Celebration Church kicks off capital campaign

Church campus will add space for meetings, dinners, recreational facilities, gardens, columbarium

Carol West

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth kicked off a $1.3 million campaign this week to build a community center that will be named for the Rev. Carol West.

West said that the church needs the additional space because the current facility is too small.

“When we get together for a dinner, we can’t all be seated,” she said.

The current fellowship hall seats about 130.

When West was hired 13 years ago, the church had a membership of 37. But that soon changed.

“We hit the ground running with programming,” West said, and the church grew rapidly.

Celebration bought the current church building, at 908 Pennsylvania Ave., from St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church in 2001, after St. John’s merged into a nearby United Church of Christ.

Today, more than 550 people belong to the nondenominational Celebration Church.

Pam Ibbotson, a church board member working on the capital campaign, said that $100,000 is already in the building fund and that another $250,000 needs to be raised before construction starts. She said the church members are hoping that will be within the next year.

“It’s hard to predict how long it will take,” Ibbotson said.

The balance of the construction budget will be funded through pledges.

Tom Guerin, of Jepsen Guerin Architects of Dallas, drew plans for the new building that will be attached to the fellowship hall.

After the plans for the project were drawn, the church hired Nan Faith Arnold as project manager. They met Arnold, who is co-chair of the Black Tie Dinner board of directors, through the annual fundraising event.

Arnold worked with them on another project: Members purchased a building in the same block as the church and donated it to the church. The building was renovated into Barron House, a full-time counseling center that now employs eight counselors.

Arnold served as project manager for that construction as well.

Arnold said that the new building will add 7,200 square feet of space and will be attached to the fellowship hall.

“It blends in with the existing structure and makes it more aesthetically pleasing,” Arnold said of the design for the expansion.

The main church building, built in 1950, has historic landmark status and will not be touched.

Meeting rooms, restrooms, storage and food pantry space will be added.

“There will be a wonderful lobby and a place for people who need to be dropped off,” West said.

The church has been collecting canned goods and distributing them mostly to other organizations that either have meals programs or their own pantries. Ibbotson said that often when a pallet of cans had been delivered in the past, the problem has been where to store them. The new building will solve that problem.

Another feature that will be added is a columbarium, a storage space for cremated remains. Arnold said that because those remains must be permanently stored, the church came up with a good master plan for the entire property.

She said that construction plans are still in the preliminary stage, but she expects the columbarium to begin with 40 to 80 niches for cremated remains.

Ibbotson said that they didn’t want to lose part of the community lawn, which the church uses for a number of outdoor events throughout the year. Garden and lawn space are provided in the master plan as well as additional parking.

Celebration Church has become a popular meeting place for the Fort Worth LGBT community, and Ibbotson said that several things prompted the LGBT community to meet at the church.

“When we became affiliated with Black Tie Dinner, we gained visibility in Fort Worth,” she said.

She said that West’s involvement in city matters, especially after the 2009 Rainbow Lounge raid, and her participation in police diversity training brought new recognition to the church.

The church has gained such attention in Fort Worth that Mayor Betsy Price spent the last Sunday before the election at Celebration Church, West said.

West doesn’t take personal credit for the  church’s growth and prominence.

Instead, she said, “We have a very generous congregation.”

The church has awarded 30 scholarships to area students who are not Celebration Church members. They have donated tons of food to about 50 different Fort Worth organizations that distribute food and serve meals. And they offer meeting space at no charge to LGBT groups like Fairness Fort Worth and other community organizations like Tarrant Dialysis.

And when the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Fort Worth Police Department needed a safe place to meet with the LGBT community after the Rainbow Lounge raid, the church was the meeting place, with West on hand to offer a calming voice.

West said that when the Barron House property became available, a group of members pledged $100 a month to buy the building and paid it off in five years. She sees similar generosity from the congregation in making the current plan possible.

The church has purchased most of the property in the block. West said that when they demolished one building she described as “the crack house,” they set up bleachers for the congregation to watch. The bulldozer driver said it was the first time his work had ever received a standing ovation.

West said that the church has an active group for younger adults in their 20s and 30s. She would like to see a Fort Worth branch of Youth First Texas, and she would like to offer rehearsal space to QCinema’s live performance group.

With additional space, the church can grow to become an even stronger hub of the community, West said.

Ibbotson said it was time for the congregation to move forward with its expansion plans — “not just for the congregation, but for the community,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Rep. Tammy Baldwin ‘very likely’ to run for Senate

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, speaks during the 2010 Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Wisconsin congresswoman would be 1st openly gay person to serve in upper house

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office is, thus far, silent on whether the openly gay legislator might make a bid for the U.S. Senate. But buzz about that possibility is hot, particularly within the LGBT community because, if successful, Baldwin would become the first openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Senate.

An aide to Baldwin did not respond to this reporter’s inquiry.

But the Wisconsin Democratic chair told reporters in a phone call with state media outlets that Baldwin is “very seriously considering running,” according to the Milwaukee Journal. The Journal added, “A close adviser to Baldwin echoed that sentiment.”

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports openly gay candidates, indicated on its website that “sources close” to Baldwin said she is “very likely” to run.

“This would obviously be a top priority for us,” said Victory Fund president Chuck Wolfe, according to the website. “This would be a remarkable milestone for LGBT Americans. Congresswoman Baldwin is one of the most admired public officials I know. She would have the strong support of those who want to see our economy work for all Americans, and who believe that all voices deserve a place at the table.”

The Victory Fund even launched a petition where people can “tell Tammy Baldwin we need her voice in the Senate.” Sign it by going here.

There is no shortage of potential candidates for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, the incumbent Democrat from Wisconsin. Kohl made an announcement May 13 that he would not seek re-election in 2012 — an announcement that had not been expected.

Newspapers in Wisconsin immediately began identifying a list of potential candidates — a very long list — that included Baldwin. Others mentioned, on the Democratic side, include former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid only last year to newcomer Republican Ron Johnson.

Most prominent in the GOP category is Rep. Paul Ryan, who has been much in the news for his proposals, as chair of the House Budget Committee, to make enormous cuts in spending.

Ryan said he would make his decision in the next few days. A former aide to Feingold said Feingold would probably decide within the next month.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin holds its annual convention in Milwaukee beginning June 3, so some candidates may hold off on their decisions until they have a chance to test the waters with state party leaders.

The 2010 Senate race in Wisconsin was a very close one, with Republican Johnson winning with 52 percent of the vote, over incumbent Feingold’s 47 percent. Political maps of party leanings show a state with several pockets of Democrat and Republican voters, but more than half the state leans toward no particular party.

The Milkwaukee Journal quoted one of the state’s Democratic strategists as saying a key to determining who will emerge as a viable candidate is who can show the ability to raise between $2 million to $4 million just for the primary.

Baldwin needed only $1. 2 million last year to win re-election to her seventh term.

She has represented the district that includes Madison, with a focus on health issues.

Baldwin, who turned 49 in February, graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and earned a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She was elected Dane County Supervisor for four terms, then served three terms in the State House of Representatives, before running for Congress. With her election in 1998, she became the first woman from Wisconsin to serve in the U.S. House and the first non-incumbent openly gay person to win a seat to Congress.

As one of four openly gay people in the U.S. House, Baldwin has been a leader on numerous bills of interest to LGBT people and a prominent voice for ensuring that legislation covers all sexual minorities.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Black Tie 2011 set to ‘Shine’

Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis

Co-chairs announce theme for this year’s event, say more changes will be unveiled soon

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Black Tie co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis this week announced the theme for the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner, set for Nov. 12 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. This year’s theme is short and sweet: “Shine.”

“Even though it is our 30th year, instead of focusing on this as an anniversary and looking back at where we’ve been, we want to focus on this being a celebration of where we are headed for the future,” said Arnold.

“We are really excited about this theme, about the idea of ‘shining’ a light on our future. And we think our creative team can do a lot with this theme,” she said.

Kouvelis added, “This theme will also be shining a light on our beneficiaries, too, and all the great work that they do in our community.”

Arnold and Kouvelis said that members of the Black Tie Dinner board are currently reviewing the more than 20 beneficiary applications the organization received this year.

Board members will then meet on Saturday, March 20, to choose the organizations that will share in the proceeds from this year’s fundraising dinner, and the names of those selected will be announced Thursday, March 31, during Black Tie’s annual Tarrant County reception, being held this year at American Airlines’ C.R. Smith Museum, 4601 Hwy. 360.

The co-chairs said planning for the 30th annual dinner is moving along smoothly, and that the board is reaching certain planning goals even earlier than usual. By early February, the board had already finalized deals for GameStop to once again be presenting sponsor for the dinner, and for Park Place Motorcars Dallas to sponsor the vehicle — a new Mercedes C 300 S coupe — for the dinner’s annual car raffle.

This week, Arnold and Kouvelis said that Diamond Jacks Casino in Shreveport/Bossier City has also already agreed to return as a sponsor.

“We just found out that they will come back this year at least at that same level, and they are going to sponsor our table captain dinner again this year,” Arnold said. “Diamond Jacks may also be helping us out with a couple of other things. They have been just wonderful to work with.”

Sales for the raffle tickets for the Mercedes C 300 S coupe are moving along at a brisk pace, and the co-chairs said having the dinner’s online system up and running has made raffle ticket sales — and other processes so much easier.

“You can buy those raffle tickets online art BlackTie.org. In fact, our online system is up and running for everything this year,” Arnold said. “This is really the first year that you can do everything you need to do for Black Tie online. ”

Black Tie has gone high-tech in other areas, too, the co-chairs said, including the silent auction, which will be “a little different this year. People can really expect the auction to be more interactive this year,” Arnold said.

Kouvelis said he is working on partnering with “a couple of our sponsors” to increase Black Tie’s marketing, especially in the area of incorporating social media into the process.

“We are really excited about the opportunities with see in this area,” he said. “This will give us the chance to increase participation and even change the demographic of who attends Black Tie. That’s what we have to do to keep the event growing.”

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

—  John Wright

Black Tie Dinner co-chairs announce sponsor, raffle car

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Nan Arnold and Chris Couvelis, co-chairs for the 30th annual Black Tie Dinner in November, this week announced that GameStop has once again signed on as presenting sponsor for the annual fundraising event, and that Park Place Motorcars Dallas has agreed to donate a new Mercedes C300 S coupe to be raffled off at the dinner.

“This is really good news,” said Arnold, this year’s senior co-chair, adding that both deals were finalized earlier than usual this year.

“Chris and I and Maggie McQuown, our director of development, met with the people from GameStop back in mid-January, and they confirmed right then that they wanted to come back as our presenting sponsor,” Arnold said, explaining that being presenting sponsor means giving the Black Tie board $100,000 in cash to use to pay expenses in staging the dinner.

“That’s really good news for our beneficiaries, too. Because that means that’s $100,000 more that will be returned to the beneficiaries,” Arnold said.

GameStop has been presenting sponsor for Black Tie for three consecutive years, and has donated to the event long than that.

Officials with Park Place also committed to providing a car for the annual raffle earlier than usual this year, too, Couvelis said.

“It’s not just a brand new car, it’s a brand new Mercedes model,” he said. “It will be the 2012 model, and it is so new we haven’t even seen any photos of it yet. It’s all still under wraps. It won’t even be available to buy until October.”

Black Tie board members, volunteers and beneficiaries sell a limited number of tickets, for $100 each, for the car raffle each year to help boost the dinner’s income. Arnold said that tickets for this year’s raffle for the new Mercedes model are already available.

Each year, proceeds from Black Tie dinner are divided between the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and as many as 20 local LGBT or HIV/AIDS organizations and agencies. Beneficiary applications for the 2011 dinner are available on the Black Tie Dinner website (BlackTie.org), and the application deadline is Feb. 25. The list of this year’s designated beneficiaries will be announced March 30.

But Arnold said the board will likely be making another announcement — the theme for the annual fundraiser — even sooner than that.

“This will be our 30th year, and we are working hard to make it really special,” said Arnold, as first-year co-chair Couvelis added he is “thrilled” to have the chance to head up the board that organizes the dinner, giving credit to Arnold for her hard work and leadership as the board’s second-year co-chair.

But Arnold was quick to spread the credit around: “It’s a team effort. Chris is doing a great job, and we have a wonderful board that is already working hard to make this year’s dinner a success.”

The 2011 Black Tie Dinner will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Sheraton Dallas hotel.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Cox named to board of Women’s Foundation

Cece Cox

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

Cece Cox, executive director of Resource Center Dallas, has been named to a three-year term on the board of directors of the Dallas Women’s Foundation.

The appointment is effective Feb. 1.

The foundation, established in 1985, focuses on women’s philanthropy, grant making and gender-specific research. It has given more than $13 million to more than 950 organizations, with a net impact on more than a quarter-million women and girls primarily in Dallas, Denton and Collin counties.

The foundation is part of a global network of 145 womens’ foundations on six continents.

Cox became executive director of RCD in July, 2010, after about three years as the center’s associate executive director for GLBT community services. As associated executive director, Cox was directly responsible for creating and maintaining programs at the center.

She has also worked with and/or supported the Turtle Creek Chorale, Legal Hospice of Texas, Youth First Texas and the regional office of Lambda Legal.

Cox is a former president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and a former co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation/Dallas. She serves on the advisory board for both the Black Tie Dinner and SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development. In 1999, Cox received the Kuchling Humanitarian Award from the Black Tie Dinner.

Cox is an alumna of both Leadership Dallas and Leadership Lambda, a former board member of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Law Section for the State Bar of Texas, and an attorney licensed in the state of Texas. Prior to joining RCD, Cox was an attorney focused on commercial litigation, bankruptcy, municipal law and commercial transactions. She is a volunteer attorney for Legal Hospice of Texas.

Cox earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a law degree from SMU. She is the mother of a 12-year-old son and the partner of Judge Barbara J. Houser.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 28, 2011.

—  John Wright

Twitteresolutions

We look at 2011 resolutions through the eyes (and tweets) of queer celebs

We know celebrities are busy, but somehow they are never too busy to pop out a tweet. Whether it’s to promote world peace, equal rights or simply themselves, celebs know the power of a good Twitter feed.
We scoured the feeds of various LGBT celebs and allies to see what they have in mind for 2011. Some started their 140-character resolutions for the New Year. Others, well, haven’t. That didn’t stop me from re-imagining some of their older tweets from December (minus any accompanying tiny URLs), nor did it stop me from either replying (@celeb) or retweeting (RT) from my own feed (indicated under theirs in italics). Because you know they’ll read it — or at least the person they’ve hired to manage it will (@theellenshow).
— Rich Lopez (@GetRichinDallas)

Twitter-images
TWEETS FOR 2011 | Queer celebs who gave us some 140-character food for thought while beginning the new year include, Margaret Cho, Cazwell, Jay Brannan, Queen Latifah, Reichen Lehmkuhl, Kathy Griffin and Chely Wright.

JAY BRANNAN, orally gifted indie movie actor and musician (@Jaybrannan)
My NewYear’s res for2010 was2have a bf by the end of the year. Fail. I give up. In 2011 I accept I will
b alone4ever. Just me n the Griffins.
@jaybrannan There’s probably a song in there somewhere. #justsaying

CAZWELL, sexy musician and viral video hunk (@Cazwellnyc)
Thanks to everyone that gave me bong smoking advice. Too bad I’m too faded to follow any of them.
Did @xMileyCyrus offer any suggestions RT @Cazwellnyc Thanks to everyone that gave me bong smoking advice…

CHELY WRIGHT, recently outed country singer (@Chelywright)
Faith in America invites Christian university to join public dialogue about religion-based bigotry toward
gay [students]
@chelywright I totally mentioned this like you asked in my article. But you couldn’t get me in to Black Tie? #burn #ouch

CHI CHI LARUE, porn director and spin doctor (@DJChiChiLaRue)
@GetRichinDallas I will try to curb my shopping addiction in 2011 And try not to fall in drag!
@DJChiChiLaRue Just keep bringing back those hot porn boys of yours. Better yet, bring the daddies! #beefcakediet

REICHEN LEHMKUHL, perennial reality TV personality and putative A-lister (@ReichenLehmkuhl)
In honor of ArmPit Wednesday (which I am officially starting right now).
@ReichenLehmkuhl Um, not sure how A-list ArmPit Wed is. Aren’t those gays supposed to be kinda pristine. Fetish boys don’t seem the show’s type. #justsaying

JUDY TENUTA, strange comedian and self-appointed love goddess (@JudyTenuta)
I plan 2 get arrested 2 get a show. Hard cuz I’m law-abiding citizen. A sex video? Or I’ll gain 500 lbs 2 b on Biggest Loser. #comeback
@JudyTenuta Please use the big hunky guy from your @LadyGaga spoof in your sex video.
#beefcakediet

QUEEN LATIFAH, rap artist and Oscar nominated actress (@IAmQueenLatifah)
Happy Sunday. Cleaning out my closet. I have so many great things for people in need. Somebody is about to come up!
@IAMQUEENLATIFAH Come up? Girl, don’t you mean come out? #typo

ANDERSON COOPER, silver fox news hunk and Kathy Griffin New Year’s Eve sidekick
(@Anderson cooper)
I threw out my back working out. An old spine injury that has flared up. I can walk but it hurts a lot.
I’m getting old.
I know that feeling! #hayyyyy RT @andersoncooper I can walk but it hurts a lot.

KATHY GRIFFIN, Emmy-winning D-lister and lover of “her gays” (@Kathygriffin)
Live on CNN w Anderson Cooper. How gorgeous is YOUR date?RT @OkKaiser: @kathygriffin, what’s ur New Years Eve plans? #CNN
@kathygriffin Not sure if @andersoncooper can still be your date. He “threw his back out.”
#newyearseve

MARGARET CHO, queermedian and failed Bristol Palin dance rival (@Margaretcho)
There’s something about a bidet that is so invigorating and soothing. Instead of coffee — wash your hole!!
@margaretcho Thought you said wash your hole with coffee. Taking this off my resolutions
#scaldedlining

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 31, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

AIDS Services of Dallas announces date, honorary co-chairs for annual ‘No Tie’ dinner

On the heels of distribution of funds from Black Tie Dinner, AIDS Services of Dallas has announced details for its big fundraiser, the less fancy No Tie Dinner.

The event — a series of about 50 dinner parties held at private homes, culminating in a big dessert party and auction at the Frontiers of Flight Museum — will take place on March 26. The 2011 honorary chairs are D’Andrea Simmons, Bernard and Michelle Nussbaumer and Paige andClint Fletcher.

Anyone interested in hosting a party is asked to submit a request to Don Neubauer, DNeubauer@sncompanies.com. Learn more at NoTieDinner.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Black Tie hands out $1.15 million

Kouvelis named as 2011 co-chair as board begins preparations for 30th annual fundraiser in November

Tammye Nash and David Taffet | nash@dallasvoice.com

HANDING OUT THE CHECKS | 2010 Black Tie Dinner Co-chairs, above left, Nan Arnold and Ron Guillard talk about their year heading up the Black Tie board. Incoming 2011 Black Tie Co-Chair Chris Kouvelis, right center, presents a check to representatives of Home for the Holidays. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Officials with Black Tie Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 9, distributed grants to 20 beneficiaries totaling $1.15 million — up from the 2009 total of $1.04 million.
The funds, representing proceeds from the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner held in November, were distributed at a reception at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel, host hotel for the annual fundraising dinner.

Ron Guillard, completing the second year of his two-year term as Black Tie Dinner co-chair, offered special recognition to the sponsors, table captains, dinner guests and volunteers who helped make this year’s sold-out dinner so successful.

CATCHING UP | AIDS Services of Dallas President and CEO Don Maison, left, talks with former Resource Center Dallas board chair Bill Brosius during the Black Tie Dinner check distribution party Thursday. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

“My last official act couldn’t be more exciting than to distribute checks,” Guillard said. “It’s fantastic to be in the room with all the people who do so much work with Black Tie Dinner assuring its success.”

Nan Faith Arnold, who began the second half of her two-year term as co-chair at the distribution party, said, “I’m having a blast. It’s a great night. Each of our beneficiaries stands strong for the people they serve.”

“Stand strong” was the theme of this year’s event.

Chris Kouvelis, who will be Arnold’s dinner co-chair in 2011, was introduced.

“The check distribution event is the culmination of what we work for all year,” Kouvelis said. “It’s the most exciting thing to do. I’m honored to be in this position and am looking forward to a fantastic year.”

As in previous years, about half of the proceeds from the 2010 dinner — $577,500 — went to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The Dallas-Fort Worth dinner is the largest fundraiser of its kind each year for the foundation.

HRC Development Director Chris Speron attended the check distribution event. Executive Director Joe Solmonese was scheduled to attend but remained in Washington because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell vote.”

“The Dallas LGBT community is one of the most generous communities anywhere,” Speron said. “And the Black Tie Dinner is unmatched anywhere in the country. We are so privileged to work with the people involved in Black Tie Dinner and benefit from their amazing work.”

The remaining funds were divided between 19 local organizations providing services to the LGBT and HIV/AIDS communities. Resource Center

EXPRESSING THANKS | Board members for Equality Texas, along with Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, right, accept the organization’s check from Black Tie Dinner. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Dallas received the largest local grant, getting a check for $48,504 from Black Tie.

RCD Executive Director Cece Cox said, “We are again delighted and thankful to be a beneficiary of Black Tie Dinner. This is unrestricted money that allows us to provide more services and reach more people.”

Groups were acknowledged for their participation. Turtle Creek Chorale sold the most raffle tickets. White Rock Friends contributed the most volunteer hours and the chorale was recognized for 682 hours of rehearsal time for the Black Tie Dinner performance. Resource Center Dallas sold the most tables with 22.

Black Tie Dinner is the largest formal seated dinner of its kind in the country in terms of both attendance and charitable contributions. This year, 3,000 guests attended the event, which featured keynote speaker Tammy Baldwin, U.S. congresswoman from Wisconsin, Media Award recipient Chely Wright, Elizabeth Birch Equality Award recipient American Airlines and Kuchling Humanitarian Award recipient the Rev. Carol West.

Arnold and Kouvelis said the Black Tie Dinner board is already working on the 30th Anniversary dinner, scheduled for  Nov, 12, 2011, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The 2011 beneficiary application will be available online in February at BlackTie.org.

……………………….

•2010 Black Tie Dinner Beneficiaries

Human Rights Campaign Foundation $577,500
AIDS Arms $38,029
AIDS Interfaith Network $24,464
AIDS Outreach Center $28,245
AIDS Resources of Rural Texas $25,622
AIDS Services of Dallas $34,896
Celebration Community Church $40,043
Congregation Beth El Binah $26,157
Equality Texas Foundation $25,219
Health Services of North Texas $23,600
Home for the Holidays
$24,375
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
$38,764
Legacy Counseling Center $24,449
Legal Hospice of Texas $25,844
Northaven United Methodist Church $38,559
Resource Center of Dallas $48,504
Turtle Creek Chorale $32,494
White Rock Friends $21,055
The Women’s Chorus of Dallas $22,532
Youth First Texas $34,640

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 10, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Baldwin: ‘We will see brighter days ahead’

Congresswoman tells Black Tie audience not to give up hope; Wright applauds heroes who chose ‘never to hide a day in your lives’

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. To see a slideshow from Black Tie, go here.

During her keynote address at the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 6, openly lesbian Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin wasted no time in acknowledging the apparent blow the Republican victories in this month’s midterm elections dealt to the LGBT community’s push for equality.

“I needed to get away. It’s been a tough week, a very painful week for many Americans,” Baldwin said.

But then she went on to reassure the more than 3,000 people packed into the Sheraton Dallas’ Lone Star Ballroom that “we will see brighter days ahead.”

Baldwin acknowledged that the community’s high hopes when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 have not, for the most part, been met. “There is frustration that we haven’t come far enough, fast enough, and I share that frustration.”

Recalling the last time that Republicans controlled Congress, Baldwin said efforts to secure LGBT equality were “rebuffed at every turn,” and she added that she is “not holding my breath” that things will be different this time, with Republicans controlling the U.S. House and the Senate nearly equally divided between the parties.

Although there is a possibility that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy could be repealed during the upcoming lame duck session, chances are “slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future” that passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and Baldwin’s own Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act and other LGBT-positive measures will happen.

“But that doesn’t mean that we will throw up our hands and give up,” Baldwin said, “because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time.”

Baldwin’s theme of keeping up the fight and looking forward to better days reverberated throughout the evening, as Media Award winner Chely Wright related her life story to the crowd. She spoke of knowing from a young age that she was gay, and how she had struggled to keep her orientation a secret to try and earn — and later, preserve — her career in country music.

“Living two lives is quite a chore,” Wright said, as she talked about reaching a point where “I knew something had to give,” and the cold morning in 2006 when she went so far as putting the muzzle of a 9-mm pistol in her mouth.

But instead of pulling the trigger, Wright said, she prayed to God, as she had all her life. But this time, instead of praying for God to change her, she prayed that God would “give me a moment’s peace.”

Immediately, Wright continued, “oceans and oceans of peace washed over me,” and she knew that not only would she not take her own life, but that she would come out “as a gay woman, as a proud Christian and as an advocate for youth.”

Wright, who came put publicly only six months ago, acknowledged that others in the room had spent much longer fighting for LGBT equality.

“It is a bit of a strange thing to be honored by Black Tie Diner and this esteemed group of people. I look out and see so many of you who have not been able to or who have chosen not to hide a day in your lives, and to have you applaud for me is, well, it’s surreal,” she said.

“I look to you as heroes. … You are simply amazing to me. Thank you for leading the way,” she continued. “It is certainly not lost on me that you folks in this room tonight are the reason that the movement of equality, fairness and understanding continues to evolve.”

The evening began with an appearance by Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, whose personal and passionate speech before the council last month about teen suicide went viral as a YouTube video and turned him into a national sensation.

Burns reminded the audience that teen suicide and bullying continues to affect LGBT youth at an alarmingly high rate, and led the crowd in a moment of silence in memory of LGBT youth who have died.

After Broadway star Gavin Creel, backed by the Turtle Creek Chorale, performed, the Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, came on stage to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

With a beaming smile, West recalled the early heroes of Dallas-Fort Worth’s LGBT community, reminding the crowd that “we stand on their shoulders” as the movement progresses. But, she added, the community leaders of today must also remember that the leaders of tomorrow “will someday stand on our shoulders.”

Employees of American Airlines were on hand to accept the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award on behalf of their company. Betty Young, director of Diverse Segment Marketing for the airline, said it was “a tremendous honor” for the company and its employees to receive the award.

“American Airlines has always been very involved in Black Tie Dinner and we certainly appreciate all they do. But for the company to be recognized this way, it caused tremendous excitement throughout the company and in each of us who touches this community,” Young said. “We are just honored beyond words.”

Ron Guillard, who co-chaired Black Tie Dinner this year with Nan Arnold, said organizers were “incredibly happy” with how the event turned out.

“And given the fact that we had a full ballroom, and considering how well the luxury auction went, we are feeling very optimistic about having a very generous amount to distribute to our beneficiaries this year,” he said. “We still have money to collect and some bills to pay, but I think this will be a very good year for our beneficiaries.”

Guillard noted that funds from the dinner will distributed to beneficiaries during a reception Dec. 9 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

“We want to encourage the whole community to come out and be part of what is definitely the most important part of Black Tie each year,” Guillard said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

WATCH: Tammy Baldwin at Black Tie

Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told The Washington Blade on Tuesday there is “zero chance” of passing pro-equality legislation in the new Republican-controlled House next year. Three days before, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin told attendees at Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner pretty much the same thing.

“The last time Republicans were in control of Congress, we fought hard for consideration of pro-equality measures, and we were rebuffed at every turn,” Baldwin said. “Within the new Republican leadership and among the incoming class of members, I don’t see many champions of gay rights. Now it’s my hope the Republican majority won’t revert to its prior agenda, which forced us to play defense, fighting back anti-equality measures, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Baldwin said that while a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell” is still “possible” during the lame duck session of Congress, the same cannot be said for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act.

“Unfortunately the chances of enacting these measures are slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future,” Baldwin said. “Now that doesn’t mean we’re going to throw up our hands and give up. We will keep on moving forward, because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time, and as with every great movement of social change, it requires that we have faith — faith that, using the tools of our democracy we can affect change, even when it’s our government that’s denying us our rights.”

Watch Baldwin’s full speech above.

—  John Wright