Dallas high up in progressive heap

Posted on 16 Oct 2006 at 6:34pm
By David Webb Staff Writer

Election of 2 more gay officials puts Dallas in same company as cities such as LA, New York



Robin Brand, left and Marty Rouse, right.

Dallas is now in the company of Los Angeles and New York City as one of the most progressive cities in the United States at least in terms of how many openly-gay elected officials will be serving in city and county government in 2007, according to national political observers.

Robin Brand, senior vice president of the National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, described the existence of five-openly gay elected officials in a Texas city as “exciting and unique.” Dallas’ LGBT community can thank itself for that accomplishment, she said.

“Really, the gay community has caused that to happen,” Brand said. “You are recognized as a major political force in the city.”

Brand said that it appears that openly-gay City Council members who had been serving in municipal government for more than a decade set the stage for surprising success. Dallas County voters elected openly-gay County Judge Jim Foster and District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons on Nov. 7. When they start their terms in January, they will join lesbian Sheriff Lupe Valdez and gay Constable Mike Dupree in county government and City Councilman Ed Oakley.

Several openly-gay City Council members, including former City Council members John Loza, Chris Luna, Craig McDaniel and Craig Holcombe, preceded them.

At one time four gay or lesbian City Council members served during the same term, but three of them never came out publicly.

“They really helped to break the glass ceiling there,” said Brand, who noted the Democratic Party’s growing strength in Dallas County had made the election of three openly-gay elected officials possible county-wide. “That’s huge.”

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said the only cities with more openly-gay elected officials would likely be Los Angeles, West Hollywood or New York City. A comprehensive study of how many openly-gay elected officials are in office apparently has not been undertaken since the Nov. 7 election.

“That could be a record there,” Rouse said.

“It’s a wonderful thing, and it shows that Americans all across the country are basically looking at our community with a big yawn. Instead of their blood pressure going up when they hear the words “‘gay’ or “‘lesbian,’ now it’s no big deal.

“We’re just as good and bad and exciting and boring as every other politician and American. And that’s actually progress for our movement.”

The National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund reported unprecedented success in electing openly-gay elected officials in 2006.

The group reported wins by 67 candidates it endorsed in federal, state and local offices.

Some of the candidates won historic races that made them the first openly gay or lesbian candidates ever elected in their states or legislative bodies.

John Marble, communications director for National Stonewall Democrats, said the presence of five openly-gay elected officials in Dallas is impressive.

“It’s certainly a good concentration that we don’t see in other areas,” Marble said.

“Dallas probably has one of the highest concentrations of openly-gay elected officials in the country.”

Marble noted that Minneapolis also has a large concentration of openly-gay elected officials.

Marble said that while Los Angeles and New York City probably have as many if not more openly gay elected officials at the city and county level, their populations are much larger.

That makes Dallas’ gains more impressive, he said.

“I would compare Dallas probably the same as LA, San Francisco, New York and Minneapolis,” Marble said.

As regards electing openly-gay elected officials, Dallas has arrived, he said.
E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 17, 2006.

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