Fairness Fort Worth spokesman says event planned at Stockyards not likely to have lasting impact
FORT WORTH — The executive director of the Stockyards Championship Rodeo insists that comments he made recently to a TV station suggesting that participants in a queer kiss-in planned for this weekend "need a good whipping" were taken out of context and weren’t intended to promote violence against anyone.
But the founder of Queer LiberAction, the Dallas-based direct action group that’s organizing the demonstration in the Stockyards on Saturday, called the comments "egregious" and "disgusting" and said they’re emblematic of the same homophobic Cowtown culture that fueled the recent Rainbow Lounge raid.
Hub Baker, the longtime executive director of the city-owned facility, told NBC 5 that while everyone is welcome in the Stockyards, he’s not a fan of public kissing — gay or straight.
"Manners are manners," Baker told NBC 5. "If they don’t act right among cowboys, maybe they need to get a good whipping."
Asked to clarify his remarks, Baker told Dallas Voice he’s concerned that the demonstration is merely intended to stir up trouble and might become lewd in what is designed to be a family-friendly environment.
"I was talking about cowboys and the way they raise their kids," Baker told Dallas Voice. "I was saying that if a child steps out of line, we give them a whipping. I wasn’t talking about whipping anybody who is gay or lesbian or anything like that. It wasn’t meant that way, because everybody’s welcome in the Fort Worth Stockyards."
QL founder Blake Wilkinson isn’t so sure.
"He’s really making our point for us, that Fort Worth and especially the stockyards is probably not the most pro-GLBT place out there, but I think that was pretty well understood before we selected the location," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson compared Baker’s remark to comments made by Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead and Mayor Mike Moncrief in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid. Halstead at one point appeared to try to justify the raid by suggesting that bar patrons made sexual advances toward his officers, while Moncrief awkwardly retracted an apology for the June 28 incident.
"It seems as though the whole city has a huge problem with PR, and especially a huge problem with bad PR toward the GLBT community," Wilkinson said. "There’s a lot of fear within the GLBT community in Fort Worth. It’s understandable, the fear, but that doesn’t preclude us from standing up for ourselves, and going out there and being visible and saying we deserve all the same respect and all the same rights as everybody else."
Jon Nelson, a spokesman for Fairness Fort Worth, the LGBT group formed in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, called Baker’s comments a "knee-jerk reaction" to media inquiries about the kiss-in, and suggested they were irresponsible given the prominent position he occupies.
But Nelson added that he believes the Stockyards is a gay-friendly place. And he said that while he supports Queer Liberaction’s right to stage the kiss-in, he doesn’t believe it will have a lasting impact on the city.
Lt. Paul Henderson, chief of staff for Halstead, said this week that the city encourages peaceful protests but won’t have extra officers on hand for the event, outside of a bicycle patrol that is routinely assigned to the Stockyards on weekends.
"We fully expect it to be a peaceful event. We may have some counterdemonstrators, but if they step over the line on either side and they break the law, then our officers will be there to enforce the law," Henderson said.
"I think his [Baker’s] comments were tongue in cheek and not meant to be threatening in any manner. Certainly you have a different culture with cowboys and with their language and he may have been allowing his Western heritage and his culture to be coming out. The Police Department doesn’t believe it was intended as a threat." •
The kiss-in will be from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at 130 E. Exchange Ave., across the street from Risky’s Barbeque.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 16, 2009.