Declining donations force Equality Texas to cut staff in half as legislative session approaches

Dennis Coleman
Dennis Coleman

With the 2011 legislative session approaching and a huge Republican majority looming, the LGBT community’s lobbying organization in Austin has been forced to eliminate three of its six staff positions due to declining donations.

Dennis Coleman, who took over as executive director at Equality Texas earlier this year, confirmed Thursday that the organization eliminated the positions of political director, field director and development director in August. Equality Texas’ former political director, Randall Terrell, had served as its chief lobbyist for the last two biennial sessions, when for the first time in recent memory no anti-gay legislation was filed.

“Like most organizations, we were suffering financially — donors pulling back on their giving or reducing their giving — and unfortunately a decision had to be made pretty quickly,” Coleman said. “It was a very difficult decision to make.”

Coleman said he doesn’t believe the cutbacks will limit the organization’s effectiveness in the upcoming session, which begins in January. Coleman said Equality Texas likely will contract with a lobbyist, while he and Deputy Director Chuck Smith, along with volunteer board members, pick up any remaining slack.

“We have 18 board members around the state who have rolled up their sleeves and are doing everything they can so that we’re successful,” Coleman said. “We are not closing. We will continue the work, and we will find more inventive ways to do it.”

Coleman noted that Equality Texas added the political director position only about five years ago. Prior to that, the executive director functioned as both chief fundraiser and chief lobbyist.

“In some ways we’re kind of going back to basics — that’s kind of how I look at it — and we’ll build from there,” Coleman said.

Coleman noted that the group has about 20,000 people on its e-mail list, and while many of them respond to action alerts, only a few thousand contribute money. He said he thinks some may forget that Equality Texas is active every month of every year, not just during the six-month session.

“If everyone who receives an e-mail from us just committed $40 a year, that would mean a lot to the organization,” he said.

For more info on Equality Texas or to donate, visit the website.

—  John Wright

Will Cornyn remember Log Cabin singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his wife next time he screws us?

Our first report from Wednesday night’s Log Cabin Republicans National Dinner comes from The Standard-Times of San Angelo. Anti-gay Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who accepted an award from the gay GOP group and spoke at a reception prior to the dinner, reportedly told them he was amazed at the controversy surrounding his appearance there:

“I guess perhaps it speaks to the times we find ourselves in where people are so unwilling to find grounds of commonality where we do agree despite some honest differences and firmly held differences of opinion,” Cornyn told about 60 guests at the Log Cabin Republicans Political Action Committee.

They listened, clapping enthusiastically at times, to the Senate’s chief fundraiser the day after the social conservative voted to block the repeal of the ban on openly gay and lesbian people serving in the military. The LCR is leading a legal fight to repeal the ban.

Cornyn also opposes same-sex marriage.

The event was closed to the press, but an audio recording showed that those attending the event sang “Happy Birthday” to Cornyn’s wife, Sandy, after he told them it was her birthday Tuesday.

“I’m sure you have made her day,” Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in the recording provided by an attendee of the PAC reception.

Read the full story here.

—  John Wright