American Title supports LGBT community through charitable donations, supporting gay employees
Raised a Southern Baptist, attorney Ed Ishmael says he learned the value of giving from his parents, who tithed 10 percent of their income to the church.
And although the causes involved may now be radically different, it’s a lesson Ishmael has carried with him into the professional world.
Ishmael, who is gay, and his two partners at American Title, both of whom are straight, have created a model for what they believe an LGBT-friendly business should be.
American Title, with one of its three offices in Oak Lawn, gives tens of thousands of dollars to LGBT-related causes each year, and will pay membership dues for any employee who wants to join organizations such as Lambda Legal, the Federal Club or the Human Rights Campaign, the owners said.
“The lesson I learned from them isn’t being applied quite the way they hoped, maybe,” Ishmael said of his parents. “But it’s still giving.”
In addition to Lambda Legal, the Federal Club and HRC, recipients of charitable contributions from American Title which also has offices in North Dallas and Austin have included Dallas’ gay and lesbian film festival, the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Black Tie Dinners in both Dallas and Austin, AIDS Services of Dallas, the Resource Center of Dallas, the Dallas Legal Hospice and Equality Texas, Ishmael said.
American Title recently agreed to become the sole corporate sponsor for Equality Texas’ annual women’s event, he added.
Ishmael and his partners, John Fox and Jerry Rasansky, said the nine-year-old company’s decision to contribute to such causes is rooted as much in sound business practices as it is in moral values.
“There are plenty of people who are agents and brokers who are very active in the LGBT community, and I’m sure they appreciate what Ed does,” said Rasansky. “I think it’s in their best interest to do business with us.”
Jeff Updike, the gay manager of the intown office for Virginia Cook Realtors, said many of his clients choose to deal with companies such as American Title based on their LGBT-friendliness. Updike said he informs clients about LGBT-friendly businesses and advises them that others, such as Houston-based Perry Homes, don’t have policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“Most of the time when you’re working with a gay or lesbian buyer, part of the process of selling them a house is educating them about the choices,” Updike said. “I think we do have that obligation to help educate the buyers and sellers.”
In addition to helping bring in business, American Title’s policies serve to empower its LGBT employees. Ishmael said five of the 22 people who work for the company are openly gay.
One of those, general manager Mark Sadlek, said although he already was active in the Federal Club and HRC, the company payed for him to join Lambda Legal. Lambda Legal’s annual membership fee is $1,500, and Ishmael estimates American Title spends $5,000 a year for employees to participate in such groups.
“It’s such a great synergy because basically I can go to sleep so proud of who I work for at night because their philosophies are linked so closely with my personal philosophies,” Sadlek said. “I would highly encourage other companies to really step up to the plate.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 6, 2007