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

Finally, a chance to win Joel Burns’ underwear

Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns has sat with Ellen, and if you play it right, he’ll sit with you. Burns, whose anti-bullying video became an Internet sensation, is himself the prize at the Thursday performance of Fort Worth’s Amphibian Stage Productions’ presentation of No Child… . The play, written by Nilaja Sun and directed by Rene Moreno, is a one-woman show about a teacher trying to make a difference in an inner-city school. The Nov. 11 performance of the play is devoted to the Trevor Project, which seeks to help at-risk LGBT youth. Twenty percent of that evening’s box office will go to the Trevor Project, and those in attendance that night can enter to win the “Lunch with the Hon. Joel Burns” raffle. He’ll also offer a pair of Ellen Show boxer shorts he autographed for auction.

You can find out more at AmphbianProductions.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bigots are so unreliable!

Despite news reports indicating otherwise, no one spoke Tuesday night at the Fort Worth City Council meeting to air disapproval of Councilman Joel Burns “It Gets Better” speech last month. Tuesday’s meeting lasted into the wee hours, as the council dealt with several controversial issues. The only person who referenced Burns’ speech during “Citizen Presentations,” which came after midnight, spoke in support of it. Linda Sandoval Foley said she’s been a special education teacher since 1964.

“Bullying and harassment, whatever the reason, is not only injurious to the person who is bullied, but to the bully themselves,” she said. “Parents and community often offer a model to kids as to what is acceptable and give both tacit and implicit approval to bullying behaviors. But equally present is a capacity for acceptance and understanding, and expectations for appropriate behavior toward people who are different from you in any way, whether it’s the color of your eyes, or whether you’re tall and skinny, awkward and clumsy, whatever. Yes, it does get better. But we need, our kids need, the support and involvement of their parents, their teachers and all the other adults who are in their lives. And I thank Councilman Burns for his statement, and I do appreciate his life experience, and I do look forward to it being better for all our kids.”

Earlier, during councilmembers’ reports, Burns also referenced his “It Gets Better” speech, saying he had a lot of announcements but none of them were likely to make YouTube. “But that doesn’t mean they aren’t important,” he said.

Among other things, Burns went on to congratulate the TCU football team for its victory last weekend over Utah, saying it was the only time he’s ever wished he was in Salt Lake City. Burns also congratulated those from Fort Worth who received awards during Saturday’s Black Tie Dinner: the Rev. Carol West (Kuchling Humanitarian Award) and American Airlines (Elizabeth Birch Equality Award).

—  John Wright

WATCH: Chely Wright at Black Tie Dinner

For those who took off prior to Media Award winner Chely Wright’s remarks Saturday night at Black Tie Dinner — and for those who couldn’t make it or simply want to see it again — here’s her full acceptance speech.

—  John Wright

November: Grow a ‘stache, save a testicle

Push broom. Lip warmer. Crumb catcher.

The mustache goes by many nicknames, but during the month of November, it’s also a sign of support for men’s health.

“Movember USA” is a group that helps raise money and awareness for men’s health issues, such as testicular and prostate cancer, by sponsoring a sort of “‘Stache for Cash” fundraiser. Men — and, ya know, I guess women, if they’re from central Europe — dedicate to spend the month of November growing out their lady ticklers (bad example!) to raise money for research.

Now, I’ve had a beard or mustache pretty much continuously since 1994, and went back and forth throughout high school, college and law school at that, so it was hard for me to start a mustache anew — but I did. On Halloween, I shaved clean and started fresh on Nov. 1. I’ve trimmed a little around the neck (and actually did more than I should have just before Black Tie), but I’m committed to letting it get as bushy as it needs to by Nov. 30. Then I’ll … well, probably just keep it.

Anyway, if you want to join, or just get hairy for the coming cold weather, visit USMovember.com to sign up or contribute. And I’ll see you at the reunion of 1970s porn stars and Magnum, P.I. lookalikes.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Leppert misses Black Tie but shoots promo for Out & Equal Workplace Summit

Via GLBT Dallas, above is a promotional video for next year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit, set for Oct. 25-28 in Dallas. The video reportedly was shown to attendees at this year’s Workplace Summit, in Los Angeles last month.

Among other things, the video features a spot by Mayor Tom Leppert near the end.

“We’re building a bright future by embracing and welcoming everyone,” Leppert says in the video. “We know that being a world-class city means being a place where all citizens and visitors are both welcomed and appreciated.”

In related news, Leppert was absent from the Black Tie Dinner for the second time in four years on Saturday. He missed gay Pride this year too, also for the second time in four years.

Leppert is widely believed to be eyeing a run for U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2012, but the video shows that he hasn’t completely distanced himself from the LGBT community.

Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, said the mayor missed Black Tie because he had a wedding and two other events on Saturday night.

“They changed the program a bit this year and the Mayor was not asked to speak, so it made the decision a bit easier,” Heinbaugh said.

—  John Wright

Black Tie Dinner 2010

Photos by John Wright and Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

—  John Wright

2010 Black Tie Dinner

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin

The 2010 Black Tie Dinner will be held Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

The theme for the annual fundraising event this year is “Stand Strong.”

Keynote speaker for the evening will be openly-lesbianof Wisconsin. The Rev. Carol West will received the KuchlingHumanitarian Award, and American Airlines will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. Activist and businessman Mitch Gold will be on hand to present the Media Award to out lesbian and country/western star Chely Wright.

Special entertainment will be provided by Broadway star Gavin Creel and the Turtle Creek Chorale.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Chely Wright answers the call

The country music star and out lesbian may be busy with a new album and tour, but she always makes time for her new-found passion for advocating for LGBT equality

Rich Lopez  |  Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Chely Wright
Chely Wright

When Chely Wright came out this summer, the buzz in the music industry was mixed. But as it turned out, she did it at precisely the right time.

Combining her star power with advocacy, Wright has become the face of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and an outspoken advocate for her new-found community. She has stepped up to the plate and used her stature to focus attention on LGBT issues.

The buzz around Wright’s coming out was quickly eclipsed by head-grabbing issues like same-sex marriage rulings, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the rash of gay youth suicides and bullying.

Still, Wright interjected herself into the conversation and people listened, while other gay celebrities were being supportive, but perhaps less vocal. For her efforts, Wright will be awarded the 2010 Media Award at this weekend’s Black Tie Dinner.

“This is what I felt like I was supposed to do, and it would be wrong of me not do this,” Wright said recently of her work in the community.

Black Tie Dinner co-chairs Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold said that Wright was the unanimous choice for the Med Award this year. As the year progressed, Wright’s work with LGBT youth and her public profile narrowed the choices tremendously until she became the decisive choice.

“The breadth of her activity immediately upon coming out was definitely a factor. She faced issues head on and she’s made an incredible impact in reaching Middle America,” Guillard said.

Wright has most recently chosen to become involved in addressing the seemingly skyrocketing rate of bullying and LGBT youth suicides. Her work with GLSEN helped launch the Safe Space Campaign for schools to provide outright support to gay students and end anti-gay harassment and bullying. She joined a panel of celebrities on Larry King Live calling attention to the issue — which she stressed isn’t new.

“What’s going on now is not a shock to me. The problem isn’t a fresh one. It’s just that now, we have the mainstream media’s attention,” Wright said.

She quoted Kathy Griffin from that panel, agreeing with the comedian that bullying is based in homophobia stemming from a bigger picture that paints a distinct portrait to both straight and gay communities. “I hadn’t thought about it until she said

something amazing. She called it ‘trickle-down homophobia,’ where gay issues and headlines meet. DADT is denied, marriage denied and we’re constantly told we’re ‘less than,’” Wright said. “Not only bullies are hearing that, but young gay people are too.”

And that gives LGBT youth a bleak outlook on their future, while at the same time emboldening the bullies, Wright said.

“We can tell people not to bully, but when mandates are coming down against our rights and headlines show that, how can we expect them not to, when Congress is doing it blatantly?” Wright asked.

When she wrote her autobiography Like Me, Wright’s publishers balked at the chapter on hate crimes. She fought Random House for the chapter to be included, despite them telling her it was too dramatic. In the end, Wright won and the chapter, “Hate Crimes are Down?,” foreshadowed the current issue of harassment.

“If you push a young LGBT person to the point where they take their own lives, it’s a hate crime. If you get them to kill themselves, that’s a hate crime. You aren’t connecting dots that are too far apart and now it’s horrific that it’s come to past,” Wright said.

Wright focused on the Rutgers student Tyler Clemente, who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge after his roommate recorded him having sex with another man and streamed it online.

Chely Wright
SHE CAN RELATE | Chely Wright says that after spending years hiding her sexual orientation to protect her career in country music, she understands the anguish that young people struggling with their sexual orientation sometimes feel.

Wright said she faced a similar fear of being outed in the middle of her conservative country music career.

“I know what he felt like and it ripped my heart out,” she said of Clemente. “When you don’t want anyone to know that secret, the thought that runs through your mind is to jump, or pull the trigger. I couldn’t bear someone in control of my timeline for that secret,” she said.

Wright has been open about her faith as well, which brings a fairly new facet to the openly gay celebrity. Where most might dismiss religion as a hindrance, Wright seems to want to let people know that being gay and being religious are not mutually exclusive.

But at the same time, she said it is religion that is responsible for so much bigotry.

“Churches are not being held accountable. They tell young people they are damaged goods,” Wright said. “They tell them not to shoplift, which is a question of morality and making the right decision. But when they tell them not to be gay, that sets them onto a path of self-loathing and hatred and it’s contrary to a healthy life.”

Along with GLSEN and the Human Rights Campaign, Wright has given her support to the nonprofit organization Faith in America, which works to counteract the discrimination by religious communities toward the LGBT community.

“When you tell a kid he can’t be that way, it’s just a problem. We have got to hold churches accountable,” Wright repeated. “Really, you can be a good Christian and a gay person,” she said.

Arnold sees how Wright’s passion led to the board’s decision to honor her with the award.

“She is setting a wonderful example for people of all ages right now in this critical time. She’s appreciated the community and we appreciate what she’s doing for it,” Arnold said.

With her political advocacy, it’s easy to forget what Wright does best. She is still making music, but now balances what she loves to do and what she’s called to do.

“At the root of what I do, I like to sing and make records,” Wright said. “But we do the most damage as humans with words. And I’m compelled to support kids as they turn into grownups and help them keep their heads on straight.”

So to speak.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Customer service: Black Tie edition

I own several tuxedoes plus some nice patent leather shoes, so I rarely rent formalwear anymore. But I had a nice experience at Al’s this week.

One of my tuxes lost a button — the black-satin-wrapped kind. Unlike many suits, which sew “reserve” buttons into the lining, none of my tuxes have extras. I don’t know the first thing about sewing on buttons even if they do. I was  bummed.

But I decided to take a hail Mary: I brought the coat into Al’s on Oak Lawn and asked whether they might have any buttons that matched. The lady behind the counter said, “I’ll look.” She took the coat back with her and emerged a few minutes later with a button that looked like a dead ringer. “That’s perfect!” I said. She snatched it up and said, “Give me a few minutes.” She emerged later with the button, sewed beautifully onto my coat. Exactly what I needed.

“What do I owe you?” I asked, expecting a $20 fee for parts, labor and instant turnaround.

“Nothing,” she said. “Just remember us if you need anything.” (She even offered to re-sew a loose button on another coat I had with me!)

That’s good customer service. Especially for someone who wasn’t even a customer.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones