Green candidate challenges Sessions

Gary Stuard worries about the environment, economic justice and the power of multinational corporations



DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions once said he didn’t have any gay people in his district. Gary Stuard, who is challenging Sessions in the election in November on the Green Party ticket, disagrees.

“The last time I checked with my husband, we were gay,” he said, noting that he supports full equality legislation that includes the transgender community. Without such legislation, Stuard knows he and other LGBT people can lose their jobs because of who they love.

Stuard works for a mental health mental retardation agency in Corsicana — he commutes from his East Dallas home daily — where he mostly works with kids with autism. “These are kids affected by the policies of Pete Sessions,” as well as by the policies of the current and previous governors who refuse to expand Medicaid coverage, he said. “Kids are suffering.”

And each year funding gets tighter and tighter, he said, adding that “Healthcare is a human right.”

Stuard said he decided to enter the race because there was no Democrat or progressive running against Sessions. “I’ve been sympathetic to the Green Party for a number of years,” he said.

That support goes back to the 1980s and his support of environmental issues. Today, Stuard’s main concerns are ending use of fossil fuels, economic justice and ending the influence of large, multinational corporations.

He said fracking is destroying the environment and noted that when Denton decided to end the practice within the city, the state stepped in and overturned its local ordinance. He said this is important to people in his district because “Pete Sessions in the pocket of oil companies.”

But the issue is much larger than just fracking.

“We’re rapidly running out of time to do anything about climate change,” Stuard warned. “When Pete Sessions was asked at a town hall meeting about his failure to address climate change, his answer was that the planet is cooling.”

Stuard said he’d like to see new funding put to use finding new and more efficient energy sources. “Stop funding the fossil fuel industry,” he demanded, calling the oil companies “criminal entities.”

He’d also like some of the funding that would expand healthcare to everyone and energy research to come out of the defense budget, which he said could be cut by as much as 50 percent.

While he suggested that oil companies could be part of the solution, Stuard doubts those companies have any interest in developing new power sources. “And we don’t want them to have a monopoly on technology,” he said. “People in the oil industry should be prosecuted for what they’ve done.”

Banking is another of Stuard’s targets. He points out that it was big banks that were responsible for the 2008 recession.

Responding to recent allegations against Wells Fargo, where executives had employees create fake accounts to generate revenue and then fired employees for following that policy while taking huge bonuses for themselves, Stuard said banks and Wall Street need “far more regulation.”

He believes corruption in the banking industry is widespread and CEOs are simply hiding behind the idea of their companies being so large they can’t possibly know everything that’s going on.

“When things become so big and aloof from their communities, that results in abuse and corruption,” Stuard said. “Bust them up,” he said, adding that the country worked much better when local banks financed local businesses.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Stuard warned, would be an environmental and economic disaster, because international courts would overrule local laws.

“Arbitration courts would have full reign,” he said.

So even if one country had good environmental policies in place, that country could be heavily fined for enforcing its own laws.

While acknowledging that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has come out against the TPP, he noted she was once for it and worried she would support it again once in office.

Campaign finance is another issue on Stuard’s agenda.

Stuard said the system is rigged to help the top 1 percent. One way to change that, he suggested, was public financing of elections, more public forums and true debates. In office, he would like to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, something that would take a new case or a constitutional amendment to accomplish. “We need to get money out of politics or there’s no hope,” he said.

To finance his campaign, Stuard is relying on small donations. He’s attended events in and around his district such, as Pride, and is using social media, canvassing, block walking and speaking at meetings.

“The Green Party is not accepting PAC money,” he said.

Stuard participated in a debate at UT Dallas on Oct. 12. Libertarian candidate Ed Rankin was there, but Sessions was a no-show. Stuard also reminded Democrats in his district that there’s no Democratic candidate in this race. Even if voting a straight party ticket, they can go back and vote off-party in this race without affecting their vote in other races.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 14, 2016.

—  David Taffet

Michelle Obama addresses sexual assault


First lady Michelle Obama

At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, first lady Michelle Obama said she couldn’t just deliver her usual campaign speech because she was so upset and shaken about Donald Trump’s joking about sexual assault of women. She said a country should be judged on how it treats its women and girls.

She said:

We have a candidate for president of the United States who over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign have said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning, I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week we saw this candidate bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

I can’t stop thinking about this.

It has shaken me to my core in a way I couldn’t have predicted.

—  David Taffet

Dallas City Council names Union Station for EBJ


Dallas City Council voting to name Union Station for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (photo courtesy Mayor Mike Rawlings)

The Dallas City Council just voted to rename Union Station in honor of U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernie Johnson.

Johnson has represented the 30th District since 1992. Her district includes parts of Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. Before entering Congress, she was a state senator and worked in the Carter Administration.

Mayor Mike Rawlings tweeted, “Rep. EBJ has been a strong advocate for Dallas residents. It is our pleasure to name Union Station in her honor.”

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Geico nixes National Coming Out Day


Geico isn’t very progressive

How are you celebrating National Coming Out Day?

Well, if you work at one of the many companies that have employee resource groups, you might be sitting at a table with a display and information.

Then again, you may be working at a company like Geico.

Employees in the company’s diversity group in Richardson planned a celebration during lunch with a display. The company stopped that, “because it would be a sensitive subject to some of our employees to discuss.”

Yet the company has allowed displays for Women’s History Month, Black History Month and Cinco de Mayo.

In order to not offend anyone, the table and exhibit were replaced by the company with a one-paragraph, easy-to-delete email that mentions it’s National Coming Out Day.

Geico is a division of Berkshire Hathaway. So are Nebraska Furniture Mart, BNSF, Acme Brick, Fruit of the Loom and many others. On the Human Rights Campaign’s 2016 Corporate Equality Index, Berkshire receives a score of zero. That means it doesn’t even have a simple, no-cost nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation or gender identity.

Other insurance companies with offices in the DFW area include AIG, CNA, MetLife, Nationwide, New York Life, State Farm and Travelers, all of which have a rating of 100. Liberty Mutual, which is moving its headquarters to Plano, has an 85.

Some companies with low ratings don’t actually translate those poor policies into outright discrimination. Geico did. After the Pulse shooting, a gay couple, who each work for different insurance companies, discovered that where you work makes a difference. They had lost a friend in the massacre. The partner who worked at New York Life was offered counseling by his company. The partner who worked at Geico was sent home on leave.

When employees tried to put together an LGBT employee resource group at Geico, they were accused of trying to start a union and threatened with dismissal.


According to sources, even the promised National Coming Out Day email never went out, going back on the little the company’s area management said they would do.

—  David Taffet

A loss by N.C. Governor could be an LGBT rights turning point


Gov. Pat McCrory

The Washington Post said a loss in November by N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory would be watershed moment in LGBT rights at the ballot box. Post writer Dana Milbank wrote it “would be the first case of a prominent official being voted out of office because his anti-gay actions backfired.”

After the N.C. House and Senate both passed HB2, the “bathroom bill,” in less than a day of its introduction, McCrory signed the bill that night. Since then he has defended the law and blamed the state’s subsequent economic woes on the LGBT community and businesses that have limited travel to the state or scaled down business in the state. Human Rights Campaign estimates HB2 has cost the state half a billion dollars so far. The Williams Institute estimated the law could eventually cost the state $5 billion.

Since the bill’s passage, the governor’s favorability rating has plummeted from 54 to 39 percent. In election polls, he trails N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, who opposes HB2, by 4 points.

After years of suffering election defeats, especially in the area of anti-marriage amendments, this would be the first time an elected official was thrown out of office specifically because of his support for and enforcement of an anti-LGBT bill. What’s even more significant is the anti-trans hatred written into the law and the majority of North Carolinians unhappy with the entire law. Only 34 percent believe the law should remain in place.

The New York Times noted that if the courts strike down HB2, it would be the 14th law found unconstitutional since Republicans took control of the N.C. Legislature in 2011.

While Gov. Mike Pence signed an amendment to the Indiana bathroom law as soon as a backlash against his state’s anti-LGBT law threatened business and basketball in his state, McCrory has become more strident. As he’s become more defiant against those opposing HB2. That may be his undoing.

—  David Taffet

PHOTOS: Rodd reupholsters Richardson

Additional photos from Rodd Gray’s amazing home transformation in Richardson. To see the full story of Rodd’s year-long project, click here.

—  David Taffet

OOCL offers largest Dallas home tour



DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League presents the oldest, largest — and traditionally, gayest — home tour of the year.

This year’s tour features some of Oak Cliff’s most amazing kitchens.

The tour includes nine homes in various Oak Cliff neighborhoods

Money raised from the tour is used for sidewalk, landscaping, signage and building repairs. In the past five years, OOCCL has awarded neighborhood associations $100,000 in grants for improvements.

Tickets are available at, Kessler Baking Co., Lucky Dog Books or participating Tom Thumbs. Tickets purchased online can be picked up at will call that will be set up in the Bishop Arts District.
OOCCL Home Tour takes place from noon-6 p.m. on Oct. 15 and 16.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2016.

—  David Taffet

If you never felt sorry for Sen. Ted Cruz before …

cruzsad1Sen. Ted Cruz was at Republican Party headquarters in Fort Worth yesterday making calls for Donald Trump. Even if you never felt sorry for him before, you have to have some empathy for the pain he that, based on some of the photos, he was going through making these calls.

Some of the tweets accompanying these pictures included:

“I, Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz, am being held here against my will. My captors have treated me well, providing regular bread and water…” and “Yes, that same Ted Cruz. Yup, he called my wife ugly. Yes, he did say my dad killed Kennedy. Why am I doing this? Because I hate myself.”

But maybe this sums it up:

“Hi, this is Ted Cruz. Is your refrigerator running? Yes? Vote for it. HAHAHAHATAKETHATTRUMP!”

The photos are by G.J. McCarthy who noted that Cruz had trouble getting a live voice on the line.

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—  David Taffet

Walking for the cause

26th annual LifeWalk steps off Sunday at Lee Park


DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Texas’ largest AIDS fundraiser — the 26th annual LifeWalk — steps off at 1 p.m. on Oct. 9 from Lee Park.
LifeWalk usually takes place the first Sunday in October. This year, however, lead agency AIDS Arms moved the event to the second Sunday after the Black Tie Dinner was pushed up to the beginning of October.

The second Sunday isn’t a perfect date either. The Texas-OU game takes place in Dallas the second weekend of October. And the unofficial Gay Day at the State Fair of Texas is held the Sunday before National Coming Out Day — coinciding with LifeWalk this year.

So to boost attendance, LifeWalk cut the registration fee to $20 for the last week until the day of the event. AIDS Arms Development Director Tori Hobbs said that while the move has boosted registrations, a few days before the event, this year was still lagging slightly behind last year in terms of number of walkers.

Upping the number of walkers will help increase revenue from the event. But Hobbs said the walk is about more than just raising money. “It’s a great way to remind the community that we still need their support despite all the medical advances,” she explained.

LifeWalk benefits several Dallas agencies that provide HIV care as part of their work. Abounding Prosperity, AIDS Interfaith Network and AIDS Services Dallas are primarily AIDS service providers, and they are LifeWalk beneficiaries. UT Southwestern community prevention and intervention unit, another beneficiary, offers risk reduction programs and steer people with HIV into medical care.

But then there are the beneficiaries that serve the HIV/AIDS communities in other ways, like the Turtle Creek Chorale and The Women’s Chorus of Dallas.

The Chorale maintains a fund called Turtle Cares, which can provide help in paying for medication or rent for chorale members with HIV in need. Despite the medical advances made, medications required to maintain health remain unaffordable without insurance.

The Miss Big Thicket pageant, which benefited the Turtle Creek Chorale AIDS Fund during the height of the AIDS crisis, is now a benefit for LifeWalk. The chorale has become one of the walk’s top 10 fundraisers.

“It’s a significant event for us because it carries on the legacy of the TCC AIDS Fund and combines Miss Big Thicket with another event that’s super fun — the walk itself,” said Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster.

Other beneficiaries include Tucker’s Gift and Dogs Matter. Dogs Matter offers foster care for dogs while their owners are in the hospital.

Hobbs said having a pet can help keep a person healthy. Worrying about their dog during a hospital stay can have a negative effect on a person’s health.

Tucker’s Gift give owners with HIV access to veterinarian services and dog food for their pets.

After the walk, a festival runs until 3:30 p.m. with food trucks, a DJ, vendor booths and dog adoptions. WFAA news anchor Marcus Moore is the emcee for the afternoon.

Last year, LifeWalk raised more than $687,000, making it the largest LGBT or AIDS fundraiser in North Texas whose entire proceeds benefit local organizations. LifeWalk was even able to take the title of largest AIDS fundraiser in Texas after topping the Houston AIDS walk, whose proceeds dipped below $600,000.

In addition to street parking, free parking is available across Turtle Creek around the Kalita Humphries Theater and in the Centrum garage.
Registration in the park the day of the event begins at 11 a.m. The festival after the walk begins at 2 p.m. and runs until about 3:30 p.m.   •

LifeWalk steps off at 1 p.m. from Lee Park, 3333 Turtle Creek Blvd.  

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2016.               

—  David Taffet

Patti Le Build Safe?

Rodd Gray, pageant-winning female impersonator and professional hair stylist, puts down the make-up brushes and scissors and picks up the paint brush and jackhammer to remodel his Richardson home


Rodd Grey relaxes in the living room of the Richardson house he is remodeling. He added the array of windows behind him.


DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Rodd Gray’s new neighbors in Richardson have embraced the former Miss Gay America in a way he never expected. The Richardson Heights Neighborhood Association already informed him that this year’s Christmas party will be at his house. In fact, the only neighbors not thrilled having Gray — aka Patti le Plae Safe — in the area is one of the gay ones.

“They’re not the neighborhood’s favorite gays anymore,” Gray explained.

Gray purchased a four-bedroom home just north of Spring Valley Road in May 2015. In the about 16 months since then, he has turned the 1961-era home into a showplace.

dining-roomThe house had been home to eight people. Gray said there were bunk beds in the garage; there was a restroom sign on the bathroom door, and church had been held in the house on Sundays.

Gray decided to drastically change the floor plan. He gained space by tearing down walls to remove dark hallways and combine two bedrooms into one master. He replaced a wall between the kitchen and dining room with a long counter, and both the kitchen and dining area now open to the living room.

Gray added light by adding windows throughout the house, Putting in double sliding glass doors from the master bedroom to the fenced backyard brought in even more light. But to add the windows and doors, he had to replace load-bearing walls with new support beams. And to accommodate five square, evenly-spaced windows, he had to move column beams.

None of the home’s closets remained in their original place. But now the master bedroom’s closet has enough space to keep Carrie Bradshaw happy.

“It’s big enough to be used as an office,” Gray said.

One bedroom’s closet intruded into the bathroom. So Gray appropriated that space to make a new shower, built a linen closet inside the bathroom and turned the old hall linen closet into the smaller bedroom’s new closet.

Kitchen fixtures come from Ikea. But the two bathroom vanities — industrial steel tables — Gray built himself in his welding class. When the plumber came to install the drain from the sink, he wasn’t sure how he was going to hide the plumbing. Gray explained the pipes would be exposed and he’d have to use polished metal.


The counter in the kitchen was made by Decocrete, a McKinney company, and matches the floor

“We need to use pretty stuff, not plastic,” he told the plumber.

Gray’s welding teacher was so impressed with how the vanities turned out, teacher and student are starting a new business this winter making free-standing, open-faced steel bathroom vanities.

The floor throughout the house is now stained concrete. But to get there, Gray jackhammered out the old floor tile until he got down to the slab. Then he poured a porcelain finish that he spread with a trowel. The liquid flowed across the floor to make a smooth finish with the cement showing in places where the floor was a little higher. The entire surface was covered with a hand wax finish.

“It looks like carrera marble,” Gray said.

The kitchen features an island with a counter that matches the floor, made by Artisan Decocrete, a McKinney company that had been featured on HGTV. When Gray first contacted them, they were apprehensive about making the piece. Not only was it the largest countertop they had ever produced, but they’d never worked with the porcelain finish Gray used.

Under the kitchen counters, he installed drawers rather than cabinets, because with drawers, “I don’t have to get down on my knees,” Gray explained. “I’m too old to get down on my knees.”


Gray used corrugated metal as an accent on the exterior of the house.

Gray has done most of the work himself, and “What code didn’t allow me to do myself, I hired [out],” he said. That included the plumbing, electrical and air conditioning.

Because he wanted to use some corrugated metal siding as an accent to the exterior and use the siding to cover the garage, which juts out into the fenced backyard, he hired a professional to do that as well. City code didn’t prevent him from using the corrugated siding, but inspectors objected to an industrial material being used in a residential area. Gray pleaded his case to the Richardson City Council and won.

He also got help from Howard Okon, former owner of The Brick, who gave him advice and referrals.

“Howard was amazing support for this project. A big shoulder,” Gray said.

For such a major project, before issuing permits, Richardson wanted to see plans. As a gift for all of the fundraising Gray has done for the community over the years, Okon had his architect draw up professional plans to submit to the city.

As amazing as it is that the pageant-winning female impersonator and professional hairdresser did the jackhammering, welding and rebuilding of load-bearing walls himself, is how he made the time to do this much work.


Rodd Gray did most of the work in his house himself. That included welding together his bathroom vanities in a class he’s taking,

“I did it after work, days off and when not working on a charity event,” Gray said.

As he’s finishing construction on his own house, it looks like his time will be consumed with more projects. His work spurred both of his next-door neighbors to remodel their kitchens, and a neighbor down the street has decided to do a makeover and has asked Gray to stop by to give them ideas for their redo.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2016.

—  David Taffet