Mansfield resident is labor attorney for American Airlines
DFW Metroplex resident Michelle Peak has been appointed to the national board of directors for Lambda Legal Defense and Education.
Peak, who lives in Mansfield with her partner and their son, is a senior labor attorney at American Airlines. She said this week that her appointment to the Lambda Legal board is an honor both for her and her employer.
"American Airlines has been a sponsor of organizations and events in the LGBT community for years. The airline is a big supporter nationally for the Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal," Peak said. "Because of that, it was very comfortable for me to be out at work and to get involved with the organizations that American supports."
Peak said she was happy to be asked to be on the Lambda Legal board because the organization "embodies what I am going through in my life. … Everything Lambda Legal stands for is everything I desire to see happen for our community in terms of equal rights and equal protection under the law."
Dennis Coleman, regional director for Lambda’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas, said Peak is the third DFW resident on the board. Roger Poindexter of Plano is a board member and co-chair of the finance committee, and Amy Davis of Dallas is also on the board. Bill Prather of Dallas is on Lambda’s National Leadership Council, which focuses on raising funds for the organization in the North Texas area.
Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Ken Upton, also from Dallas and based in the Dallas office, has handled several high-profile cases for the organization, Coleman said.
Coleman said having people from this area on the board and in national leadership positions is an integral part of continuing to improve Lambda’s presence and services in North Texas and around the South Central Region.
"It puts a face on our community and gives a voice to this part of the country. It puts us at the table," he said. "Sometimes they forget us in the middle of the country or in the South. When decisions are being made, without someone from this region on the board, we are left out of the equation. This puts us in the discussion."
Coleman said many people on the East and West coasts don’t realize what an active and organized LGBT community the DFW area has.
"They underestimate what takes place here, how organized this community is at moving agendas forward," he said. "The Supreme Court ruling in the Texas sodomy case [Lawrence v. Texas, in which the court overturned sodomy laws in Texas and around the country] really highlights the need for national organizations to have a presence here. And as Lambda’s profile has gone up here, we have seen a real increase in calls to the help desk, and an increase in the number of people wanting to volunteer."
Coleman noted that Lambda Legal’s national board will meet in Dallas the weekend of Oct. 3, the same weekend that the DFW Black Tie Dinner will be held.
Black Tie Dinner, a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and local LGBT and AIDS service organizations, is the largest event of its kind in the country.
The Dallas Lambda Legal office is one of the 19 local beneficiaries of the fundraising dinner, and Coleman said it will be "a great opportunity for Dallas and for this office.
"Many of our board members have seen the rewards of being a Black Tie beneficiary, but this will give them the chance to attend, to be a part of it and really see what this dinner is all about," Coleman said.
Peak, who has experience as a labor union liaison, is a member of the Texas Minority Counsel Program Steering Committee and sat for two years on the boards of Creche Child Care Center and the Omaha Butler-Gast YMCA. She also participates in the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the American Airlines Legal Department Mentoring Program for Law Students.
Robin Burr of Illinois, former executive director of an LGBT community center in Chicago and current diversity relationship manager for Prudential Financial’s MidAmerica Territory, was also recently appointed to the Lambda Legal board.
Paul Smith, a partner in Jenner & Block’s Washington, D.C. office and co-chair of the firm’s Appellate and Supreme Court Division, was elected co-chair of the board.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 20, 2009.