Oak Lawn Band members, Dallas attorney Pete Schulte among those who’ll participate in festivities following President Obama’s swearing-in
Homophobia is out and gay is in for President Barack Obama’s second inaugural ceremony.
At Obama’s first swearing-in ceremony, controversial evangelical pastor Rick Warren delivered the invocation. This year, Passion City Church pastor Louie Giglio was chosen, reportedly for his global anti-slavery campaign. But when his anti-gay teachings became clear, Giglio stepped down.
The Rev. Dr. Luis León from St. John’s Church, a gay-affirming Episcopal Church near the White House, was chosen as a replacement. León’s church is gay-affirming and performs same-sex weddings, which are legal in Washington, D.C. León also delivered the benediction for George W. Bush in 2005.
And this year, members of the LGBT community will actively participate in the inauguration in highly visible roles, behind the scenes and as invited guests. Among eight “citizen co-chairs” of the inauguration named this week was David Hall, a former Air Force sergeant dismissed from service under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
“This is certainly the honor of a lifetime, and I am grateful to President Obama for his leadership in repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ so that no qualified American who wants to serve this country in uniform will ever again be denied that right simply because they are gay or lesbian,” Hall said.
On the local front, three members of the Oak Lawn Band will be part of the 220-piece Lesbian Gay Band Association group that will march in the inaugural parade on Monday, Jan. 21. When LGBA marched in the 2009 parade, it was the first LGBT group to be part of a presidential inauguration.
The band was chosen from more than 2,800 groups that applied to participate and will be one of just 25 bands marching. Performers in the LGBA band come from 37 groups across the country.
This year the band had more time to prepare and ordered new uniforms.
“Last time they said we looked like baked potatoes,” LGBA director Marita Begley said. “People said, ‘You don’t look like a gay band.’”
She said the new uniforms include a purple and black jacket with a dramatic white zig-zag, bold lettering and black Aussie hats with ostrich-feather fan plumes.
The LGBA band most recently performed together at the 2012 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and at a concert at the Majestic Theater during their annual conference in Dallas in September.
For the inaugural parade, Begley said she chose four pieces of music.
While marching, the band will perform a patriotic piece that includes “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and music by gay composer Aaron Copeland, “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga and “Give Me Everything (Tonight),” popularized by Latino-American rapper Pitbull.
Begley said she chose the Lady Gaga song because she wanted something by a contemporary woman and because Gaga is bisexual. And she loved the connection of “Battle Hymn” to Lincoln. Written during his first year in office, Lincoln reportedly cried when he first heard it and asked for an encore.
In front of the reviewing stand where Obama will watch the parade, the band will play “Tonight” from West Side Story.
“We have a kick-ass arrangement and it’s by a gay composer,” Begley said.
She said she loved the excitement in the lyrics as well.
Oak Lawn Band President Tim Stallman is among those who’ll perform in Washington. This will be his second inauguration parade.
“As a former Marine Corps musician, I know firsthand what an honor it is to be selected and invited to participate in an inaugural parade,” he said. “It is my patriotic duty to represent our country in this tradition.”
Oak Lawn Band trumpet player Gloria McDonald will be performing in the parade for the first time. She said she is going because she wants to thank the president for standing up for LGBT rights. But she hopes the band’s inclusion also sends a message to LGBT youth that they are not alone.
“I was raised in West Texas,” she said. “People in places who are isolated will see us.”
She called the band a true cross-section of the community.
“Everything from doctors to street cleaners,” she said.
And she called the band a positive reflection of the LGBT community.
“It’s hard to argue with music,” she said.
Band members were set to fly to Baltimore on Friday for two days of intensive rehearsals at their Camden Yards hotel. They already received their music and are expected to have it memorized before arriving.
On Monday morning, they’ll travel together by bus to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., where all parade participants will go through extensive security.
During the parade, Begley said, the rules are strict. No cameras along the route. Nothing can leave their hands. Twirlers can twirl and flaggers may wave but no tosses and catches. And above all, do not reach in a pocket for anything. In the last inaugural parade, some band members pinned their pockets shut just to make sure they didn’t reach inside by mistake.
“You will be taken down,” Begley said they were told.
This year, among those responsible for taking down any participant seen as a threat to the president will be another community member, Pete Schulte.
Before becoming an attorney, Schulte began his career as a commissioned police officer in Brazos County in South Texas. He continues doing legal work for them and retains his commission.
On Sunday, he’ll be sworn in as a deputy U.S. marshal and receive training. His assignment begins at 3:30 a.m. on Monday. He said he expects to be posted along the parade route.
“We’ll learn more when we get there,” he said.
Background checks for all band members began when the group was accepted in November. Schulte said checks for officers began a year ago.
He said he would have participated no matter who won the election.
“I’m glad it’s President Obama,” he said. “But it’s about being there seeing people celebrate our democracy.”
Eric Johnson and his partner, Mark Parker, will be on the platform at the swearing in ceremony. Johnson, co-chair of the Lambda Legal Dallas Leadership Committee and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, began raising money and bundling donations for the re-election campaign last February.
“It became even more important to me in May after the president announced his support for same-sex marriage,” Johnson said.
He said if it isn’t too cold, they’ll watch the parade, at least until they see the LGBA band perform. That night, they’ll attend one of the inaugural balls.
At the swearing-in ceremony, the LGBT community will be represented by Richard Blanco, 44, this year’s inaugural poet.
Born in Spain to Cuban-exile parents makes him the first Hispanic, as well as first openly gay inaugural poet.
He’ll also be the youngest of the five poets who have delivered a poem at a presidential swearing-in ceremony. The others were Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, Maya Angelou at Bill Clinton’s first swearing-in, Miller Williams at his second and Elizabeth Alexander at Obama’s first.
Blanco has published three books of poetry. A theme of his most recent, Looking for the Gulf Motel, is the conflict between his macho upbringing and being gay.
Blanco, a trained civil engineer, moved to Bethel, Maine, from South Florida in 2009 with his partner.
In 2006, he graced the cover of The Most Intriguing (and Sensual) Male Poets of 2006 Calendar.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 18, 2013.