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Split council dooms proposed Pride month proclamation in Fort Worth

Members of Finn’s Place, a transgender affirming community center, accept a certificate of recognition from District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck and several others on the council, including Mayor Mattie Parker, on June 11, 2024.
Camilo Diaz
/
Fort Worth Report
Members of Finn’s Place, a transgender affirming community center, accept a certificate of recognition from District 9 council member Elizabeth Beck and several others on the council, including Mayor Mattie Parker, on June 11, 2024.

Todd Camp can remember when Fort Worth police officers raided the Rainbow Lounge in 2009, prompting a reckoning over gay rights in the city. He can remember the progress Fort Worth made toward acceptance of LGBTQ people in the years that followed, including establishing the LGBTQ Chief of Police and Fire Chief Luncheon.

On Tuesday night, however, Camp said the city took a step backward. He was among dozens gathered at the June 11 Fort Worth City Council meeting to celebrate the recognition of several LGBTQ-serving nonprofits — and lament the lack of a Pride proclamation from the full council.

“It seems like we’re starting to backtrack,” Camp said.

Proclamations are written letters, read out during council meetings, that recognize events, individuals and milestones relevant to Fort Worth. In order for a proclamation to make it onto the council agenda, it must be signed by all council members.

During the past few years, the Fort Worth City Council has passed multiple proclamations recognizing June as Pride month, which highlights and celebrates the LGBTQ community. This year, however, several council members refused to sign the proclamation, including Alan Blaylock, Macy Hill and Charlie Lauersdorf. Council member Michael Crain, who was present remotely, did not respond to a request that he clarify whether he supported the proclamation, but he did not sign onto the certificates of recognition presented at council.

After the meeting, Blaylock said he’s supported Pride proclamations for the last two years, but had concerns over the level of specificity included in this one. He said he asked for the proclamation to be edited to be more general and inclusive of the entire LGBTQ community, rather than citing specific organizations.

Lauersdorf echoed Blaylock’s concerns and said he supports the LGBTQ community but didn’t feel comfortable signing off on this year’s Pride proclamation because it specifically recognized individual organizations rather than using broader language “about the people” in the LGBTQ community.

Lauersdorf added that he was not familiar with several of the organizations that were named in the proclamation and didn’t feel comfortable in essentially endorsing them on behalf of the city and his district.

“I said if we can put together a proclamation that was just like last year, where it’s about the people as a whole, I’d 100% support it, just like last year,” Lauersdorf told the Report.

He added that he’s looking forward to learning more about the organizations recognized June 11 and is open to potentially endorsing a Pride proclamation at council’s June 25 meeting.

Hill could not be reached for comment before the time of publication.

The groups recognized in the proclamations have varied from year to year. In 2021, the Pride proclamation recognized LGBTQ Saves, an organization dedicated to support networks for LGBTQ youth and suicide prevention. In 2022, council members passed a proclamation recognizing city employees who represented the LGBTQ community.

Felipe Gutierrez, a longtime Fort Worth resident and leader in the LGBTQ community, drafted the 2024 proclamation. Gutierrez, former chair of the city’s Human Relations Commission, highlighted LGBTQ Saves, Finn’s Place, Trinity Pride and YesterQueer.

Once it became clear the full council would not sign off on his proclamation, District 9 Council member Elizabeth Beck instead worked with city staff to draft individual certificates of recognition for the organizations included in the draft proclamation, with several additions. These included the HELP Center for LGBT Health & Wellness and Camp Haven. The certificates, unlike proclamations, do not require complete consensus from council members.

“In Fort Worth, y’all means all, and we’re proud to have you as members of our community,” Beck said at the June 11 meeting. Mayor Mattie Parker and council members Gyna Bivens, Jeanette Martinez, Chris Nettles, Jared Williams and Carlos Flores joined Beck in supporting the certificates.

Members of LGBTQ-affirming organizations who received certificates of recognition stand for a photo within Fort Worth City Council chambers June 11, 2024. Of the eight council members physically present at the meeting, five joined the organizations for the recognition ceremonies.
Camilo Diaz
/
Fort Worth Report
Members of LGBTQ-affirming organizations who received certificates of recognition stand for a photo within Fort Worth City Council chambers June 11, 2024. Of the eight council members physically present at the meeting, five joined the organizations for the recognition ceremonies.

Blaylock said he has “nothing but love” for the individual organizations that were given certificates of recognition, and said he’s open to continued dialogue with them.

Camp, who founded the LGBTQ history-focused YesterQueer, thanked council members for their support. He was in the council chambers in 2009 when people packed the seats following the Rainbow Lounge raid, he said, and he was in the building last year to speak to city employees about LGBTQ history in Tarrant County.

“And I hope to be here next year when we get our Pride proclamation back, hopefully,” he told council members.

Jonah Murray, who serves on the board of Finn’s Place and represents District 11 on Fort Worth’s Human Relations Commission, said the city has both an ethical and legislative responsibility to create a safe and welcoming environment for Fort Worth residents.

Murray was among those who spoke out against the city’s decision to allow a conservative political action group to host a June event on the “the social contagion of transgenderism” at a community center. He said he wants to continue working with city staff to establish an LGBTQ advisory subcommittee, which was given initial approval by the Human Relations Commission several months ago.

“(It’s) with the goal of city staff and City Council being able to consult a subcommittee of queer people about things that they might not understand,” he said. “So that things like the Pride badge debacle and the Fire Station Community Center, those kinds of things can be avoided in the future.”

Nettles told those gathered that although he was disappointed there wasn’t a proclamation, he thought the opportunity to individually highlight all of the organizations through certificates was ultimately a win.

“I want you to know that Pride month is not over,” Nettles said. “We have another council meeting (this month), so we can figure out how we get to some type of consensus for a proclamation. We didn’t have time.”

Todd Camp, founder of YesterQueer, stands with Fort Worth City Council members Mattie Parker, Elizabeth Beck, Carlos Flores, Gyna Bivens and Chris Nettles after receiving a certificate of recognition June 11, 2024.
Camilo Diaz
/
Fort Worth Report
Todd Camp, founder of YesterQueer, stands with Fort Worth City Council members Mattie Parker, Elizabeth Beck, Carlos Flores, Gyna Bivens and Chris Nettles after receiving a certificate of recognition June 11, 2024.

Camp said residents have been complacent in recent years, and they’ll need to be on their guard to protect LGBTQ rights both locally and nationally. He pointed to people calling LGBTQ people “groomers” of children as an example of old attacks becoming new again.

“This has all happened before,” Camp said. “It didn’t work then. It’s not going to work now. And yeah, we’re going to have some minor setbacks. You know, we may have some political losses around this, but I think ultimately, the pendulum will swing back. And we will be better for it.”

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Emily Wolf is a local government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. She grew up in Round Rock, Texas, and graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in investigative journalism. Reach her at emily.wolf@fortworthreport.org for more stories by Emily Wolf click here.