Leppert addresses representatives from 15 groups at COH
Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert met with leaders representing 15 LGBT groups at the Cathedral of Hope on Tuesday morning, Aug. 28.
Gay leaders saw the get-acquainted meeting with the mayor as the first step in forging a strong relationship similar to the one they had enjoyed with former Mayor Laura Miller.
Everyone left the meeting encouraged by Leppert’s apparent willingness to embrace the LGBT community equally with other groups, several of the gay leaders said.
“I think we are definitely on the right path to having that type of relationship,” said Dennis Coleman, regional director for the South Central Office of Lambda Legal, which is located in Dallas. “I think the mayor is definitely open to working with our community and open to listening to our concerns.
Coleman, who coordinated the meeting, said gay leaders asked to meet with Leppert without any advance publicity to avoid distractions.
“It was really to make sure that we had that opportunity to visit with him,” Coleman said.
The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor of the Cathedral of Hope, said she was impressed by what the mayor had to say, and that he agreed to meet on the LGBT community’s turf.
“I was impressed by his energy and passion,” Hudson said. “Hopefully, he will live up to those expressions. He said all of the rights things.”
Hudson said she was also pleased by the diversity of the LGBT leaders attending the meeting and how well the mayor interacted with them.
“As the mayor, he has the opportunity to influence attitudes of more conservative elements in our [city] and in business and education,” Hudson said. “He genuinely seemed to realize that.”
Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, said she is hopeful a good relationship is being formed with the mayor. She and two other members of the gay rights group met with Leppert last week to discuss LGBT issues.
“We shared the history of DGLA with him,” Fink said. “He had some great questions. I think he is getting there. I think it is very promising.”
Fink said she gave Leppert the KERA-produced documentary, “Finding Our Voice” for him to watch.
“It’s a great way to learn about our community in 58 minutes,” Fink said.
Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said he was pleased to learn that Fink’s organization, which is the city’s oldest gay rights group, had already established a dialogue with Leppert.
“I’m hoping he does more outreach to our community and does so openly,” Garcia said.
Garcia noted that is already on the schedule because Leppert has agreed to walk in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sept. 16 and to attend the Dallas-Fort Worth Black Tie Dinner.
Garcia said he was especially impressed by Leppert’s promise at the meeting to help make Dallas school children safe from anti-gay bullying.
“He promised to make the environment near the schools safe and to do his best to change attitudes among leaders in the schools about protecting youths,” Garcia said.
Leppert said in telephone interview that he enjoyed the meeting, found it productive and wanted to have more meetings with the community.
“The value is not in doing it once,” Leppert said. “The value is in the ongoing dialogue where you are truly talking about issues and how to accomplish things.”
Leppert said he wants to encourage LGBT residents to seek appointments on city boards and commissions and to get involved in the city in other ways.
“That community as well as everybody else to make sure we have good people period,” Leppert said.
Leppert said he planned to work to influence Dallas Independent School District leaders to make sure the schools are safe for LGBT students. Other environments, such as recreational facilities and libraries, must also be safe for them, he said.
“No kid is ever going to learn stuff if they don’t feel safe,” Leppert said.
Former Mayor Laura Miller said she applauded her successor for meeting with LGBT leaders this week.
“Any mayor of our city who does not forge a strong and meaningful relationship with our gay and lesbian community would be letting down the city as a whole,” Miller said. “It’s a good move on his part.”
The groups represented at the meeting were the Resource Center of Dallas, PFLAG, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Valiente, Cathedral of Hope, Human Rights Commission, Equality Texas, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Black Tie Dinner, North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Women of Distinction, Youth First Texas, Legacy of Success Foundation, Lambda Legal and Dallas Voice.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2007