Gay GOP leader calls attacks on Leppert over gay Pride ‘repugnant’

Tom Leppert at gay Pride in 2007

Senate rivals rip former mayor for appearing in Dallas parade

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor

One local gay Republican leader called attacks against GOP Senate hopeful Tom Leppert for appearing at gay Pride while Dallas mayor “reprehensible” and “repugnant.”

And another said the attacks have actually prompted him to support Leppert over tea party favorite Ted Cruz — despite the former mayor’s perceived betrayal of the LGBT community when he stepped down to run for Senate last year.

Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, along with  ex-pro football player Craig James and longshot candidate Lela Pittenger, ripped into Leppert for twice appearing at gay Pride during a debate luncheon hosted by the right-wing Eagle Forum at the Dallas Country Club on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

The exchange featured some virulently anti-gay language, with James saying he believes homosexuality is a choice that goes against the Bible and Pittenger comparing the Pride parade to a drunken orgy.

“There was much that was said at the senatorial debate about gays and lesbians that was reprehensible and, at times, repugnant,” Thomas Purdy, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas, said in a statement Thursday. “In an instance such as this, it would be easy to throw in the towel, but it really is a testament as to why Log Cabin Republicans must exist: to ensure the Party of Abraham Lincoln remains so and does not become the Party of Anita Bryant.”

Former Log Cabin President Rob Schlein, who now heads the gay GOP group Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, said Cruz’s attacks against Leppert for appearing at Pride — which began last month at a forum in Fort Worth —  have prompted him to support the former mayor.

“In terms of a personal favorite, even though I was very disappointed with his tweet six months ago, I would probably look beyond that and choose Tom  Leppert,” Schlein said. “I eliminated Ted Cruz when he came out and attacked Leppert. That was enough to dissuade me from supporting his campaign.  … All else being equal, then I will support the candidate that doesn’t attack the gay community. ”

Leppert appeared at gay Pride in 2007 and 2009 as Dallas mayor. He also employed an openly gay chief of staff — Chris Heinbaugh — and repeatedly expressed support for the community.

But when Leppert stepped down to run for Senate, he sent out an anti-gay message on Twitter, and came out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions on his campaign website.

But Leppert’s position on those issues appears similar to the other candidates in the GOP race.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom polls show is the frontrunner, didn’t attend Wednesday’s debate. But Dewhurst has been touting his support for Texas’ 2005 marriage amendment, which enshrined a ban on both same-sex marriage and civil unions in the state’s Constitution.

Earlier this month, Dewhurst told a Houston radio station that marriage has been between a man and a woman “from the origins of the Bible, and this is a Christian nation, this is a Christian state, and that’s what we were reflecting.”

Cruz, meanwhile, has played up his role several years ago, when he worked for Attorney General Greg Abbott, in blocking a gay couple from obtaining a dissolution of their Vermont civil union in a Beaumont court.

And James said during Wednesday’s debate that same-sex couples shouldn’t receive any federal benefits from civil unions.

The fireworks began when debate moderator John C. Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted that Cruz had attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month.

Goodman then asked Cruz, “Do you have something against gay people?”

“I have something against gay marriage,” Cruz responded. “I don’t support gay marriage. I think there is an onslaught right now in this country to tear down traditional marriage, and I don’t think it’s right.”

Goodman asked Cruz whether he was suggesting that Leppert supports same-sex marriage.

“When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement, and it’s not a statement I agree with,” Cruz said.

Leppert then responded by referring to himself in the third person: “The mayor is against gay marriage. He believes that marriage should be defined as one man and one woman.

“My job as mayor was to represent everybody in this city,” Leppert said. “I visited with groups that didn’t agree with what I said. I talked to groups that I didn’t agree with what they said, but it was my obligation to represent everybody. I engaged everybody, and I will continue to do that.”

When Cruz attacked Leppert for appearing at gay Pride last month, Leppert responded by comparing himself to Jesus. This time, although he took a similar approach, he stopped short of invoking the lord’s name.

“I will tell you my role as a Christian is to reach out and touch everybody,” Leppert said. “I wish I could have made stands only when I was in a courtroom, but I didn’t. I was criticized time and time again for showing my faith and being open with it, and standing pro-life. In fact, The Dallas Morning News criticized me for taking a position of pro-life. It was the right thing to do, I will continue to do it. But I did it when I put my neck on the line as a leader standing up for what exactly was right. I was pro-life unabashedly, and I said it.

“I am against gay marriage,” Leppert said. “I believe marriage should be defined as one man and one woman. It is very clear. But I had a responsibility to represent everybody, and everybody understood exactly where my faith was, and if there’s any question you can see pastors like Robert Jeffress and David Dykes and those folks, who don’t understand me from the business standpoint, but they sure understand who I am, and they have stood unabashedly and endorsed me for this office.”

Goodman then noted that gay couples are denied more than 1,000 rights because the federal government doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Goodman asked the candidates whether, in lieu of legalizing same-sex marriage, the federal government should merely grant gay couples those benefits by recognizing civil unions or other partnerships.

That’s when James, the former SMU football star, chimed in.

“I think right now this country, our moral fiber is sliding down a slope that is gonna be hard to stop, if we don’t stand up with leaders who don’t go ride in gay parades,” James said. “I can assure you I will never ride in a gay parade. And I hear what you’re saying, Tom, but leaders, our kids out there and people need to see examples. Now, I’m a guy that believes in a man and a woman being the greatest governance occurring in a home at night between a husband and a wife, Adam and Eve and what the Bible says. And the backbone, and I know you’re a Christian, I’m not doubting that, Tom, but man you’ve got to stand up, if you are chosen as our senator, and be a leader, and not do things like that. We need examples for our kids.”

Goodman then asked James and the other candidates whether they think being gay is a choice.

“I think it’s a choice, I do,” James responded. “You have to make that choice, absolutely.… Same-sex marriage, if someone chooses to do that, then that’s them, and God’s going to judge each one of us in this room for our actions, but in that case right there, they’re going to have to answer to the lord for their actions. We should not give benefits to those civil unions. It should not occur. We have to stay strong on this. This is important, man. I tell you what, we have a fiscal issue in this county, but we also have a moral issue in this country, and as Christians we better stand up.”

Pittenger, a longshot candidate, was next to weigh in.

“I think what you see on the stage pretty much explains why we have so many denominations in the church,” Pittenger said. “Everyone kind of has a different perspective on what they think Christ would have done and how he would have acted. Now, I respect what Tom was saying, that he felt like he was to engage the entire community. I personally disagree with his approach, just because if there was a Republican club that was openly homosexual, and they wanted to talk issues, any number of issues, I’m happy to go visit with them about the issues. But I’m not going to walk down the street with them celebrating what I believe to be a sin. But I respect Tom’s approach. Christ reached people in many different ways. The Pharisees hated him because he ate dinner with sinners. And Jesus said, ‘The doctor doesn’t come for the well, he comes for the sick.’ And we just have to, each one of us has to stand before God, and make sure our heart is right with God about how we engage those who are living in sinful ways. Now while he ate dinner with them, I don’t believe he marched along with them as they were going down to have an orgy or have any sort of drunken revelries. But they came in his space, and he engaged with them there. This is about different perspectives on how we engage people we believe are lost, and you just have to decide which one’s better.”

Finally, Leppert was given an opportunity to respond to James and Pittenger.

“I’ve addressed the issue,” Leppert said, and the debate moved on to the topic of illegal immigration.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Log cabin Republican

In ‘Big Gay Dance Party,’ Level Ground portrays Lincoln as never before

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

…BIG GAY DANCE PARTY
KD Studio Theatre, 2600 N. Stemmons Freeway. June 3–25. Fridays–Saturdays at 8:15 p.m.  $20.  LevelGroundArts.com

…………………….

Was the 16th president of the United States really Gaybraham Lincoln? That question is posed in the most unlikely of places — a fourth-grade Christmas pageant — in the play, Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party, a new production from Level Ground Arts Theater.

It’s not just the outrageous theme that makes this show stand head and stovepipe hat above the rest. Each of three acts portrays the story from a different character’s viewpoint, and at each performance the audience chooses which order the acts are performed. Democracy in action, and all that jazz.

The theater company, which has only been around since 2009, got its start with what artistic director Billy Fountain describes as a “minimalist, very raw and gritty traveling production” of Julius Caesar. “We really just wanted to do shows that we were excited about working on and it didn’t seem like anyone around town was doing the shows we wanted to do.”

They started off in Deep Ellum before moving to KD Studio Theater last July. “Technically we are in our third season, even though we had a bunch of shows before the start of our first season and I’m so proud of what we have been able to accomplish and look forward to what is coming.”

With A Samurai Nosferatu and The Hunchback of Notre Dame: A Musical on this season’s roster, it’s clear this company dares to be different. Hence Gay Dance Party.

“We approach all of our projects with an open mind, a dedicated spirit and a clear vision and process,” says Fountain. In the case of this play, the title is what piqued Fountain’s curiosity.

“I saw it and thought, ‘Man, I have to read this.’ The first time I read it, I cried. I couldn’t believe how much the characters grabbed me and the way the story moved. I fell in love with it almost immediately and knew it was really an LGA show I had to do,” Fountain says. “It’s a brilliant, amazing script and so painfully silly and loving and honest. It’s rare to find a script that accomplishes everything that it does. It’s beautiful in so many ways. How could I not do this show?”

So just how gay is this show?

“The focus is gay, but the story is about truth, fairness, and the power of each of our individual voices,” says Lloyd Chambers, who portrays three characters, including Honest Abe himself.

Taking a moment to rattle off a quote worthy of a Playbill cover, Chambers calls it “a roller coaster ride that swerves wildly and then descends into black hole, only to reappear wearing a stovepipe hat. It’s a real story that finds absurdity and reality sharing the same bill. I think it has a great sense of humor with big laughs and lots of dancing, both straight and gay.”

Fellow actor Collin Duwe describes the play more simply: “It’s gayer than Peter Pan on a pair of ice skates.”

Lincoln isn’t Level Ground Arts’ first foray into gay. Their Poseidon!

The Upside-Down Musical had its share of gay characters, and most everyone knows how ultra-queer their upcoming production of Xanadu is.

“I think Lincoln is probably one that really, boldly addresses many issues and does so in such a cool, direct way. I am thrilled we got to do it first here in DFW,” Fountain says. “I love getting to work on shows that are not afraid to present more sincere and honest voices. So often those voices get buried or hidden or silenced.”

Or shot in the head while watching a play.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 3, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Letters • 11.05.10

An open letter to KETK

To Bob Brackeen and Callie Wall of KETK-NBC in Tyler:

A friend of mine, a fellow journalism professor in Texas, just pointed me toward a clip of your “news” segment, “Will Homosexuality Be the Downfall of America?” I will be sharing this clip with my journalism class as an example clueless, baseless, inaccurate, stereotypical bigotry. After reading my students a satirical gay-bashing piece from The Onion, I will show them your segment as an example of what not to do.

I am writing to you from a journalistic perspective about why your show is appalling and anathema to everything journalists should strive to do and be.  Ms. Wall begins the segment by noting that the issue of “gays” being appointed in the Obama administration is “not really gettin’ any coverage.” That’s because it’s not news.

News is based in something we call “facts,” which we define as true and verifiable. Also, news is based in something we call “research” — and it is supposed to be objective. Further, news should adhere to ethical tenets. Your segment failed in every one of these, as well as a few others.

Not the least of your errors is the fallacy involving your numbers, which begins when Ms. Wall breathlessly exclaims about the “record number” of “gay appointments” Obama has made. From an editor’s standpoint, I ask you: How do we know this is a record? Do you really believe there weren’t gay and lesbian government officials prior to 2010? Are you willing to entertain the possibility that people, even going as far back as President Abraham Lincoln, were not counted because they were closeted? A responsible reporter would at least mention this historical angle and the concept of social change.

When the radio shock jock begins his segment by saying Obama appointed “a transgender” as a tech adviser in the commerce department, it almost sounds as though he is expressing concern that person will implement gay-friendly technology for commerce issues. Can you see how ridiculous this is?

I’m not going to waste my words dissecting Garth’s so-called contribution, except to say that it made me question the literacy rate in Tyler, Texas. How in the name of factual, objective reporting could you put this on a news show? Real journalists have named, identified, knowledgeable sources in their news stories, not anonymous callers.

Ms. Wall’s segue of “Some great comments this morning Garth, a good topic as always,” was a dim-witted endorsement of the false question of whether “homosexuality will be the downfall of America.” That is not an objective question. That is homophobic propaganda with a question mark at the end. I might as well ask, “Will Bob and Callie’s idiocy be the downfall of journalism?” Thankfully, I know enough real journalists that this is not a concern.

Good journalists talk to people, not simply about people. I would like to direct your attention to some of the tenets of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

• Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.

• Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

• Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.

• Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

• Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.

• Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.

• Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.

• Examine your own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.

In closing, I would like to help educate you so that you no longer fill valuable air time (this was nearly eight minutes) with what amounts to ignorant bullying.

Your station’s slogan is “News you won’t see anywhere else.” I certainly hope that is true.

Carolyn Nielsen, assistant professor,
Department of Journalism
Western Washington University

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TO SEND A LETTER  | We welcome letters from readers. Shorter letters and those addressing a single issue are more likely to be printed. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity, but we attempt to maintain the writer’s substance and tone. Include  your home address and a daytime telephone number for verification. Send letters to the senior editor, preferably by e-mail (nash@dallasvoice.com). Letters also may be faxed (214-969-7271) or sent via the U.S. Postal Service (Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor, Dallas TX 75204). All letters become the property of Dallas Voice.

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

—  Michael Stephens

UPDATED: Log Cabin responds to Congressman Pete Sessions’ decision not to attend dinner

Pete Sessions: Silver fox or just sly like one?

Roll Call is reporting that Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions has backed out of a scheduled appearance Wednesday night at a fundraiser for Log Cabin Republicans, saying he needs to attend a House GOP caucus meeting instead.

Well isn’t that a convenient excuse? We’re sure Sessions’ no-show has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he and Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, also slated to appear at the Log Cabin dinner, are being villified on right-wing websites for accepting the invitation. As we reported, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins sent Cornyn a letter last week demanding that he skip the dinner. And FRC said on its blog Tuesday that Cornyn shouldn’t have accepted the invitation in part because Log Cabin derives its name from the idea that President Abraham Lincoln was gay, a theory FRC seems hell-bent on dismissing. Meanwhile, American Family Association President Tom Wildmon told CSN News that by attending the fundraiser Cornyn is actively promoting “men having sex with men.”

We called Sessions’ D.C. office to get further explanation about his decision to back out — such as whether the Republican caucus meeting was scheduled before or after the Log Cabin dinner, whether they are in fact at the same time, and if they are, whether he can’t afford to miss a few minutes of the caucus meeting to make a cameo at the LCR dinner. But not surprisingly, Sessions spokeswoman Emily Davis mysteriously became unavailable after we identified ourselves as being from the gay paper, and she hasn’t gotten back to us.

We’re sure some gay Republicans will defend Sessions’ decision, pointing to his appearance at the annual dinner of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin two years ago. But we’d like to point out that the 2008 dinner came immediately AFTER the November elections, not six weeks before them. Let’s face it, folks, Republicans like Sessions are scared shitless of the Tea Party right now. And while tea-baggers like to say they’re concerned primarily with fiscal issues, many of us recognize them as the same right-wing nutjobs who were peddling social issues five years ago.

In case you’re wondering, Sessions faces Democrat Grier Raggio in November.

UPDATE: Melissa Kennedy, a spokeswoman for National Log Cabin Republicans, contacted Instant Tea to say that our previous headline, which suggested the Sessions had gotten cold feet about the dinner due to pressure from social conservatives, was inaccurate. Kennedy said we should have contacted Log Cabin before posting it. She said Republican House leaders have called a mandatory meeting for tonight and so Sessions’ reason for not attending the dinner is legitimate. She said if Sessions was worried about how the Log Cabin appearance would look, he wouldn’t have accepted their invitation in the first place.

Sessions is sending a senior staff member to pick up his award from Log Cabin, and he’s videotaped a message that will be played during the dinner, Kennedy said.

“We don’t feel like someone left us at the altar,” she said.

Asked whether Log Cabin has any qualms about hosting Cornyn after he supported Tuesday’s filibuster of the bill containing language to repeal “don’t ask don’t tell,” Kennedy said absolutely not. Kennedy said Log Cabin supported Senate Republicans’ decision to filibuster the bill based on Majority Leader Harry Reid’s refusal to allow them to propose amendments.

“We’re not saying they’ve been our best buds and we’re going to have sleepovers, but we’re working on it and we appreciate the fact that they said yes,” Kennedy said of Cornyn and Sessions and their decision to accept the group’s invitation to the dinner.

—  John Wright