It's no secret that Councilwoman Vonciel Jones Hill doesn't approve of homosexuality. It's why she's made refusing to participate in the city's gay pride parade an annual ritual, once explaining to the Voice that, while we are all God's children, "there are acts that God does not bless."
Hill is apparently concerned that her position on homosexuality isn't sufficiently clear. If that was the case, she left no room for doubt at the council's Transportation & Environment Committee.
The committee spent much of the afternoon interviewing nominees to represent the city on DART's board of directors. All of today's interviews were with sitting board members (Pamela Dunlop Gates, William Tsao, and Bill Velasco) and were brief. The candidates simply gave a one-minute statement about their service on the board, then answered two prepackaged questions from council members. One was about whether cities should be allowed to join DART while levying a sales tax of only a half cent, rather than the standard full cent, for service. The other was about why DART has hesitated to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.
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At the close of each interview, the floor was opened to committee members. Each time, Sandy Greyson asked why the interviewee had not done a better job of communicating with council members, and Hill gave a brief speech lauding them for their service.
That's what it sounded like the first time around at least. The second and third listen made clear what she was actually saying.
"Please know my position ... I do not think that any one issue, no matter what it is, should be a litmus test for service on any board or commission," she said. "I look for the full context of your service the full context of your qualification."
It's at least possible that Hill was referring to the sales tax issue. But her preacherly tone, the way she kept pointing out that her views differ from Mayor Mike Rawlings and the rest of the committee, and her previous history suggest that's not the case. What she was saying, and what she wanted each and every member of the DART board to hear, was that she doesn't like the idea of giving benefits to same-sex domestic partners. Just in case there was any confusion.