Kinsler, Fitzsimmons, Milliken, Fry first organized LGBT Democratic club that in 13 years has grown to be 3rd-largest chapter in the country
WHAT: ‘Celebrate Beginnings,’ fundraiser for Stonewall Democrats of Dallas
WHERE: Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday, June 13
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door or in advance by going to www.stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org. Sponsorships available from $100 to $1,500.
When Log Cabin Republicans decided to back GOP challenger Ernest Leonard against State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt in the 1996 election, the endorsement demanded some kind of response from gay Democrats, according to Christy Kinsler.
Kinsler, who was then co-chair of Dallas’ nonpartisan Lesbian and Gay Political Caucus, said she still recalls attending an event where Log Cabin presented Leonard with a blown-up check for $1,000.
"That was an insult to Harryette," Kinsler said. "It was a major insult to Harryette. She supported gays and lesbians before there was even an organized group here to ask for her support."
Kinsler met with Gary Fitzsimmons, who was also active in the now-defunct LGPC, and they hatched a plan to start a gay Democratic group to counter Log Cabin.
They would take the name "Stonewall" from an existing gay Democratic group in Los Angeles — National Stonewall Democrats was yet to form — which of course had taken it from the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion.
Thirteen years later, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas is the largest LGBT political group in North Texas, the third-largest chapter in the nation, and one of the largest caucuses within the Dallas County Democratic Party. Stonewall Democrats of Dallas now has about 400 members and has raised a total of more than $100,000 over the years.
But Kinsler admitted that she initially had some doubts about whether the group would be successful. LGBT political advocacy organizations in Texas had traditionally been nonpartisan, and Dallasites tended to dislike controversy.
"I wasn’t really sure that the community was going to embrace it," Kinsler recalled. "I’ve been pleasantly surprised all along the way — and it’s been fun."
On Saturday, June 13, Kinsler, Fitzsimmons and the other two founders of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — Michael Milliken and Bill Fry —will reunite for a fundraiser at Sue Ellen’s.
The fundraiser benefiting Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, called "Celebrate Beginnings," is designed to mark the 40th anniversary of the group’s namesake. "Celebrate Beginnings" will feature a video diary and a mobile display on the history of LGBT equality movement in Dallas, as well as patches from the AIDS quilt honoring residents of the city.
"I think everybody needs to remember where we’ve come from," said Erin Moore, current president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. "We’re making gains and we’re moving forward, but we need to remember where we’ve come from in order to know where to go next.
"It’s come to be the seminal moment in the gay rights movement," Moore said of the Stonewall Rebellion. "It’s sort of the ‘we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore’ moment."
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2009.