressant medications.
She is no doubt courageous, if your definition of courage is coming clean after you’ve been caught lying. But hey, mental illness and addiction are devastating, so let’s give Hawk credit for giving interviews about the details of her hospitalization. In the future, we hope to hear more about her potentially delusional and paranoid behavior and its impact on the careers of her former aides. (Hawk allegedly accused her former top assistant of breaking into her house to steal a compromising photo and believed her employees were spying on her through software installed on her phone.)
Maybe those details will come out in the new year, in a trial over a removal suit filed against Hawk by a former employee. If a judge finds she is mentally unfit to serve, she could be booted from office, though the suit could still be dismissed before it ever gets to trial.
Stop Acting Like Silly Virgins
And then there’s the very antithesis of cool, those times when Dallas and the rest of Texas displays its panicky fear of sex. The most recent sign of our pearl-clutching ways showed itself in August, when the Dallas Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit with a stated mission to help women and girls, wrote an open letter to our mayor to complain about an upcoming convention. “...Human trafficking in our City must stop,” the Women’s Foundation explained in their letter. Fighting human trafficking is certainly an admirable cause, but the problem with the Women’s Foundation’s letter is that the event in question wasn’t actually a human trafficking convention. It also wasn’t a convention to celebrate, as the Women’s letter implies, “degrading acts of violence against women and girls,” nor was it a convention celebrating the “exploitation of and violence against women and girls.” The convention that left the Women’s Foundation “deeply troubled” was none other than Exxxotica, the self-described “Largest Adult Event in the USA Dedicated to Love & Sex.” Sure, emphasis was more on the “sex” part than the love part, with meet and greets with porn stars and burlesque dancing listed as some of the main attractions. But luckily for most Dallasites and other humans who enjoy sex, it’s perfectly legal to enjoy porn and watch sexy dances. The city had no choice but to lease our convention center to sexy heathens.
Mayor Mike Rawlings responded to the outcry raised by the Women’s Foundation by giving a similarly weak imitation of a virgin. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, he claimed to be “deeply concerned” about the event, while adding that it was not in his power to stop it.
After all of this brouhaha, Exxxotica was, by most accounts, a surprisingly mild affair. The Observer’s own review described the event as “vanilla” because of a lack of people being naked in public, having sex in public or putting on any displays that were very kinky. Photographer Mark Kaplan, who shoots parties under the moniker The Naked Lens, tells us that he in fact saw no nudity at all. Exxxotica, it turned out, was a fairly straightforward celebration of the porn industry.
Far more disturbing than Exxxotica were the signs that anti-Exxxotica protesters held outside as guests walked in. One protester reportedly brandished a sign that said,“God laughs at your rape.”
None of that appears to have intimidated Exxxotica organizers. They announced several months ago on the official Exxxotica Dallas Facebook page: “Who’s ready for a triumphant return in 2016?!?” The organizers have not yet announced the specific date when that triumph will happen.
Don’t Be a Sucker for the Sharing Economy
Two years ago, Dallas’ millennials began a grassroots social media campaign to celebrate rideshare services, marked by the hashtag #DallasNeedsUber. At the time, the public had caught wind of the fact that Dallas City Council was about to vote on an ordinance that would outlaw ride-share services without so much as a public debate. In the months that followed, the public also learned that police were going “undercover” to ticket Uber drivers with the help of private investigators who had been hired by none other than an attorney for Yellow Cab. Given the spotty cab service in Dallas, along with the limited public transportation options, the bar-going and car-free members of the public were rightly outraged.
But that was two years ago. Now, in 2015, Uber and its competitor, Lyft, have been able to operate in Dallas more comfortably. Drivers for Uber’s cheaper service, UberX, and drivers for Lyft can use their personal cars for ride-sharing as long as they obtain a city permit. And in August, both services were finally cleared to pick up and drop off passengers at the DFW airport. Ride-share has officially gone from the underdog to the mainstream.
The success has now forced Dallasites to look more critically at a service many depend on. In the fall, Uber drivers in North Texas joined a national strike over the company’s new payment policies. As the UberX drivers striking in the West End explained, they had lost a fair amount of benefits in the name of lower prices. No longer do Uber drivers receive an automatic fee if a customer cancels a ride. Customers also no longer have the option to tip drivers through the app, and Uber’s per-mile rate for drivers has steadily decreased. Uber’s competitor, Lyft, in the meantime, has raised prices during peak hours and given customers the option to tip, making the service a more attractive option for drivers. But Lyft has not been immune to problems, either. In November, a Lyft driver was arrested for allegedly raping a passenger he had picked up in Uptown.
The city has another challenge to tackle with Airbnb, the sharing economy’s version of a hotel that allows individual homeowners to rent out their unoccupied spaces. Like Uberx, Airbnb can be cheaper and more fun than the traditional options. But as the Observer’s Eric Nicholson discovered in September, barely any of the approximately 700 Airbnb listings in Dallas have bothered to pay hotel taxes. A city report released not long before explains why. City Hall determined that Dallas “does not currently have processes and procedures in place that specifically address short-term vacation rentals. As a result, it is unlikely that short-term vacation rental properties operating in the City are registered with the City and paying Hotel Occupancy Taxes.”
Next year, Uber will have to face some of its disgruntled drivers in court. Uber drivers nationally have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that they should be classified as employees, not independent contractors, and the trial is scheduled for June. Lyft, meanwhile, recently announced that it plans to raise $1 billion from investors, a move that could potentially help Lyft gain an edge on its more famous competition. While Uber remains the more popular and well-known choice, users would be wise to download both apps in time for New Year’s Eve and see who is offering better service.
Be Kinder to Your Best Friends
Chances are, if you called Animal Control about a stray dog roaming your neighborhood in recent years, nothing happened. Nearly a dozen neighbors and animal activists the Observer interviewed during the summer shared stories about a city agency that appeared to be ignoring the plague of stray dogs roaming Dallas’ poorer neighborhoods. It turned out there was an explanation for that inaction: One current Dallas Animal Services employee and three former workers said that the city had stopped routinely picking up stray dogs when Jody Jones took over as animal services director in 2011 in order to keep the shelter’s euthanasia rates low. In our own paper, in the Morning News and in meetings before City Council, animal rights advocates complained that the city’s animal control and shelter agency was not only neglecting its duties but also failing to properly investigate animal abuse cases. Jones, along with Dallas Code Compliance Director Kris Sweckard and City Manager Joey Zapata, faced a fairly annoyed City Council in the early fall who wanted to know why, among other problems, DAS employed fewer workers than it was budgeted for. Jones at the time promised to find qualified workers and to release a better plan to collect stray dogs.
In October, DAS finally rolled out a map of areas where her agency had received the most stray dog calls. DAS then implemented a targeted “sweep” program to clean up those areas, but the agency still has more work to do before its critics are satisfied. Last month, an independent animal rescuer dumped a dead dog on the doorstep of the Dallas Animal Services shelter after the agency failed to pick the body up from the side of the road. The rescuer, Marina Tarashevshka, had found the dog in the woods of southeast Dallas, a popular dumping spot that she and others say has long been ignored by the city. Not long after her protest, the city’s public information office held a press conference by that very dumping ground, promising to address the illegal dumping there. The lesson here is that sometimes dumping a dead animal on the doorstep of a city agency is an effective way to create change — though it’s not a trick you want to use very often, certainly no more than six or seven times a week.
Last month, Jones also told City Hall that she had hired 27 staffers to fill the empty positions and promised to fill seven more open positions soon. The agency also wrote 39 citations and took in 55 dogs in the month of November alone, a vastly higher figure than the number of tickets the agency issued and dogs the agency collected during the previous five months. If DAS continues to actually do the job that taxpayers have been paying it to do, maybe by this time next year you and your dog can go jogging in Pleasant Grove without getting chased by a wild pack.
Make Peace with Despair, but Not Jerry Jones
Like 2004, 2008 and 2010, 2015 promised to be the year that the Cowboys, working on a good two decades in the wilderness, finally broke through and, at the very least, played in an NFC Championship game. The 2014 ’Boys were a revelation, built the right way around an offensive line and featuring a Tony Romo who didn’t make mistakes and Dez Bryant, one of the league’s most explosive playmakers. They hadn’t embarrassed themselves in the playoffs, losing a close divisional round game in Green Bay on a controversial call, had re-signed Bryant to a long-term contract and were getting their best defensive player back. Maybe the bad juju had finally moved away. Maybe 2015 would bring back the glory days. Our spirits filled with hope.
And then Mr. Bad Juju rang the bell. He was back, and he had brought a lot of baggage and the family for a long, bitter stay.
Bryant broke his foot in week one, Romo broke his collarbone in week two and Greg Hardy, the extremely talented pass rusher who might be a bit of an ex-girlfriend beater, became the team’s biggest story of the year, and we don’t mean in a good way. Hardy never expressed regret, clashed with teammates and wasn’t very good on the field.
The 2015 Cowboys were depressing to watch. Which might have been fine, if not for Hardy. With him, the season really made you wonder how long we’re going to be able to tacitly support owner Jerry Jones. The losing, at least, will make desertion easier.
Keep the World Safe from and/or for Vaginas
The fallout from 2013’s House Bill 2 — the one that was written to make getting a legal abortion in the state of Texas as hard as possible — was one of the biggest stories of 2015. Clinics closed, unable to meet the bill’s requirement that they be certified as ambulatory surgical centers, and then reopened when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the enforcement of that part of the bill. Women faced longer wait times for appointments, leading to riskier, more expensive abortions later in pregnancies. Others sought out solutions away from the doctor’s office, like herbal concoctions and misoprostol — a drug that can induce early-term abortion — from Mexico. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he wanted to end legal abortion in the state. Period.
2016 stands to be even more important. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of HB2’s most critical provision. If the court rules in favor of the state, fewer than 10 healthcare clinics that provide abortions will remain open. Women in the state who do not live in its biggest urban areas will face journeys of hundreds of miles to seek abortion care. Because the state requires a 24-hour waiting period to get an abortion, they will have to stay overnight, missing out on work and family obligations. If the court rules with Whole Women’s Health, the plaintiff, it will remain exceedingly hard to get an abortion in Texas, but it won’t be next to impossible.
Don’t Be Afraid of Love
As far as we know, instances of people attempting to wed their dogs, cats, gerbils, siblings, parents or household appliances have not increased. Fire has not fallen from the sky. A hell-spawned demon hasn’t risen to power in America, ushering in an age of darkness and misery, though it’s probably best to hold off judgment on that one until after the GOP Iowa caucuses.
What has happened in the months since June 26, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to get married just like straight people, is that some 350-400 gay and lesbian couples in Dallas County have decided to roll the dice on marriage, love and commitment just like the rest of us, according to County Clerk John Warren, who was among the first in Texas to welcome same-sex couples to get their Texas marriage licenses. Since the first early days of celebration and protest, Warren says, issuing licenses to gay couples has become old hat. Some still occasionally express a little worry about how they’ll be treated when they apply, he says, and they are a little more grateful when they are treated respectfully and professionally.
Other than that, people are pretty much just falling in love and getting married. Surprise.
We called up Kenneth Denson at Red Pegasus, one of the guys whose story went viral when he and partner Gabriel Mendez closed up their comic shop briefly to go get hitched. How has married life been treating him?
“Married life has been great,” he said. In fact, it's been great for the past decade. He and Mendez first married in a non-state-sanctioned ceremony in Dallas 10 years ago. They were married a second time in California, after same-sex marriage was officially recognized there. The third time was in Texas, officially. Getting married, each time, has deepened their long relationship, he said.
Surprisingly, Denson said he didn't spend a chunk of the summer shopping for wedding gifts for friends also taking the leap. There was a rush of people getting licenses that first week, it seems, but “I don't think I've been invited to a wedding yet,” he said.
He expects that to change next summer, as the first anniversary of the Supreme Court decision could be a popular day for same-sex nuptials. That sounds about right: June is a very popular month for weddings for everyone.
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