LGBT Dems, Republicans gather separately in Austin this weekend

Posted on 05 Apr 2013 at 8:45am

Barney Frank, Annise Parker to headline Texas Stonewall event, while state Rep. Sarah Davis will address Log Cabin conference

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Congressman Barney Frank

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

AUSTIN — Political unity and collaboration will be the topics of discussion at two conferences in the state capital this weekend.
The Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus and the Texas Democratic Party are teaming up for the first time for the Equality Forward Summit on April 5-7.

Eli Olivarez, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, said the two statewide organizations coming together for the event is exciting and shows that the LGBT community can make even more of a difference when involved in the mainstream movement.

He said the inclusion of marriage equality in the Texas Democratic Party Platform at last year’s state convention proved how influential LGBT leaders have become, even in a red state.

“We’re starting to see that we can make a difference, and we have to be proud to be Democrats,” he said.

Olivarez said 3 percent of the electorate last year were estimated to be LGBT voters, so one mission of the conference will be to focus on those who vote while engaging others who aren’t included in that 3 percent.

Openly gay former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank will speak Saturday night. Frank will discuss how Texas can become a swing state.

Olivarez said he met Frank last year at the Democratic National Convention and asked him to come and speak at the summit that he was planning. He said Frank told him Texas has the numbers to become a blue state but not the turnout.

“If we want to change, we have to know how to make that change,” Olivarez said.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker will introduce Frank, and openly LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, will speak at an awards brunch Sunday. Dallas activist Erin Moore, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats and Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio will be recognized for their accomplishments during the luncheon.

Workshops during the day Saturday will focus on impacting the needed change, from school and municipal policies to immigration reform and marriage equality. Olivarez said the topics provide a wide range of education for people to understand that all Democratic organizations must work toward the same goals to accomplish them.

“If we want equality to move forward, we have to work together, all of us,” he said.

Log Cabin Republicans are also meeting in Austin this weekend. This is the first time the three state chapters in Dallas, Houston and Austin have held a conference.

Log Cabin Austin President Jeff Davis said this is the first year that the conference could’ve been planned in recent years because the Austin chapter had been inactive before last summer.

When Davis moved to Austin last year, he wanted to start the chapter again and help it thrive.

“This really is the first time we’ve had an opportunity to do this,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier if we have a chapter in the capital.”
Log Cabin attendees will begin the conference with a marriage equality panel Friday featuring experts from around the state. Other workshops and speakers that day will touch on workplace equality, starting new chapters and growing the Republican Party into a more inclusive unit.

“Our party is changing day by day,” Davis said. “We haven’t seen that kind of shift and advancement of modern thought in a long time.”

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, will deliver the keynote speech Friday afternoon, and Jerry Katlin, chairman of the Board for Log Cabin Republicans, will speak at the dinner Friday night. A Saturday brunch will conclude the conference.

Davis said he’s excited the chapters came together to plan the conference so soon after the Austin chapter relaunched, and he hopes to see support grow so Log Cabin can have the conference in future years when the Legislature is in session.

“It’s not going to be all about blue states and red states,” Davis said. “It’s really about our coming together and seeing what we can do in the LGBT community and party to help our brothers and sisters.”

Equality Forward Summit, April 5-7, Hilton Austin Airport, 9515 Hotel Dr.
Log Cabin Republican Texas Conference, April 5-6, Hilton Garden Inn, 500 N. Interstate 35.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 5, 2013.

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