Gay Dallas officials address election challenges, shift in attitude toward gay candidates at forum

Posted on 21 Jun 2012 at 2:30pm

From left, Dallas police LGBT Liaison Laura Martin, Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and former Dallas Councilman John Loza speak about being out officials at a Dallas Pride forum Wednesday, June 20. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

A couple of Dallas’ out officials discussed the challenges and benefits of running as an out candidate and serving as an open officeholder Wednesday at the third event in the city’s “Honor, Educate and Celebrate” Pride series.

Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez, former Councilman John Loza and Dallas police LGBT Liaison Laura Martin, who stepped in last minute for the absent 116th Civil District Court Judge Tonya Parker, were panelists. A group of about 30 sat comfortably in couches in a casual setting at the United Black Ellument Cultural Center and asked questions about campaigns and the importance of out officials.

Valdez touched on the challenges of running as an openly gay candidate. In her first election in 2004, she worried constantly that she would be outed. When her opponent eventually outed her, she said she handled it with care and focused on her experience.

In a story about self-worth, Valdez explained that she received international calls when she first won. When a Collin County woman sitting next to her on a plane recognized her, she began to tell Valdez how she and her family including her gay son watched with pride when Valdez won on election night.

At the end of the flight, she told Valdez that she was her son’s hero and her election validated her son. Valdez said her position shouldn’t validate the LGBT community, but further instill in them a sense of confidence in being who they are.

“We do not need this kind of validation to be who we are,” she said. “We just need to be who we are.”

Loza commented on the achievements of the City Council during his time in office. His proudest accomplishment was the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which passed 13-2. He said that while the Council does not currently have a gay member, he expects to have many more LGBT members in the future because the times are changing, even in Texas, to where an LGBT candidate could win a council seat in any Dallas district.

Martin said she had been with department for 12 years and was asked about five years ago to become the LGBT liaison. The position has evolved into a full-time position and Martin handles hate crimes and protests, as well as teaching hate crime laws and overseeing police sensitivity training.

Although she was hesitant to accept the position, she said her reputation as a trustworthy and respectable police officer didn’t change the minds of her co-workers when she was out to the entire department as the liaison.

“When I came out to most of my co-workers, they didn’t see me as just the lesbian cop or rookie,” she said. “They see me first as a good officer, as a competent officer and caring and diplomatic and all those things you want an officer to be.”

The final event in the series is “Lift Every Voice” next Wednesday, June 27, from noon to 1 p.m. in City Hall’s Flag Room. A panel of several community leaders will discuss the contributions Dallas’ LGBT community has made to the city.

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