Exxon Mobil hits new LGBT low

Company is 1st with negative score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index

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HIGH OCTANE | Queer activist CD Kirven participates in a protest organized by GetEQUAL in 2010 outside the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas, where Exxon Mobil's shareholders held their annual meeting. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

IRVING — Exxon Mobil Corp. has again made history for its anti-gay employment practices.

The Irving-based company, which is No. 2 on the Fortune 500 and has more than 80,000 employees worldwide, last week became the first business to ever receive a negative score on the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index.

The 2012 edition of the Index, which marks the 10th anniversary of HRC’s scorecard, includes ratings for 636 major companies based on their LGBT-related employment practices.

Exxon Mobil failed to meet any of the criteria for the 2012 Index, and had points deducted for engaging in activities that undermine LGBT equality. As a result, the company received a score of minus-25 from HRC.

Before Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999, Mobil offered domestic partnership benefits and had an employment nondiscrimination policy that included sexual orientation. However, ExxonMobil did away with both the benefits and the policy after the merger, and has repeatedly resisted shareholder efforts to amend the policy to protect gay employees.

The 2012 Index marks the first year HRC has handed out negative scores, and Exxon Mobil was the only company to receive one.

“For over a decade, HRC has urged Exxon Mobil to re-evaluate its employment practices and policies regarding LGBT employees,” HRC spokesman Paul Guequierre said. “They continue to give us, and the entire LGBT community, the cold shoulder.”

William F. Holbrook, a spokesman for ExxonMobil, sent Dallas Voice a copy of the company’s “Corporate Citizenship Report,” which says it has a “zero-tolerance” policy against “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

However, Guequierre said the Corporate Citizenship Report isn’t an Equal Employment Opportunity statement, and lacks the legal force an EEO statement carries.

Exxon Mobil’s report also says the company offers health benefits to the partners of gay employees in countries where same-sex marriage is legal, but goes by federal law in the U.S., which only recognizes heterosexual spouses.

Holbrook declined to further discuss the company’s negative score on the CEI.

Exxon Mobil was one of three companies to receive the 25-point deduction for undermining LGBT equality on the 2012 Index. The other two were New York-based Verizon Communications Inc. and Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner LLP.

Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Project, said Verizon was penalized for resisting a shareholder resolution to add gender identity to the company’s employment nondiscrimination policy; while Foley & Lardner was docked for representing the National Organization for Marriage in campaigns against marriage equality in the District of Columbia and Minnesota.

Verizon received an overall score of 20, while Foley & Lardner got a 60.

“It is not a designation that we take lightly,” Fidas said of the 25-point deduction for undermining LGBT equality. “These businesses did nothing to rectify these particular situations.”

On a more positive note, Fort Worth-based AMR Corp. (American Airlines) is one of only nine companies that have received perfect scores every year since the Index began in 2002, Fidas said. The others are Aetna Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Apple Inc., Eastman Kodak Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Nike Inc., Replacements Ltd. and Xerox Corp.

Those nine employers all managed to maintain their scores of 100 on the 2012 CEI despite new, more stringent criteria — most notably a requirement to offer comprehensive transgender health benefits, including coverage for gender reassignment surgery.

Lauri Curtis, vice president for diversity at American Airlines, said adding comprehensive trans health benefits was “the right thing to do for our business.”

“We don’t look at it as how difficult it was,” Curtis said. “The bottom line is that we have a very diverse population, both our employees as well as our customers, and that’s really what we true ourselves to. That’s our driving guidepost as it relates to our diversity efforts.

“At the end of the day it’s all about equality and respect for everyone,” she added. “I think it just underscores that this is serious stuff to us, because it’s just part of who we are. It’s been part of who we are for a long time.”

American Airlines and AT&T Inc. were the only North Texas-based companies that satisfied all of the new criteria and received perfect scores on the 2012 CEI. That’s down from nine local companies that received HRC’s top rating on the 2011 index.

Nationally, 190 companies received perfect scores this year, down from 337 last year. But Fidas said comparing this year’s scores to last year’s amounts to apples and oranges. In addition to trans health coverage, HRC added criteria in 2012 related to “soft” partner benefits, organizational competency on LGBT issues, and public support for equality.

“It’s a new standard,” Fidas said. “We raised the bar in these four significant areas, and some businesses are just going to take a little more time to get there. We don’t see that as a drop or a lack of commitment.”

In fact, Fidas said, this year’s Index shows remarkable progress as employers strive to meet the new criteria. For example, two years ago, only 49 employers offered comprehensive trans health benefits, but since then the number has jumped to 207.

Representatives from North Texas-based companies that lost their perfect scores on this year’s CEI said they’re disappointed but committed to working toward re-establishing them.

“Anytime that you were on a list and then you’re not a on a list, it does cause some angst,” said Steve Lyle, chief diversity officer for Dallas-based Texas Instruments, which received a 90 on the 2012 Index after four consecutive years of perfect scores. “We don’t want that segment or our employee population to feel disenfranchised because TI’s no longer on this list, or feel like we care less today than we did last week.”

That’s why the company sent emails to LGBT employees in advance of the Index’s release explaining the reason for the lower score: The company’s insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, doesn’t consider gender reassignment surgery to be a medically necessary procedure.

Texas Instruments could have overridden Blue Cross’ decision at a minimal cost, Lyle said. However, that would have been unfair to employees who want coverage for other procedures that aren’t considered medically necessary, including growth hormones for children and in vitro fertilization.

Lyle added that TI is interested in working with HRC and other employers to convince insurance providers that gender reassignment surgery — historically regarded as cosmetic — should instead be deemed medically necessary.

“We’re in the business of making electronics, not in determining medical necessity, but we do want to influence the conversation, because it aligns with our values,” said Lyle, who’s openly gay. “We want to be able to offer benefits to our employees that are necessary for them, but we also want to have internal equity of those benefits.”

Plano-based J.C. Penney Company Inc. also lost points for failing to offer comprehensive trans health benefits, and saw its score drop from a 100 to an 85.  Daphne Avila, a spokesman for J.C. Penney, said in an email this week that the company will “continue to explore cost-effective options for improving associate benefits.”

“Given our record of achieving a perfect score three out of the past four years, our current ranking is not where we would like it to be,” Avila wrote. “While the new guidelines present opportunities for advancement across all industries, our score – albeit not poor – does not accurately reflect our overall commitment to inclusion and diversity. … While we are unable to guarantee our future standings, please know that we are already evaluating the 2013 HRC criteria and are looking for opportunities to raise the bar.”

Representatives from Grapevine-based GameStop, which saw its score drop from 100 last year to 75 this year; and Dallas-based Brinker International, which saw its score drop from 100 to 60, didn’t respond to requests for comment this week.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Resounding Harmony performance benefits Make-A-Wish Foundation

Rene Syler to narrate stories of children whose wishes have been granted in ‘Wishes from the Heart’

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Rene Syler

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resounding Harmony presents its first concert of the season on Nov. 22, called Wishes from the Heart, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation works to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, and through its chapters around the country has granted some 250,000 such wishes since it was founded in Phoenix in 1980.

Resounding Harmony Artistic Director Russ Reiger said the benefit show was birthed out of the chorus’ admiration for the foundation.

“We held our retreat at the Make-A-Wish facility and it’s a magical place,” he said.

Resounding Harmony Board Chair Mark Knight said that children’s wishes are divided into categories: “I want to go…,” “I want to be…,” “I want to do…” and “I want to have… .”

So Resounding Harmony used that as a structure for the concert, basing the program on the idea of children being taken into the wishing tower.

Narrator Rene Syler will introduce some children whose wishes have been granted and tell a number of their stories. Syler is the author of the book Good Enough Mother.

Before moving to New York to host The Early Show on CBS, Syler was known to North Texas audiences as anchor of the Channel 11 news in Dallas. While in Dallas, she was active in fundraising activities for Resource Center Dallas.

Syler has worked with Resounding Harmony before. She narrated the 10th anniversary production of Sing for the Cure in Dallas and at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“I love Resounding Harmony,” Syler said. “Any time I can pair with them and a great group like Make-A-Wish, I’m glad to come to Dallas.”

She said she’d be doing some things on her website, GoodEnoughMother.com, before and after the concert to promote Make-A-Wish and hopefully raise additional funds for the organization.

“Rene is an old friend and we were thrilled she said she’d come,” Rieger said.

Rieger said that many of the songs during the concert will revolve around the wishes that have been granted.

“‘New York, New York’ is associated with one wish-kid’s story,” he said.

Resounding Harmony will also perform ‘Joyful, Joyful’ from Sister Act, ‘You’ve Got a Friend Indeed’ from Toy Story and ‘Out of My Dreams’ from Oklahoma.

“The first act will end with a gospel roof raiser,” he said.

Sheran Keyton, a popular Fort Worth singer, will be the guest soloist. Keyton appeared in Casa Manana’s production of Hairspray this summer.

Artwork from some of the Make-A-Wish kids will be for sale in the Meyerson lobby.

“One special piece created just for the concert will be auctioned during the show,” Knight said.

This is Rieger’s first full season with Resounding Harmony. He joined the chorus last year for the June concert after founding Artistic Director Tim Seelig moved to California to head the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Rieger said money raised at the concert would be distributed in December at an end-of-year celebration.

Each Resounding Harmony concert benefits a community organization. Proceeds from the spring concert Songs for the Heart will support the Dallas-based American Heart Association. Next season’s beneficiaries will be announced at the upcoming November concert.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, Resounding Harmony will also perform for the second time at Cancer Support Community, formerly known as Gilda’s Club, for its annual service of remembrance.

Resounding Harmony at Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. 8 p.m. $25–40. ResoundingHarmony.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Unequal in life, equal in death

As we remember the victims and heroes of 9/11, we should remember that LGBT people were part of each group

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

As our country commemorates the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11, we will be bombarded with endless images of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers ablaze and lots of handheld video of people in terror. From the standpoint of the effect of the attack, it caused the terror it was designed to cause, and moreover, it focused us on frightening images of explosions and disaster.

Great media stuff, but not very good for getting perspective.

Yet, the whole event has become part of the American portrait. It was history and as such it will always be with us.

Aside from the terror, 9/11 did draw the country together. One of the most encouraging things about Americans is how we react when the going gets tough: We pitch in and try to help. We act with a selflessness that is a heartening example of what is best about our country.

And part of that American portrait are the LGBT people who fell victim to the attack, as well as those who stepped up and become heroes that day.

Most of us are now familiar with Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the New York Fire Department. He rushed into the World Trade Center that morning and he not only helped the victims, he administered last rights for many.

He selflessly did his job, ignoring the peril until debris from the North Tower crashed into the South Tower, killing Father Mychal instantly.

Judge was lauded in the media but only later did anyone mention that he was gay.

Equally familiar is Mark Bingham, who was among the passengers on United Flight 93 that were not content to sit and wait while terrorists turned the jet into a guided missile. Mark was a gay rugby player, and his efforts, along with a small band of passengers, prevented a much greater catastrophe when they rushed the cockpit. Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania instead of into Washington, D.C.

Less well known was David Charlebois, the first officer of American Airlines Flight 77. He was killed by the hijackers on their mission to crash the jet into the Pentagon. Even less publicized was the fact that David was a member of the Gay and Lesbian Employees of American Airlines group and helped carry that group’s banner in the March on Washington in 2000.

In such an appalling tragedy, there were many victims. Most were never mentioned in the media, but their loss was just as great to their families.

What’s worse is that many had partners who had to go through arduous court battles to receive the compensation that was freely given to the families of the straight victims.

Some of the LGBT Americans who died will never be known. They may have been closeted, or maybe their families refused to share details of their personal lives with officials or the media.

Whether they are named or unnamed, they are irrevocably woven into the fabric of our country’s history, and we should not forget them.

Like most folks, I have become numb to the horror of that day. I was attending a leather conference in the woods of Michigan and was just having a cup of coffee as I watched the news reports of a plane crash in New York City.

Then along with several friends from New York I watched the second plane slam into the World Trade Center towers, and almost at once, cries went up all around the campgrounds.

I suspect the same kinds of anguished voices were heard around the country from LGBT and straight Americans alike.  It was a moment that bonded us into one people.

It’s sad that today we seem to be splitting apart as never before.

I know a lot of it is the whole media circus that surrounds the current election cycle, and its candidates making points with anti-gay rhetoric.

Still, it would be worth reminding those shrill voices that on Sept. 11, 2001, we all cried out together in shared pain and anguish.

So next time you hear someone arguing against LGBT rights, ask them why they would be so vindictive to the brave heroes of 9/11, and worse, why they would be so hateful to those innocent LGBT people who died.

This Sept. 11, I will recite the names of those people I know were LGBT. It is a short list so far, but I suspect as the stories of the victims finally come fully to light, it will inevitably grow.

Until then don’t forget: David Charlebois, Father Mychal Judge, Mark Bingham, Renee Barrett, Angela V. Lopez, Waleska Martinez, Patricia A. McAneney, Catherine Smith, Eugene Clark, Jeffrey Collman, Michael A. Lepore, Eddie Ognibene, John Keohane, William “Tony” A. Karnes, Pamela J. Boyce, Luke A. Dudek, Seamus Oneal, Wesley Mercer, James Joe Ferguson, Sheila Hein, Graham Berkeley, Carol Flyzik and Daniel Brandhorst and Ronald Gamboa, and their son David Gamboa-Brandhorst.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Gaybingo 10th anniversary on July 16

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—  John Wright

Where were you on 9-11?

As the first of the World Trade Center towers to be hit, right, billows smoke, the second tower explodes in flames as the second hijacked airplane hits it.

In five days, we will mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. When I got to my office this morning, as I was going through my piles and piles of email, I found one from a Dallas Voice reader encouraging us to do something this week to remind people about Mark Bingham, a gay man who was on United Flight 93 that day when the terrorists highjacked it and aimed it toward Washington, D.C.

I plan to do that later this week, here on Instant Tea. But first, I want to ask readers to share their own stories about where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the attacks of 9-11. I’ll go first:

Sept. 11, 2001 was the first day of my new job as a sportswriter for the Cleburne Times-Review. Although I didn’t have to actually go to work until later that afternoon, when I would be covering a high school tennis match, I was up and getting dressed for a meeting with my boss, the sports editor, about my schedule for that first week on the job. My girlfriend had already left for work and the kids were already at daycare, when she called on her cell phone as she headed for her job at Sabre, a company handling flight reservations for American Airlines. The offices were out near DFW International Airport.

“Turn on the news,” she told me. “Something bad has happened.” I asked what channel, and she said, “Any channel.”

—  admin

Body & Fitness: Dirty britches

Clean for now, muddy buddies Rod Orta, Jeni Maldonado and Brad Bykkonen stretch it out as they train for the grueling DFW Mud Run. Through the same goal, the three with the author found a fellowship that helps get them past the intense training. (Photo by Jef Tingley)

While preparing for the daunting DFW Mud Run, four people found fun, fitness and fellowship with one goal in mind — to finish

JEF TINGLEY  | Contributing Writer

A year ago, I thought mud was only reserved for pigs and purifying facials. Never would I have guessed that I would be counting the days to run through 6.2 miles of it while also taking on a series of military-boot-camp-inspired obstacles. But then again, a year ago I never dreamed I would be surrounded by a group of friends with the same motivation — to conquer the mud if only to say we did it.

And on April 9, that’s exactly what we plan to do at a yet-to-be-disclosed location in Tarrant County. The DFW Mud Run is an annual event and one of seven throughout the country. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in North Texas in November 2010 with almost 4,000 attendees. A quick glance at the rules and regulations on the website reveals that this run can be as serious or as silly as you like, but one thing is for sure — you will get dirty. (And not in a Christina-Aguilera-wearing-chaps kind of way.)

Our group of seven runners (growing in number as we peer pressure others) met while working out at Booty Camp. Some were already in shape; others, like myself, were first timers. Somewhere during the months of waking up early, sweating during push-ups and running loops around Lee Park, a new level of friendship formed.

Jeni Maldonado, 29, and the official straight girl of our gay boy mud run group, shares the same sentiments about the camaraderie side effects of working out en mass.

“Through [group training], I have found a true love and passion for physical fitness and made some great new friends. Since starting in May of 2010, I even changed careers and am now a personal trainer focusing on children and childhood obesity.”

Mud runners can compete on the course in a variety of timed events and specified groups made up of all-men, all-women or co-ed teams. Or, there’s a category called DGAP, which stands for Division for Generally Athletic People or “Don’t Give A Poop.” This is our group. DGAP allows runners to wear costumes, run as a group or individually, and to generally enjoy the course as they see fit.

Rod Orta, a 39-year-old East Dallas resident, started working out in groups for almost four years. Since that time, he has formed lasting friendships with his fellow fitness enthusiasts, even going on vacations with them and hosting parties for the group at his home.

A first-time mud runner, Orta says, “I wanted to experience the activity and spend time with friends.” His training plan includes “strength workouts, cardio and a cute outfit.” He’s also quick to pass on helpful hints to his fellow runners. “Wear sensible shoes. No high heels,” he jokes.

The run will also make a first-time experience for 35-year-old Bryan Place resident Mark Doty. Inspired by other friends who have done it, he says it’s just something he has wanted to do. When asked if he had any words of wisdom for would be runners, Doty simply offered ups “Since this is my first time, I would just say ‘pray.’”

Topping off the dirt, the DFW Mud Run boasts more than 30 obstacles. Judging from videos from previous runs these include balance beams, rope swings and plenty of commando crawls. But it’s still not enough to keep Brad Bykkonen, a 39-year-old Highland Park resident, away.
“It sounds like fun,” he says. “I’ve met people who I know I’ll surely be laughing with during our mud run adventure.”

Booty Camp founder Dr. Eric Peay agrees that fitness can lead to friendship. A boot camp he attended in 1998 introduced him to someone who is now his best friend. A more experienced runner, Peay has run 5K and 10K races with a specific goal or time in mind. But this mud run is, “just for the sheer fun of it,” he says.

As for me, I’ll continue to count down the days, train and hope that I can find the perfect pair of combat boots and army fatigues to wear on my inaugural muddy voyage with the hope that the friendships I’ve formed will keep the physical fatigue at bay.

Registration for the April run is still open. For more information, visit DFWMudRun.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Proprietor of Tin Room, Drama Room says he hopes to reopen Bill’s Hideaway in March

The proprietor of the Tin Room and the Drama Room says he’s signed a lease on the building that housed Bill’s Hideaway and hopes to reopen the legendary gay piano bar by the end of March.

The Hideaway, on Buena Vista Street near Fitzhugh Avenue, has been sitting vacant since mid-2009, when it shut down after 26 years.

Lonzie Hershner, who took over management of the Tin Room and the Drama Room after his brother Marty died last year, said he signed a lease on the Hideaway building last month.

Lonzie Hershner said he plans to call the new bar Marty’s Hideaway as a tribute to his brother. Crews have already gutted the building and begun landscaping the trademark patio, he said.

“We’re going to start actual construction on it in two weeks,” Hershner said. “We’re fixin’ to completely restore it. It’s taken forever and a day, but we finally got the lease signed on it. … I want to get it back to what it used to be, because everybody loved it.”

—  John Wright

Game time!

RCD puts a twist on  themes for its 10th season of Gay Bingo

David Taffet  | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

The 10th anniversary season of Resource Center Dallas’ monthly Gay Bingo fundraiser begins Jan. 15 with a celebration of the Super Bowl and gets more fabulous with each coming month.

Gay Bingo Football XLV is just the first of the monthly themed games, which in 2011 — Dallas’ 10th season of the event — plays like a list of greatest hits from previous years.

“For our 10th anniversary, we decided to revisit some of the best themes over the past decade, and put a new spin on them for 2011,” said Henry Ramirez III, center programs manager for Resource Center Dallas and coordinator of Gay Bingo, which has released a new logo.

Jenna Skyy and Patti Le Plae Safe will continue to co-host Gay Bingo in Station 4’s Rose Room, along with celebrity guests and M.C.s. Asia O’Hara has officially joined the cast as well.

Proceeds from the campy game support RCD programs and initiatives, but partnerships with more organizations in the new year will also help with fundraising for Black Tie Dinner, Home for the Holidays and other charitable events.

“I think what’s important is that people understand Gay Bingo is a part of RCD and know more where their money is going to,” he says.

For 2011, the themes are:

Feb. 19: Gay Bingo Carnival will celebrate Mardi Gras madness.

Mar. 19: It’s Spectacular! Spectacular Gay Bingo at the Moulin Rouge.

Apr. 16: DIVA of Gay Bingo wants you to bring out that inner diva.

May 21: Tribes of Gay Bingo will test players’ survival skills.

June 8: Gay Bingo Studio 70 will bring back the bellbottoms and flared collars.

July 16: Gay Bingo Live! will be the official 10th anniversary celebration.

Aug. 20: Gay Bingo Cinema will ask what your favorite black and white film is.

Sept. 17: Hope your hair wins at Wigstock Gay Bingo.

Oct. 15: The Gay Bingo Daily Planet will pit superheroes against villains.

Nov. 19: Do ask, do tell at Gay Bingo Platoon.

For more information and to pre-order tickets, visit RCDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

World AIDS Day commemorated at CoH

John Thomas Bell Tower

In addition to being World AIDS Day, today marks the 10th anniversary of the John Thomas Bell Tower at the Cathedral of Hope, which has become a landmark along Inwood Road.

Panels from the AIDS quilt including one remembering Thomas, the first executive director of the AIDS Resource Center, will be on display at COH’s new Interfaith Peace Chapel all day.

A service will be at 7:15 p.m. in the main building, conducted by the Rev. Paul Tucker, who was the first AIDS chaplain hired by the church when its current facility opened.

—  David Taffet

GLFD marking 10th anniversary of giving

Organization that channels LGBT donations to mainstream charities returns to Latino Cultural Center to celebrate milestone year

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Keith Nix and Dick Peeples
PHILANTHROPY OF TIME AND MONEY | Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas President Keith Nix, left, and Board Co-Chair Dick Peeples say their organization earns visibility and respect for the LGBT community by turning charitable donations “pink.” (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

It was 10 years ago that a new group called the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas donated enough money to the fund to build the city’s Latino Cultural City that the group earned naming rights to the center’s outdoor sculpture garden.

Next Wednesday, Nov. 10, 10 years and more than $1 million later, the GLFD returns to the Latino Cultural Center to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Founded by partners Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann, GLFD’s purpose is to collect charitable donations from the LGBT community and then give those donations en masse to specific projects and organizations — all to increase the impact and visibility of the LGBT community.

“We are all about visibility and bridge building,” said Dick Peeples, GLFD’s board chair, of the organization’s mission. “The LGBT community is part of the community as a whole. We want the whole body to be healthy, and we believe it will be healthier when all its parts are recognized and given respect.”

Peeples said GLFD has three requirements that an organization or project must meet to be eligible for GLFD funds: It must be a nonprofit in Dallas; it must publicly recognize GLFD as the donor of the funds, and it must have a hiring nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT people.

It was that last requirement that almost derailed GLFD’s plans to donate to the Parkland Foundation to help fund the Ambulatory Care Clinic at Parkland hospital. And Peeples said he is proud that it was GLFD’s insistence that requirement be met before funding the project that provided impetus for getting the hiring policy at Parkland changed.

“A new policy that would include LGBT people had been sitting on [Parkland CEO Ron Anderson’s] desk for awhile, and they just hadn’t gotten around to putting it in place. Our donation was the impetus for them to go ahead and get it done,” he said.

GLFD President Keith Nix stressed that the fund is about “philanthropy of money and time,” adding that over the course of the past 10 years, “We have been very careful to touch all areas of the nonprofit community — medical, the high arts, art, women, children, education. We really have run the gamut of all areas of need.”

GLFD raises and donates money in different ways. Often the organization mounts a campaign for a specific project — like Parkland’s Ambulatory Care Clinic or the Dallas Women’s Museum or the Latino Cultural Center. And about every other year, the organization holds large-scale special events to raise money for a specific organization or project.

But the fund also has ongoing bundling programs for the Dallas Museum of Art and KERA 90.1 FM, the local public radio station.

Peeples explained that those who participate in the bundling programs would likely have contributed anyway to the museum or the public radio station, “but those dollars wouldn’t have been colored pink. The power of bundling is that the museum or the radio station still get the money, but now they know that money came from LGBT people. And that kind of visibility helps break down stereotypes.”

Nix described it as a win-win-win situation: The institution gets the donations it needs; the individual donor gets the benefit of donating, i.e. membership in the museum or KERA, at the level of their specific donation, and the LGBT community, through GLFD, gets positive visibility.

“Every few months, when the KERA pledge drives roll around, KERA is very upfront about announcing the donations we give and using the name Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas,” Nix said. “And every time we have a meeting with KERA, I ask them if they have gotten any negative comments about our donations. And they always say no. I think the fact that they have never gotten one negative comment speaks volumes about the progress we are making.”

Peeples said he believes that progress is due in part to Dallas’ reputation as a business-oriented city.

“This city is business-focused. People have a business-like attitude, and this [GLFD’s donation model] is very businesslike. We want acknowledgement and respect for what we do for the city, and this helps us get that,” Peeples said.

GLFD’s current campaign is to raise money to fund the Dean’s Reception Room in Southern Methodist University’s new Simmons School of Education and Human Development. David Chard, an openly gay man, is dean of the new school.

Partners Enrique McGregor and Mark Niermann
FOUNDING PARTNERS | Partners Enrique McGregor, right, and Mark Niermann founded Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas 10 years ago.

Although GLFD initially sent out letters to the nonprofits in Dallas that qualified for GLFD donations, Nix said the group no longer has to go out looking for places to give.

“We haven’t had to contact an organization in four or five years now,” Nix said. “Now, they contact us.”

Peeples acknowledged that the economic recession of the past two years has made itself felt, saying that “we’re soliciting people to give, and the economy has made giving more difficult for a lot of people.”

But, Nix said, GLFD has continued to be successful in its efforts.

“We haven’t really seen any decline in our bundled giving programs with the Dallas Museum of Art and KERA. When KERA had shortfalls, they called us. And we came up with some matching funds programs that wound up being incredibly successful.

“And when we held our event at the Wyly Theater, we filled the house,” Nix continued. “We may not have filled the glass as well as we might have before. But we did fill the glass.”

One difficulty the fund has had, both men said, has been in finding the LGBT community and identifying the segments of the community that would be likely to give to specific programs and projects.

“The Dean’s Reception Room at SMU is a good example,” Nix said. “We want to find LGBT people who graduated from SMU or have some real connection to the school because they are the ones more likely to give to that project. But there’s no LGBT alumni group at SMU.”

Peeples added, “It used to be that our community was concentrated in the Crossroads area in Oak Lawn. But now, we are scattered out all over the Metroplex. And there is no database of gay people we can use to find them.”

But the two men hope that GLFD’s new membership initiative might help solve that problem.

“We don’t have a real membership, per se,” Nix said. “But with our anniversary event at the Latino Cultural Center, we will be launching a membership organization within the fund. You don’t have to be a member to give or to participate in our events. But just like with the museum and KERA, you can join, and you get benefits for being a member.”

There will be, he added, different levels of membership offering different levels of benefits.

“Just like with KERA, no matter how much you give, you’re a member. But if you can give more, you get more benefits. Still, whatever level you give at, you benefit. Everyone benefits,” Nix said.

GLFD’s 10th anniversary party begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, at the Latino Cultural Center. State Rep. Rafael Anchia will be the keynote speaker, and the event will include the premier of a short video on the history — and the future — of GLFD.

Tickets are $50, and are available online at GLFD.org.

Organizations and projects that have benefited from donations by GLFD include AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas CASA, Dallas Latino Cultural Center, Dallas Public Library, Dallas Women’s Museum, KERA 90.1 Public Radio, Parkland Health and Hospital System, Twelve Hills Nature Center, Bark Park Central, Dallas Children’s Theater, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Theater Center, Friends of the Katy Trail, Oak Lawn Triangle, The Stewpot, The Wilkinson Center and the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens