Resource Center Dallas’ Cece Cox to attend LGBT Pride Month Reception at White House

Cece Cox

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, will be among those attending the third annual LGBT Pride Month Reception hosted by President Barack Obama next week at the White House. Cox said she was honored to receive an invitation to the reception set for Wednesday, June 29, and plans to take her partner, Barbara Houser, who serves as chief U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Texas.

“I think it speaks very welll of what Resource Center Dallas has done, and our role in being educators and advocates for this community,” Cox said of the invitation. “I’m incredibly honored to represent what Resource Center does.

“There are some serious issues on the table that I will hope there will be some substantive dialogue and answers to,” she added. “There are opportunities for him in regard to making progress for our community.”

The White House typically doesn’t release many details about Pride Moth receptions in advance or provide lists of invitees. The first LGBT Pride Reception in 2009 featured national LGBT leaders from around the country. The second one in 2010 was mostly LGBT youth and leaders from state equality groups.

“This year I’m surmising because of others that I know who are going, it is LGBT community leaders, meaning I think more of a local focus,” Cox said.

Cox said she felt it was important to take Houser.

“She’s a federal employee who has served her country in her position, and is still not entitled to all the rights and benefits that she and I would be entitled to if we happened to be able to be legally married,” Cox said. “I think when there’s an opportunity to represent as a couple, we think that’s important.”

—  John Wright

Southwest flight attendants respond to pilot’s rant, call for airline to ‘remedy this injustice’

TWU Local 556, which represents 9,400 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, issued a statement this afternoon in response to a homophobic, misogynistic rant by one of the company’s pilots that was captured on an open cockpit microphone back in March. As we told you Tuesday night, the pilot was suspended without pay for the incident, but the company won’t say for how long. The company also hasn’t released the pilot’s name.

We spoke briefly today with Brad Hawkins, a gay former WFAA reporter who’s now one of Southwest’s spokespeople. But Hawkins said he couldn’t comment beyond a statement that was posted this morning on the company’s website, which is identical to the one it gave KPRC Channel 2 for its original story about the incident. (The company has also posted a video statement from Capt. Chuck Magill, its vice president for flight operations.)

The flight attendants union, in its statement, says it is “dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines’ management” and that the company has “added ‘insult to injury.’” The union also says its attorneys will investigate the possibility of filing an EEOC complaint with the federal government based on the incident. “We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice. Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet,” reads the union’s statement, which we’ve posted in its entirety below.

Also issuing an official statement about the incident today was Resource Center Dallas, whose executive director Cece Cox was quoted extensively in KPRC’s original story. Cox’s follow-up statement notes that Southwest Airlines has been been a supporter of the LGBT community for many years, has a nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT employees, and provides diversity training. Cox says the incident was “in stark contrast” to an inclusive culture and calls for the company to “to explore the effectiveness of their current diversity training program, and both evaluate and affirm their corporate commitment to inclusivity and safety.” Cox’s full statement follows the union’s statement after the jump.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard it yet, here’s the raw audio of the pilot’s rant:

Houston Pilot Caught on Tape by Christina Warren

—  John Wright

LISTEN: Southwest Airlines pilot’s anti-gay, mysoginistic rant over stuck cockpit microphone

Houston’s KPRC Channel 2 reports on a recent incident involving a pilot for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines whose cockpit microphone became stuck on, allowing air traffic controllers and crews from other flights to hear an anti-gay, misogynistic, ageist rant about what the pilot considers a lack of flight attendants suitable for him to have sex with.

An air traffic controller repeatedly tries to interrupt the pilot and alert him that his microphone is on, but the pilot doesn’t notice. Much of the anti-gay language has been bleeped out in the audio posted on Channel 2′s website, but it’s not hard to fill in the blanks:

“Well, I had Tucson to Indy all four weeks and, uh, Chicago crews … 11 out of 12 … there’s 12 flight attendants, individual, never the same flight attendant twice,” the pilot says. “Eleven (expletive) over the top (expletive), (expletive) homosexuals and a granny. Eleven. I mean, think of the odds of that. I thought I was in Chicago, which was party-land. … After that, it was just a continuous stream of gays and grannies and grandes …”

After an inaudible comment by his co-pilot, presumably about gays, the pilot continues: “Well I don’t give a (expletive). I hate 100 percent of their (expletive). So, six months, I went to the bar three times. In six months, three times. … Once with the granny and the fag, and I wish I hadn’t gone.”

Channel 2 has a complete transcript as well as the audio.

According to Southwest Airlines, the pilot was suspended without pay for the incident, but the company declined to say for how long and added that Southwest considers it “a family matter.”

The FAA also issued a statement saying it “expects a higher level of professionalism from flight crews, regardless of the circumstances.”

Cece Cox, executive director of Resource Center Dallas, is quoted extensively in the story, and RCD reportedly will be issuing a follow-up  statement about the incident Wednesday morning.

“This individual has made statements that are anti-woman, anti-age, and anti-gay in a way that can’t be disputed and they’re hateful and they’re damaging to the employees of Southwest Airlines as well as consumers of Southwest Airlines,” Cox told Channel 2. “I hope it’s an isolated incident. I hope they look and see what’s happening in their culture because clearly this incident shows that there’s something happening in this culture that allowed this person to make those kind of remarks and exhibit this kind of hostility, discrimination and hate.”

In case you’re wondering Southwest Airlines received a score of 95 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2011 Corporate Equality Index. According to HRC, the company conducts mandatory LGBT diversity training for all employees.

—  John Wright

Forum addresses the economics of equality

Rebecca Solomon, left, Roger Poindexter and Rebecca Covell

Adopting inclusive policies is the trend but LGBT employees must still protect their personal finances

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Out & Equal DFW and Resource Center Dallas presented a forum on May 24 on the economics of equality.

 

Panelists included Rebecca Solomon of Bank of America, Roger Poindexter of Lambda Legal and attorney Rebecca Covell. RCD President and CEO Cece Cox moderated.
Solomon had advice for coming out at work.

“The trend of business is adopting more inclusive policies,” she said, offering suggestions on how to decide how safe it was to come out at a particular company.

“Look at the policies,” Solomon said. “Take a pulse of the workplace and speak to others.”

She said that just because policies are in place, look at how they are translated into practice. Is there diversity training for management? Do policies have any teeth?

As an example, Solomon said that at Bank of America, someone who made the workplace uncomfortable for an LGBT employee because of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity would be escorted out the door that day.

Covell said that a company’s affinity groups are an indication of its commitment to diversity.

Poindexter addressed the issue of coming out as HIV at work.

“Unless you need accommodation, there’s no need to disclose,” he said.

Covell suggested that it was never too early for a same-sex couple to begin estate planning. Since Texas offers no protections or benefits for domestic partners that married opposite sex couples receive, she suggested reviewing all documents with an attorney. Covell said that beneficiaries should be designated for all policies because Texas courts would assign those assets to relatives.

Solomon suggested that a trust is a way for someone to designate assets when an employee is afraid to name a same-sex partner at work.

Out & Equal will host a national convention at the Anatole Hotel, Oct. 25–28. Register at OutAndEqual.org.

—  John Wright

Resource Center dedicates ‘Hell Freezes Over’ Fred Phelps Memorial Icemaker

RCD executive director Cece Cox
Councilmember Pauline Medrano

Dallas Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano and Brent Rubin from State Rep. Eric Johnson’s office were on hand Friday morning to dedicate the Fred Phelps Memorial Icemaker. Members of Congregation Beth El Binah joined Resource Center staff to cut the ribbon and scoop the first buckets of ice.

The money for the icemaker was collected during the Phelps clan’s July visit to Dallas. They picketed Congregation Beth El Binah at Resource Center Dallas and other Jewish groups around the city.

The fundraiser was dubbed “Hell Freezes Over” and $11,000 was collected. The previous known record for a Phelps event was about $10,000 in New York City.

“Inspiration comes from the strangest sources,” said Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas. “Without the inspiration of the visitors from Topeka, we would never have been here today to dedicate our new icemaker.”

“Eric’s very impressed by what you’ve done in regard to Fred Phelps’ visit,” said Rubin. “How you’ve gone one step beyond and made good come from a crummy situation.”

“There are lessons to be learned from this,” said Medrano. “Everybody can make a difference in the midst of bad news.”

During a city budget crisis, she said she was delighted to be at the Resource Center celebrating the agency getting money from other sources. She thanked Phelps for helping the city take care of people with AIDS.

Josh Manes represented Beth El Binah. He was happy to see the government representatives celebrating at the Center.

“I remember a time when the city would have supported Phelps,” he said.

The plaque on the ice machine reads: “This machine is dedicated to the participants of ‘Hell Freezes

Over.’ Thank you for showing how the power of caring and compassion can triumph over hate. August 6, 2010.”

In one of their silliest choices of protest sites, the Phelps clan began their day of nonsense at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. The museum marked record attendance that day as a result of the Phelps publicity.

Phelps was invited to attend the dedication ceremony by e-mail. He did not respond to the gracious invitation.

—  David Taffet

Questions linger over DART board's vote Tuesday night on transgender protections

DART board member Ray Noah, left, and agency general counsel Hyattye Simmons look on during last night's meeting. Noah is the board member who inserted the one-word amendment that would have gutted the proposal. And Simmons has been accused of engineering the plan.
DART board member Ray Noah, left, and agency general counsel Hyattye Simmons look on Tuesday night. Noah is the board member who proposed a one-word amendment last week that would have gutted the transgender protections. And Simmons may have been a co-conspirator.

We have phone calls and e-mails in to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons seeking clarification and confirmation about what exactly the agency’s Board of Directors approved last night with regard to transgender protections.

There are two conflicting interpretations of what happened during the meeting. We’ll explain after the jump.

—  John Wright

DART indicates that it would still oppose an employee's gender-marker change

As I noted yesterday, Dallas Area Rapid Transit is moving forward with a proposal to add transgender protections to its nondiscrimination policy. But does this mean the agency will no longer attempt to intervene if an employee seeks a gender-marker change? When I posed this very question to DART spokesman Morgan Lyons yesterday, he responded by acknowledging that the agency has learned lessons from the current controversy involving a transgender bus driver, including things related to uniforms and restroom use. But Lyons added that when it comes to the issue of gender-marker changes, DART is standing its ground.

“We’ve got a current legal opinion that provides direction in this case, and we haven’t seen anything to change that,” he said. “I wouldn’t anticipate anything different than what was done previously absent new direction.”

In other words, DART attorneys still believe that the 1999 case of Littleton v. Prange established a precedent that prohibits gender-marker changes, even though LGBT legal experts and many Dallas county judges disagree. Not only that, DART apparently still believes it’s the agency’s proper role to get involved in employees’ private legal affairs when the agency believes judges have erred. This sure seems like a slippery slope. For example, if an employee is going through a divorce, and DART doesn’t agree with a judge’s decision about child support or visitation, would the agency try to challenge it?

I also asked Lyons yesterday whether DART plans to consider adding domestic partner benefits. Lyons has said previously that he’s not aware of any current proposal to do so, and he didn’t have additional information when we spoke yesterday. Cece Cox and Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas, who met with DART officials Tuesday, said they also asked about DP benefits. Cox and McDonnell told me it’s DART’s position that domestic partner benefits are prohibited by Texas’ constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which also states that, “This state or any political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.” Again, not everyone shares DART’s legal opinion about this, and the cities of Dallas, Austin and El Paso all provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. Now that I think about it, I’m surprised DART’s attorneys haven’t intervened and tried to challenge these cities’ DP benefits, because apparently they don’t have anything better to do.

In case you’re wondering, DART’s next board meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, and LGBT activists are again planning to attend.

—  John Wright

DART board could vote on adding transgender protections to nondiscrimination policy in May

Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Board of Directors could vote as early as May on a proposal to add transgender protections to the agency’s employment nondiscrimination policy, spokesman Morgan Lyons said Thursday, March 18.

Lyons’ announcement followed a meeting Tuesday between DART officials and representatives from Resource Center Dallas, in response to a recent controversy involving a transgender bus driver.

DART attempted to intervene in a family court case to oppose the employee’s gender-marker change, prompting an outcry from LGBT activists, who’ve voiced their concerns at two consecutive board meetings.

Lyons said a proposal to add gender identity and expression to the agency’s nondiscrimination policy, which already includes sexual orientation, will be presented to the board’s Diversity and Economic Opportunity Committee in April.

“There’s a process we’ll have to go through,” Lyons said. “The first step for us in April will be to brief the committee and get them up to speed.”

DART staff will then return to the committee in May with a recommendation, Lyons said. If the committee approves the recommendation, the proposed policy change could go to the full board by the end of that month.

Lyons added that any corresponding expansion of diversity training for DART employees is pending.

“The policy review is really the first step,” he said.

On Tuesday, two top DART officials met with representatives from Resource Center Dallas to discuss amending the nondiscrimination policy, expanding diversity training and other issues.

On Wednesday, the RCD representatives said they were cautiously optimistic.

“We’re hopeful, and we’ll remain vigilant,” said Cece Cox, RCD’s associate executive director over GLBT programs. “Those two people in the meeting were supporters [of the policy change] but they’re not the only two deciders in the organization.”

The DART officials who attended the meeting were Kriss Ann Gamez, director of diversity and EEO; and Ben Gomez, executive vice president for administration.

Cox was joined by Rafael McDonnell, RCD’s strategic communications and programs manager; and Marla Compton, program coordinator for Gender Education, Advocacy and Resources (GEAR).

—  John Wright