Nurturing scholars

LEAP Scholarship winners talk about how the GBLT Chamber made a difference in their lives


ONE SMALL STEP | Larisa Maxwell, left, met attorney Rebecca Covell through the LEAP Scholarship program and is now practicing with her firm. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Pam Hancock has won the North Texas GLBT Chamber’s LEAP Scholarship twice. And now teaches at the University of Alaska Anchorage where, she said, she can’t see Russia from her front door.

Hancock was celebrating this week because her marriage in her new state was recognized as a result of a court ruling over the weekend. She was also excited that another round of LEAP Scholarships is due to be awarded. Her scholarship meant she was able to finish her dissertation and apply for her current position.

She said LEAP was the first LGBT scholarship she applied for and received.

“I received it at the exact time my funding was running out,” she said. “It was perfect timing that allowed me to get equipment necessary to finish my dissertation.”

But, Hancock said, winning the LEAP Scholarship meant more than just funding.

“Beyond the financial, the whole board took me under their wing,” she said. “That was just as valuable as the financial contribution.”

Hancock called LEAP’s nurturing approach to assistance “holistic” and said board chair Candy Marcum’s ideas helped her complete her degree.

LEAP, which stands for Leadership Education & Advocacy Program, began awarding scholarships three years ago, according to Marcum. Funding comes from one annual fundraiser, previously known as the Holly Jolly Ball. Marcum said that was too close to Christmas and Thanksgiving, so this year the LEAP board pushed the event back to Halloween and renamed it Spooktacular.

Spooktacular takes place on Saturday, Oct. 18 and features a silent auction, a costume contest and a cork pull — match a cork with a bottle to win the bottle of wine.

As successful as LEAP has been in its first years, Marcum said she wants the program to grow.

“I’d like us to give more and more every year,” Marcum said, noting that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce awards $1 million in scholarships.

Marcum said LGBTs, children of LGBTs and allied students are all eligible to apply for LEAP scholarships. The application should be online at in February.

The funds may be used for anything from trade school or community college to undergraduate or graduate studies.

“The best way to get ahead is with an education,” Marcum said.

Larisa Maxwell won a LEAP scholarship last year, enabling her to complete her law degree at Texas A&M.

“I thought it was a great honor to be recognized,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell’s scholarship also involved a bit of nurturing from the LEAP board and eventually helped in kicking off her career.

Her work in the community is among the things that impressed the board in granting her the award. In Dallas, Maxwell volunteered at Lambda Legal. At A&M, she restarted the OUTlaw group for the school’s LGBT law school students.

Maxwell also traveled to Austin to lobby legislators with Equality Texas during the last legislative session. Among the bills being considered that session was one to cut funding for state schools with an LGBT resource center. A&M was the principle target of the bill.

Since graduation, Maxwell has returned to Dallas and is working in Rebecca Covell’s law firm. Covell is an estate-planning and business attorney with more than 25 years experience working in the community who met Maxwell through the GLBT Chamber and LEAP.

Maxwell continues to show her appreciation for being a scholarship winner by serving on the LEAP board and chairing the silent auction committee for Spooktacular.

Maxwell said she funded most of her graduate education through loans.

“The scholarship eased my financial burden,” she said, “and let me stay focused on school work more.”

Now, as a LEAP board member, her focus has turned to helping other LGBT students finish their degrees and graduate with less of a financial burden.

Spooktacular takes place in the Great Room at ilume Park, 3109 Douglas Ave. Oct. 18 at 7–10 p.m. $50.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 17, 2014.

—  David Taffet

Meeting set for destruction of Oak Lawn property

IMG_6133The Dallas Board of Adjustment meets on Monday, Oct. 20 to hear oral testimony on granting variances to the property on Hall Street at Turtle Creek Boulevard. The owners would like to tear down the last remaining house facing Lee Park along with all of the trees to build a 10-story tower.

Plopping a 10-story building on this single-family lot will make Oak Lawn more oakless and more lawnless and make Lee Park less inviting.

The Oak Lawn Committee is already on record as not supporting the proposed changes.

The applicant proposes changing setbacks so that the tower will cover most of the property. While nothing in the status of the building prevents its demolition, there’s no reason to allow developers to violate new standards that have been put into place for properties around the park.

George Poston, owner of the property, applied for and was denied, setback variances in 1999.

In addition to input at the meeting, comments may be sent to the administrator of the Board of Adjustment, Steve Long. All correspondence sent will be distributed at the meeting to all board members.

The Board of Adjustment meets at Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St. on Monday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. A guard at the desk near the west entrance will direct visitors to the right elevators and meeting room.

094 application materials application to destroy property

Oak Lawn Committee letter opposing variances

1999 minutes refusing changes by board in 1999

—  David Taffet

Updated information on handling the Ebola virus

Ebola VirusParkland Hospital and area doctors are trying to deal with the Ebola crisis by getting out the facts and minimizing the hysteria generated by broadcast media.

Parkland released a video about the procedures its staff is taking to minimize contact with the virus and a reference page with links and information about the virus and how it is spread.

Dr. David Lee from Uptown Physicians sent his patients a letter acknowledging the fear, predicting several more cases will appear in Dallas but minimizing alarm by assuring the virus will be contained.

Here’s Dr. Lee’s letter to his patients, reprinted with his permission:

Ebola Virus

David Lee on Oct. 15, 2014 1:37:37 p.m.

We understand the worries being expressed by patients concerning the Ebola virus. It is a scary virus, but one which eventually will be contained in the US. I do suspect we will see more cases in Dallas and the US, but there is no reason to be alarmed at this time. Unlike the flu virus which is easily spread, the Ebola virus is only spread by direct contact with bodily fluids. We are instituting protocols at Uptown Physicians Group to screen for any potential patients with Ebola before they come to our clinic. To be clear, if you think you may have been exposed to someone with Ebola, DO NOT COME TO OUR OFFICE. Please call our office and/or send a portal message and we can help direct your care. You will need to go directly to an emergency room which is equipped to test for Ebola and institute quarantine if necessary. Labcorp does not offer testing, so we cannot test anyone in our office for Ebola. If you have traveled to Western Africa or potentially have been exposed to someone with Ebola, again, you will need to go directly to the emergency room.

Flu season is on the way, and there is currently a viral syndrome causing upper respiratory symptoms circulating in the community, so differentiating which viral illness you have becomes very important. Thus when you call to make an anointment, you will be asked about any potential travel or Ebola exposure. Again, if there is any chance you could have been exposed to Ebola, DO NOT COME TO OUR OFFICE. We will direct you to an emergency room where testing, quarantine, and treatment can be initiated.

Below is a CDC statement which was released today:

“On the morning of Oct. 14, the second healthcare worker reported to the hospital with a low-grade fever and was isolated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that the second healthcare worker who tested positive last night for Ebola traveled by air Oct. 13, the day before she reported symptoms.

Because of the proximity in time between the evening flight and first report of illness the following morning, CDC is reaching out to passengers who flew on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth Oct. 13.

CDC is asking all 132 passengers on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on October 13 (the flight route was Cleveland to Dallas Fort Worth and landed at 8:16 p.m. CT) to call 1 800-CDC INFO (1 800 232 4636).”

If you were on this flight, please call the CDC ASAP for further instructions. As further pertinent information becomes available, we will send updates.


Uptown Physicians Group

And here’s Parkland’s video. The precautions are the same as those being used at Presbyterian where two nurses who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the “index patient,” were infected with the virus.

This is a training video demonstrating the precautionary methods Parkland would use with a patient presenting symptoms of Ebola. The level of virus when a patient presents with simple fever is much lower than when a hospital is treating the patient with severe symptoms and these precautions should be sufficient. Doctors I’ve spoken to recommend full hazmat suits to treat an Ebola patient in isolation.

—  David Taffet

Idaho becomes marriage equality state number … umm… lost count

When Idaho’s Atty. Gen. Lawrence Wasden withdrew his request for a stay on Monday, Oct. 13 and Gov. Butch Otter decided on Tuesday to stop challenging the Ninth Circuit’s ruling on marriage equality, that cleared the way for Idaho to become a marriage equality state.

While Texas and Mississippi continue to battle for last place, Idaho became marriage equality state No. 29. Or 32. We lost count.

Marriages started today in Idaho. Facebook friend Cindy Gross from Boise sent these pics and called the day very exciting. Gross works with the Add the Words campaign trying to get sexual orientation and gender identity added to Idaho’s Human Rights Act.

“Couples getting married today didn’t want their pictures taken because they were afraid they’d lose their jobs,” she said.

But Boise was celebrating with city officials performing weddings. She said lots of straight people were out celebrating along with everyone else.


—  David Taffet

Supreme Court puts part of Texas abortion law on hold

sneakers davis

The sneakers Wendy Davis wore while filibustering the abortion bill

The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked key provisions of a 2013 law to restrict abortions in Texas adding regulations that forced clinics to close.

Earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Texas could immediately force abortion clinics to upgrade to hospital-level facilities. The Supreme Court put that provision on hold.

Another provision requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital was put on hold for clinics in McAllen and El Paso.

The Fifth Circuit is considering the overall constitutionality of the law that propelled Sen. Wendy Davis to national fame because of her filibuster against it.

“The court recognized that these deeply personal decisions should be made by a woman with the guidance of her family and her doctor,” Davis said in an email sent to Dallas Voice. “The actions by Austin politicians like Greg Abbott had closed all but eight Texas reproductive health centers and harmed the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of women throughout the state.

“While politicians like Greg Abbott support making abortion illegal even in cases of rape and incest, I’m thankful that women can continue to make their own personal decisions.”

Although the decision was unsigned, Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said they would have ruled against the clinics.

“We’re seeing the terrible impact these restrictions have on thousands of Texas women who effectively no longer have access to safe and legal abortion,” said Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, in a statement. “We’re relieved that the court stepped in to stop this, and we hope this dangerous law is ultimately overturned completely.”

Until the Supreme Court weighed in, the only clinics still open were in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston. Several others are expected to reopen bringing the total up from eight to 13 clinics.

—  David Taffet

Last remaining house facing Lee Park will soon be gone


Buildings more than 15 years old remain the scourge of the neighborhood and this one will soon be gone.

The last house facing Lee Park will soon be gone.

What about all those oak trees covering the property? Don’t worry, they’ll be gone, too. Who needs stinkin’ trees messing up a park?

A zoning change will allow a 10-story building to replace the house. That’s because there isn’t enough traffic around Lee Park and there are too many old trees.

The house, built in 1940, is valued at $714,000 and is owned by Poston Real Estate and Poston Capital Corp.

Hopefully, the city will get the message that old stuff and trees just aren’t compatible with modern city living, and they’ll sell off Lee Park to put in some beautiful high-rise condos and more luxury offices.

Outraged? Contact the Board of Adjustment at 214-670-4206 regarding case number BDA 134-094, the request to rezone the front and side yard of 3409 Hall St. Even if the house at 3407 Hall St. has already been rezoned, developers can’t put up a 10-story building without the rest of the property.

Preservation Dallas holds a public forum at the Erik Jonnson Central Library, 1515 Young St. on Thursday, Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. Free including free parking in the underground lot accessed on Wood Street.

—  David Taffet

Six reasons Shmini Atzeret is my favoritest holiday


We have no idea if this is an appropriate Shmini Atzeret greeting or not. For all we know about the holiday, the right greeting may be have a stinkin day.

Happy Shmini Atzeret, my absolute favoritest Jewish holiday.

Shmini Atzeret begins tonight and what a wonderful celebration. Or sad day. Or day of … well, we don’t have any idea what the hell Shmini Atzeret celebrates. We just know it’s a holiday that shares the same day as another holiday, but stands as a holiday on its own. You gotta love it.

I’ve talked about why I hate Channukah here and here and here. But I’ve never talked about Shmini Atzeret, the greatest Jewish holiday of them all.

We really, really don’t know what Shmini Atzeret celebrates. Shmini means eighth in Hebrew. Atzeret is gathering or assembly. So it’s celebrated as the eighth day of assembly or the holiday of Sukkot, the harvest festival or Jewish Thanksgiving, which began this year on Oct. 8 and ends this evening as Simchat Torah begins. Simchat Torah is when Jews finish reading the last verses of the Torah for the year and begin over again with the first lines of Genesis.

Here are my reasons I love Shmini Atzeret:

Reason 1:  Shmini, as I like to call it for short, doesn’t get its own day. It shares a holiday. That’s kind of like last year when we celebrated Thankgivikuh, when Hannukah fell on Thanksgiving. So Shmini is an underdog holiday that doesn’t get its own day. Poor Shmini. I love you though.

Reason 2: Leviticus and Numbers command that Shmini is its own separate holiday and should be celebrated. What neither book tells us is what we’re celebrating. That’s kind of like Christmas where everyone buys presents and if you say Happy Holidays, you’re fighting a war on poor Christmas, because you have no idea why you’re bankrupting yourself with shopping. You just do it, because otherwise you’re discriminating against Christians. So I love a holiday that celebrates nothing other than because I said so.

Reason 3: There’s no special food for Shmini. Do you know how greasy my kitchen gets every Hanukah making latkas — potato pancakes — the official food of the Chanukkuh season? You know what a pain in the ass it is to change all the dishes for Passover and then use only products made by Manischewitz, a division of Bain Capital? And blintzes for Shavuot? Yuk. I can’t stand blintzes. And the Biblical mandate to go out for Chinese food on Christmas? Um, OK, well, I like that one.

But Shmini is the no fuss, no muss holiday. Eat whatever the hell you want. This holiday doesn’t even rate its own food. I think I’ll go out for Italian. Maybe a good Shmini lasagne.

Reason 4: On Sukkot, there are prayers everyday. On the eighth day, you don’t have to say them, not all of them anyway. What a fucking great holiday. On Yom Kippur, the damn prayers go on all day. I’m talking start early morning and don’t stop until sunset. Shmini is really the holiday all us lazy Jews really have to love, because it requires even less than Chanuka.

Reason 5: There’s no dreadful Shmini Atzeret music to sing. For some reason, Jews are really good at writing Christmas carols but really bad at writing music for Jewish holidays. “White Christmas.” “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.” “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Jews wrote ‘em. For the Jewish holidays, what have we got? That damn dreidl song for Chanukah and for Passover, “Dayenu,” a song that’s as repetitive and annoying as “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Reason 6: Stupid name. OK, let’s face it. The name sounds more like Shmini Mouse than a serious Jewish holiday. S-H-M. MMMM it’s Shmini Atzeret. I-N-I. I really love Shmini. M-O-U-S-E.

—  David Taffet

Abbott wants to reduce out-of-wedlock births so he’s against same-sex marriage

Texas AG Greg AbbottAtty. Gen. Greg Abbott filed a new brief in the Texas marriage case that the Fifth Circuit decided to fast-track. His main argument is that the state doesn’t have to prove same-sex marriage will hurt opposite-sex marriage, just that opposite-sex marriage is better.

“Second, Texas’s marriage laws are rationally related to the State’s interest in reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births. By channeling procreative heterosexual intercourse into marriage, Texas’s marriage laws reduce unplanned out-of-wedlock births and the costs that those births impose on society.”

So how’s that channeling going for you Greg?

Here are some stats from the Centers for Disease Control website for teen births, ages 15 to 19 in 2010, the latest year for which I found a state-by-state comparison.

The overall U.S. birth rate is 34.3 per 1,000 teens ages 15–19 in 2010, the latest year available on the Centers for Disease Control website.

But that number is not equally distributed across the country.

In Massachusetts, the rate is 17.1 per thousand and in Texas it’s 52.2 per thousand. That’s more than three times the teen pregnancy rate in traditional values Texas than in marriage-equality Massachusetts.

Massachusetts, the first marriage-equality state, legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.

In his fight against marriage equality, Abbott said the State is interested in “reducing unplanned out-of-wedlock births.” That hasn’t happened.

Let’s compare a few other states to Texas. In civil union state No. 1 that became marriage equality state No. 2, the Vermont teen birth rate is 17.9 per thousand.

Another early marriage equality adopter was Iowa. That’s state’s teen birth rate is 28.6 per thousand, still below the national average.

Comparing Texas to other large states, New York has a rate of 22.6 per thousand and California has a rate of 31.5 per thousand. Both now have marriage equality but didn’t in 2010, the year of these stats.

Texas isn’t in last place, however. Once again, Texans can proudly say “Thank God for Mississippi,” with its 55.0 rate. Arkansas and New Mexico teens are both breeding at faster rates than Texas teens as well.

These are just teen birth rates and marriage equality may have absolutely nothing to do with it. So either Abbott’s argument collapses because marriage equality is irrelevant to unwed teen birth rates or marriage equality actually encourages teens not to get pregnant.

—  David Taffet

NBC News ‘doctor’ violated quarantine


Nancy Snyderman broke voluntary quarantine and endangered lives of others

I have no idea if NBC’s “Dr.” Nancy Snyderman or ABC’s “Dr.” Richard Besser have medical degrees. What I do know is they are part of the media hysteria about Ebola and — like the rest of our local and national media — are providing little valid information to the public. In Snyderman’s case, she endangered the lives of others.

After returning from a trip to Liberia, Snyderman and her team from NBC were placed under voluntary quarantine. Snyderman violated the quarantine and is now under mandatory quarantine.

There is absolutely nothing heroic about what she has done. She’s apologized for her reckless behavior, hoping to keep her broadcast job. After all, why should the public trust this “doctor” who endangered the lives of others.

You know who has behaved heroically? The family of Ebola victim Thomas Duncan. They were placed under orders, according to Dallas Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson. Orders is a step below quarantine.

You know what this family did? They voluntarily complied with anything and everything the county has asked them to do. Yes, a 13-year-old has acted more maturely and responsibly during a period of great personal loss than NBC’s “doctor.”

While the Dallas family remains in isolation, they’ve passed a big hurdle. The incubation period for Ebola is two to 21 days, but the illness usually manifests itself in eight to 10 days of contact with the virus, according to several infectious disease specialists I’ve spoken to. They’ve made it past 10 days and hopefully will make through the full 21 days.

Meanwhile, Nina Pham, a nurse that tended to Duncan at Presbyterian Hospital and became infected, has received a transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, the Fort Worth doctor who recovered from Ebola. The hope is that antibodies from his blood will prevent severe illness and even provide a cure.

That treatment seemed to have worked in two other Ebola cases. Brantly was not a blood type match for Duncan, so his blood could not be used.

—  David Taffet

Marriage begins in Idaho, NC and judge throws out Alaska law

Marriage-Equality-Bumper-Sticker-(7423)Marriage equality began Friday, Oct. 10, in Idaho and North Carolina and on Sunday, Oct. 12, a federal judge in Alaska threw out that state’s marriage discrimination law.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to place a permanent injunction on the Ninth Circuit’s decision that Idaho’s marriage law is discriminatory. Earlier in the week, the court place a temporary stay, but on Friday decided not to extend it. A county clerk in one county began issuing marriage licenses on Friday. The governor said counties should wait for an order from the Ninth Circuit.

A U.S. district judge in North Carolina ruled on Friday that marriage equality is neither a political nor moral issue, but a legal one and is a matter of settled law. At least one county clerk in that state  began issuing licenses on Friday. More are expected to begin issuing licenses this week.

The lawsuit was brought by United Church of Christ and Union for Reform Judaism. Both denominations believe in marriage equality and claimed religious discrimination because they can’t perform marriages.

On Sunday, an Alaska judge threw out that state’s marriage ban after hearing a marriage case on Friday.

In 1998, Alaska became the first state to put a ban on same-sex marriage into its constitution when the state came close to passing marriage equality. The governor said the state will appeal. No word yet on a stay or whether marriages can begin.

The decision puts Alaska in line with last week’s Ninth Circuit ruling on Nevada and Idaho throwing out the marriage bans in those states. Other states in the circuit include California, Oregon and Washington that already have marriage equality. Arizona and Montana, also in the circuit, have yet to be heard from.Nevada began issuing licenses on Thursday, Oct. 9. While prostitution has been legal in Nevada for years, marriage hasn’t been, so moral arguments against marriage from that state’s officials have been particularly ironic.If Kansas, Wyoming, West Virgina and South Carolina fall into line with their circuit courts, 35 states will have marriage equality. Meanwhile, Texas and Mississippi are battling to be last.

—  David Taffet