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Can Valentines Spur Rawlings to Sign Marriage Equality Pledge?

by Eric Miller
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Feb 13, 2012

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings should expect to get a few valentines from the LGBT community this year as part of a campaign to convince the mayor to sign a pledge to push for marriage equality in the Lone Star State.

"We told the county clerks we'd be back every year until the answer is yes," said Michael Diviesti, lead organizer of GetEQUAL TX, explaining this year's Valentine's Day requests for marriage licenses. "In Dallas there's a campaign to write Valentine's cards to Mike Rawlings with a handwritten note about why marriage equality effects your family."

GetEQUAL TX organizer Daniel Cates said that the mayor indicated at a recent meeting that he was more likely to read hand-written notes.

"I gave him a pile of 50 or 60 hand-written letters and said they were the voices of some of the people who couldn't be here," he said. "He looked me and said that he was more likely to read these than any Facebook post or email. So we want to send here a lot more of them."

Rawlings presides over the largest city in the country whose top official has declined to sign onto the new campaign that Freedom to Marry unveiled last month that includes more than 100 mayors who support marriage for same-sex couples. Other mayors who have yet to sign the pledge include Betsy Price of Fort Worth, John Cook of El Paso, Raul G. Salinas of Laredo, Robert Cluck of Arlington, Phil Dyer of Plano and Joe Adame of Corpus Christi. The mayors of Austin, Galveston, Houston and San Antonio have all signed the pledge.

The recent meeting with LGBT community leaders ended with some anticipation about whether the mayor would sign the pledge. In an interview with a local newspaper, however, Rawlings reaffirmed his decision not to sign it and indicated not signing would leave him in a better position to advocate for marriage equality with conservative religious groups.

"I don't see how it's possible not signing leaves him in a better position," said Diviesti. "There's nothing that he could do now having not signed it that he couldn't have done had he signed it."

Cates expanded.

"After the mayor met with the community, we wanted to back off and see what he would do," he said. "I think we did get through to him on a certain level. There were a lot of emotional stories. Now he's come out and say he doesn't intend on changing his mind, so we're back in full swing."

The reaffirmation of the mayor's position has spurred other action.

Equality Texas last week launched its Texas Marriage for Mayors campaign to encourage the mayors of the state's 10 largest cities to sign onto the pledge.

Dennis Coleman, executive director of the group, said it was somewhat surprising to have to face such a battle in Dallas, a city that up until now has taken the lead on LGBT issues.

"Dallas lead the way on having a non-discrimination ordinance for city employees," he said. "We led the way on having openly gay council members, a gay person in the run-off for mayor, a trans[gender] person for city council and a lesbian sheriff."

Coleman said one way forward may be to work with Dallas City Council. He asked the council this week to allow city lobbyists to work on marriage and non-discrimination issues. With several friendly ears on the council, Coleman said his group would work with others on the fence, or who haven't been approached.

Coleman said there would be enough votes on council to pass a resolution asking Rawlings to sign the pledge, but he would prefer a majority before implementing such an effort. He added it was Equality Texas' goal to make marriage the topic of discussion in Dallas and elsewhere in 2013.

Eric Miller is a freelance writer and public relations professional based in Dallas. Eric is also publisher of www.newcolonist.com and co-creator of www.calendarofantiques.com. Eric has a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations from NYU, a Masters in Urban Studies from the University of Akron and is author of a chapter on Ayn Rand’s life in New York in the book Literary Trips: Following in the Footsteps of Fame. He lives with his partner and four cats. Follow Eric on twitter @ericwmiller.


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