Gays’ “‘place at the table’ may be at risk

Posted on 18 Jan 2007 at 9:29pm
By David Webb Staff Writer

Oakley’s mayoral race means LGBT community could lose its openly-gay representation on the council

There’s a lot at stake for Dallas’ LGBT residents in the upcoming municipal election.

For the past decade, we’ve been fortunate enough to have at least one openly gay council member advocating for us at City Hall, but that could change overnight on May 12.

If Councilman Ed Oakley fails in his mayoral race and Joseph Hernandez loses his bid to replace Oakley in the District 3 seat, we will have lost an important voice at the horseshoe.

Although we would still have the powerful support of gay-friendly council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano, there would be at least a symbolic loss of a place at the table.

Pete Webb, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said that despite his optimism about Oakley’s and Hernandez’s odds of winning their respective races, he is concerned about what would happen if they lost.

“That would be a blow to the community,” Webb said. “It does cause me concern.”

He noted that Oakley, who is in his third term on the council, has made himself available to every resident in Dallas. LGBT residents from all across the city have called him for help with their issues.

“He will help anyone, regardless of what district they are in,” Webb said. “He’s very approachable.”

Oakley has worked behind the scenes on the council lobbying on behalf of the LGBT community. That helped result in the passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and the adoption of domestic partner benefits for city employees.

In another coup, Oakley has convinced a majority of council members and other city officials to ride in convertibles in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade. That has made a huge difference in how the city as a whole looks at the LGBT community.

That’s all the more reason, Webb said, for LGBT residents to get politically involved and support the gay candidates.

“I’m very involved in Oakley’s campaign and have been from day one,” Webb said. “I don’t feel Oakley is going to lose.”

Webb said he has met with Hernandez and also feels confident about him. Hernandez currently faces three opponents in the District 3 race, including Plan Commissioner Dave Neumann, but that number could increase before the filing deadline of March 12.

“I think he is very sharp and has a lot to offer the district,” Webb said. “I admire him for stepping up to the call of civil service.

“He is willing to leave the comfort and security of his job to serve Dallas residents. He’s a fine example of the upcoming potential we have in this city.”

Patti Fink, chair of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance’s political action committee, said all of the council seat races are important, but the District 3 seat is pivotal because it has been held by an LGBT advocate for so long.
Before Oakley was elected to District 3, it was the council seat held by Mayor Laura Miller, another strong advocate for the LGBT community, she noted.

“We’ve been fortunate to have many advocates on the council in the past, and we look forward to having more,” Fink said. “We would like to have an advocate in every seat.”

Fink noted that the political action committee would be screening and interviewing candidates to make recommendations to voters by the end of March. The group’s Don Baker Education Fund will host a forum for mayoral candidates and council candidates, she said.

Webb said he is hopeful Dallas’ LGBT residents will realize how important the stakes are in the municipal election.

“It’s important for gay citizens across the city to vote and make sure our issues continue to be heard downtown,” Webb said.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 19, 2007

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