Mayor Mike Rawlings has a closed-door, no-press-allowed meeting this morning with 25 LGBT community leaders to discuss something that's become, say, a small issue for him in the last week: his refusal to sign the "Mayors For Freedom To Marry" Pledge.
Earlier this week Rawlings also elected to back out of a long-planned neighborhood meeting rather than face protesters. So last night a coalition of community groups brought their dissatisfaction to City Hall, hosting a rally on the plaza. Around 70 people turned up, from GetEQUAL, Occupy Dallas, OccupyNOW, the Human Rights Campaign, the Stonewall Democrats, the Resource Center, the Dallas chapter of R.A.G.E. (Radical Alliance for Gender Equality) and even a few from the local International Socialist Organization . The rally was flanked by one or two uniformed Dallas Police officers and at least one plainclothes representative from the Criminal Intelligence Unit. At times the ralliers struggled to make themselves heard over a few counter-protesters -- a small but surprisingly noisy group of four guys with a portable microphone and a video camera, shouting some things about fiery pits, judgment and ... you get the picture.
"We have a message for the mayor," said Mark Reed-Walkup, a GetEQUAL board member who made headlines in 2010, his husband Dante by his side. "Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights. We're fighting for our dignity, and we're fighting for our families." The Dallas LGBT community, he said to a chorus of cheers and applause, "is loud, we're proud, and as Texans, we fight back. Mayor Rawlings, like Rick Perry, you really stepped in it on this issue."
Meg Hargis of OccupyNOW encouraged those present to write letters to Rawlings, which will be hand-delivered at this morning's meeting. "We think the mayor's mailbox isn't quite as full as it should be," she said. She also gave out the phone number to the mayor's office. "You're gonna put this in your phone and you're gonna use it," she told the crowd. Everyone whipped out their cellphones obligingly and saved the number.
Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL spoke at first about coming out to his family at age 15. "I was absolutely certain my family would disown me," he said. "I was certain I would live my life as an outcast, but I did it anyway." He found, he said, "that the people I just knew would cast me aside came to understand me. ... Hearts were changed and minds were opened."
"Mayor Rawlings," Cates continued. "You've said you personally and privately support equality. Mayor Rawlings, you are a closet case. So we stand here tonight with two words for our mayor, two words from the citizens of the city of Dallas." The crowd roared along with him: "Come out! Come out!"
"Lives and communities are changing," he told the crowd. "This does not end here. We will continue to pressure our elected leaders, from Mike Rawlings to President Obama. We are going to be free. We are going to sit at the welcome table. Won't you join us?"
Cates told Unfair Park later he remains "very optimistic" that the mayor will ultimately sign the pledge. "I can't think of a reason why he wouldn't. There's obvious support for this issue." He said that some of those attending the meeting this morning would be long-time couples, together 30 and 40 years, who would bring their family photo albums to show the mayor.
"We want to put a human face on this," he said. "Civil rights and equality is not a partisan issue. It was a Republican senate in New York that voted in marriage equality last year. It's wrong to say that this doesn't matter to the majority of Dallasites."
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