BREAKING: Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert to announce resignation today

Mayor Tom Leppert appears in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2007.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is expected to announce his resignation at the close of today’s City Council meeting.

Leppert’s resignation has long been expected as he prepares to seek the Republican nomination for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat in 2012. It’s really just been a question of when, and now we know: Leppert will step down four months short of the end of his term.

For a Republican in Texas, Leppert has been a relatively good mayor for the LGBT community. After defeating openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley to become mayor in 2007, Leppert reached out and appeared to understand the LGBT community’s importance in Dallas.

Leppert hired an openly gay chief of staff, former WFAA reporter Chris Heinbaugh, and became only the second mayor to appear at gay Pride, doing so in two of his four years in office. Leppert made a habit of showing up at GLBT Chamber events and also attended two of four Black Tie Dinners.

But in the latter part of his term Leppert clearly veered to the right in an effort to position himself for the Republican Senate primary — including joining the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how Leppert treats LGBT issues in his Senate campaign. Being a moderate Republican won’t win him many votes in a statewide Republican primary, but at the same time it will be difficult to hide from his record in Dallas.

Leppert’s resignation means that Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will temporarily become mayor until after the May elections. Although Caraway is a Democrat, he hasn’t been much of an advocate for the LGBT community.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Tom Leppert, Broadway Baptist Church, Chris Colfer at the Golden Globes

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert officially won’t seek re-election this year, and instead likely will run for Senate in 2012. No surprise there, but our biggest question remains unanswered: What does this mean for Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh? Will he go to work on Leppert’s Senate campaign? Will he find another job at City Hall? Will he go back into broadcast journalism? As of last week, Heinbaugh officially wasn’t saying.

2. Southern Baptists simply can’t seem to get over the fact that Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth treats gay members like human beings. Broadway Baptist has already been kicked out of the Southern Baptist Convention and left the Baptist General Convention of Texas over the issue. Now, the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is going after the church, albeit indirectly. The seminary wants the Tarrant Baptist Association to vacate an office building it has long occupied on the seminary’s campus, in part because Broadway Baptist is one of the TBA’s members. The seminary also wants the building for a welcome center, but apparently believes the anti-gay excuse sounds more Christ-like.

3. As Arnold Wayne Jones pointed out below, the Golden Globes were about as gay as could be last night. Above is video of Chris Colfer’s acceptance speech.

—  John Wright

Pic of the Day: Sunrise in Trammell Crow Park

From Chris Heinbaugh, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s chief of staff: “My friend Mike Walker grabbed this shot from Trammell Crow Park this morning. It’s why we live here! Too good not to share!”

—  John Wright

Holiday giving down to HIV/AIDS food pantry, and $1 million from Wal-Mart probably wouldn’t hurt


Holiday donations have decreased this year to Resource Center Dallas’ HIV/AIDS food pantry, according to RCD spokesman Rafael McDonnell.

McDonnell told us this morning that the food pantry’s annual holiday donation drive, which began at Thanksgiving, is critical to providing clients with nutrition into the new year and through the winter.

“There will be less money to buy the groceries we need, which will mean potentially less selection and that kind of stuff,” McDonnell said. “I don’t know how much we’re off by. Obviously every bit that people contribute helps. The perception is the economy hasn’t gotten any better. The need is still there. The need doesn’t change.”

According to RCD’s annual holiday giving letter, here’s what even a small contribution to the food pantry can do:

• $30 provides vital, fresh food for a person living with HIV for an entire month. For $1.00 a day, your gift will provide groceries for a client from our food pantry – a mini grocery store in which clients fill their own baskets with a selection of dietician-monitored foods, empowering clients to make choices based on their own needs, likes and dietary requirements.

• $50 provides a daily hot meal for a person living with HIV for one month. For less than $1.70 a day, your gift will feed a client a nutritious meal – a salad bar filled with fresh produce, main course, two vegetables and a dessert – all prepared by the loving hands of Miss Doris and her loyal volunteers.

• $120 can feed a person living with HIV through the winter. For less than $1.00 a day, your gift will ensure that a member of our community has hot meals to keep them warm and sustain them through the coldest months of the year.

To donate to the food pantry, go here.

Also today, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s chief of staff Chris Heinbaugh sends along word that Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is vying to win $1 million from Wal-Mart’s “fight hunger together” Facebook challenge. But Leppert, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck need your help. The metropolitan area with the most Facebook “likes” by the end of the year wins the $1 million, with the next five each receiving $100,000. Right now, however, D-FW-Arl. is in 10th place.

While we’re not particularly big fans of Wal-Mart, Heinbaugh points out that if D-FW-Arl. wins, the beneficiary will be the North Texas Food Bank, which of course serves RCD’s food pantry. So you might as well go here and click “like,” then pass it along to all your friends.

—  John Wright

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

An important Pride event we somehow overlooked: Trevor Project fundraiser tonight

Chris Heinbaugh, the openly gay chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, sent out a message earlier this week encouraging people to attend a fundraiser this evening (Friday) for the Trevor Project, the national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. Heinbaugh is on the host commitee for the event, which somehow got left out of the Pride schedule we posted earlier. Anyhow, here’s an excerpt from Heinbaugh’s message:

“20 years ago, I lost a close cousin to suicide when she was 16, and can never begin to understand what struggles pushed her to such a desperate and irreversible decision. Sadly, these tragedies don’t seem any closer to an end. I have been stunned to see in the news recently examples of kids, some very, very young, who have taken their lives after being relentlessly bullied, many times being taunted for being gay, or being perceived as gay.

“Clearly, this weekend is loaded with plenty of celebration and fun. But it’s also a reminder of how much work we have to do… and the wonderful organizations out there fighting the good fight. They need our support.”

The fundraiser will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Craighead Green Gallery, 1011 Dragon St. in Dallas. Tickets are $50 at the door, and you must be 21 to attend. Here are some more deets from the FB page:

Enjoy complimentary drinks in celebration of Dallas Pride. Mix & mingle with local professionals dedicated to The Trevor Project’s life-saving work throughout North Texas. Eco-Friendly cocktails provided by VeeV. The evening also includes a raffle drawing with prizes ranging from $200-$600 in value.

—  John Wright

Leppert to miss gay Pride parade

Mayor Tom Leppert appears in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2007.

For the second time in four years, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert will miss Dallas’ gay Pride parade. Chris Heinbaugh, Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, told Instant Tea that Leppert has a “longstanding personal commitment” on the day of the parade, Sept. 19.

Leppert, a political conservative, surprised some when he appeared in the parade his first year in office. He became only the second Dallas mayor ever to appear at gay Pride, after Laura Miller. Leppert missed the parade in 2008 due to a family matter, but attended the parade again last year.

Heinbaugh declined to elaborate on Leppert’s “personal commitment” this year. Heinbaugh said he believes all 14 of the other council members, with the exception of Vonciel Jones Hill, have said they plan to appear in the parade this year.

Last year, all but two council members, Hill and Carolyn Davis, were at Pride.

—  John Wright

Gay party-goers cry foul after Joule hotel bar turns them away at the door

Joule general manager admits that doormen were enforcing a gender ratio, but says practice isn’t anti-gay

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Cordey Lash
Cordey Lash

Gay patrons of the Joule Hotel’s PM Nightlife Lounge allege that they were discriminated against by door staff who denied them entry to the upscale downtown bar last weekend.

However, the general manager of the Joule Hotel said the gay patrons were turned away due to capacity issues and blamed the incident on a “breakdown in communication.”

The gay patrons said doormen at the PM Nightlife Lounge were enforcing a “gender ratio” on Friday night, Aug. 13 — allowing straight couples in while refusing entrance to gay men who weren’t accompanied by women.

The gay patrons said they were registered guests of a joint birthday party for three friends. One of the three hosts, all of whom are gay, said the party was booked in advance for more than 200 people.

Despite being on the guest list, gay patrons said they were made to stand outside in the searing heat as straight couples passed them by, and some eventually left without going in.

“There are very few times in life where I’ve felt like I was discriminated against. That was clearly one,” said Cordey Lash, who left after being denied entrance.

Chris Heinbaugh, the openly gay chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, said he was eventually allowed in to the PM Lounge — but only after confronting the general manager, who walked by as he was waiting in line.

Heinbaugh said he spoke with the general manager, Brendan Carlin, again by phone this week.

“I’m satisfied after talking with them that they get it,” Heinbaugh said Wednesday. “They understand why this was so frustrating. At least at that upper level, they don’t want to see that happen.

“My hope is that they communicate that to the folks they have on the ground, because the actions they’re taking, whether intentional or not intentional, they have the effect of discriminating.”

In an interview with Dallas Voice on Thursday, Carlin called it “a very unfortunate incident.”

Carlin acknowledged that the door person was enforcing a gender ratio to create “an even distribution in the room” — a common practice at straight bars.

But Carlin insisted that PM Lounge staff had notified the three hosts of the party in advance that the facility could accommodate only 50 of their guests.

Carlin said the three hosts didn’t pay for the party and would have needed to buy out the nightclub, at a cost of $25,000, if they wanted to have 200 guests.

Carlin said in addition to those who were invited to the birthday party, the PM Lounge had to try to accommodate hotel guests as well as people who are on a VIP list.

“There certainly are legitimate capacity issues,” Carlin said. “It’s one of the hottest nightclubs in Dallas. It fills up every weekend. They [the gay patrons] didn’t think we were at capacity … but I was told we were at our capacity, which is 210.

“Really this was a breakdown in communication more than anything else,” Carlin added. “Certainly we had more invitations sent out than we could accommodate. We certainly don’t have the capability to accommodate what at this point in time was 282 people coming to this event.”

Asked whether there could have been anti-gay discrimination involved, Carlin said, “Absolutely not.”

“I guarantee you we have this situation every weekend with straight people who can’t get in there,” he said.

Daylon Pereira, one of the hosts of the joint birthday party, said when he arrived at about 9:30 p.m. the club was mostly empty. Soon Pereira began hearing that people were being turned away at the door.

“After well over 100 of our guests were turned away, all of whom were on the guest list given to the door men, the club was still empty and many of our friends were made to feel like second-class citizens,” Pereira said. “Had it been an issue of crowd control, I could understand, but the fact that PM was close to empty, I am having a tough time looking at this as anything but ‘gay’ control. All of my straight friends who arrived with their girlfriends were granted access with no issues. … This was such an embarrassing situation which has caused me to spend this entire week writing apologies to my friends for the rudeness they were treated with.”

Chris Heinbaugh
Chris Heinbaugh

LGBT legal experts say gender-based policies at bars and nightclubs are widespread but represent a gray area of the law.

Rob Wiley, a gay Dallas attorney who specializes in discrimination cases, said some courts in the U.S. have held that policies favoring one gender — such as cover charges for men but not women on “ladies night” — are a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Wiley said he once successfully challenged a gay nightclub in New Orleans that had imposed a cover charge for women but not men. But he acknowledged that while such policies may technically be illegal, the law is rarely enforced.

“It’s not really as much about sexual orientation rights as it is gender rights, but you have this problem all over,” Wiley said. “If you are a place of public accommodation, you are not supposed to exclude people in protected classes. Unfortunately, that law which was passed in 1964, 40 some odd years later, still is not always complied with.

“Folks who are doormen at clubs ought to be trained about not discriminating against people on the basis of gender or the basis of sexual orientation, and they ought to keep their eyes open for this,” Wiley added.

Heinbaugh and Lash agreed that more training is needed. And on Thursday afternoon, Carlin reported that Lash had agreed to conduct diversity training for door staff at the PM Nightlife Lounge.

Lash also said he believes the incident serves as a reminder about the importance of — and continued need for — the gayborhood. He said he hopes someone will “step up” and open an upscale lounge that caters to the LGBT community.

“Instead of it being anti-Joule, now that I’ve had time to stop and think about this, we as a community have lost sight of why our gayborhood is there,” Lash said.

Lash, who’s worked in the hospitality industry for more than a decade and currently serves on the board of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, stopped short of calling for a boycott of the PM Lounge.

“It’s difficult for me to get on board with promoting something negative. However, I do 100 percent promote the Joule receiving inclusion training, and bigger than that, I promote our community looking at where we spend our money.

“I want to not boycott the Joule, but uplift those that support my community,” he said.

Lash, who currently works for the Hilton Anatole, also noted that this marked the second recent incident of alleged discrimination at a property in Dallas that’s affiliated with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

In July two gay patrons accused an off-duty police officer working security at the W-Dallas Victory hotel of anti-gay discrimination. An internal affairs complaint against the officer is pending.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts maintains a perfect score of 100 for gay-friendliness from the Human Rights Campaign.

Carlin said Starwood does not own or manage the Joule Hotel, but has a marketing agreement for the property.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Someone from Mayor Leppert's staff contacts DART board member about LGBT protections

I’m not quite sure what to make of the latest update on the DART situation from The Dallas Morning News.

The point of the story appears to be that a staffer for Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert contacted DART board member William Tsao Friday morning and encouraged Tsao to support an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy, which Tsao thought he had already done. My guess would be that the person who called Tsao was Chris Heinbaugh, the mayor’s openly gay chief of staff, whom I’ve talked to a couple of times about this issue. (Saturday’s print version of the article confirms that it was Heinbaugh who called Tsao.)

The strange thing is that Tsao was apparently not even aware of the whole controversy involving the amendment that would gut the LGBT protections until Friday morning. Don’t DART board members and staff exchange e-mails? We’ve been reporting on this situation since Wednesday afternoon, when I contacted DART spokesman Morgan Lyons about it. Wouldn’t you expect Lyons to say something about it to someone else at DART, like maybe a board member? And does Tsao not read The Morning News or Dallas Voice or the Dallas Observer?

—  John Wright

Heinbaugh clarifies comment about cancelled conventions and the Rainbow Lounge raid

When I read Arnold Wayne Jones’ post about yesterday’s LGBT Leadership Breakfast at the Winspear Opera House, I nearly fell out of my chair. Not because I hadn’t been invited to the breakfast, but because of something Chris Heinbaugh reportedly told the gathering. According to Arnold, Heinbaugh said that “several” conventions that were planning to come to Dallas had cancelled as a result of the Rainbow Lounge raid. Really??? Several??? Are you F’in kidding me??? Now I’m no expert, but it sounds like this might make a news story. So I contacted Heinbaugh this morning to get more info. Here’s what he said:

“I have not seen that post. Either I misspoke or was not correctly heard. I did not mean to say any cancelled. I do know several groups contacted Phillip Jones to cancel and he had to scramble to get them to stay. I do not know the outcome though. Check with Phillip. My point was that we got a huge black eye over that incident and we all need to step it up to counter that.”

We’re on deadline today, but I’ll put a call into Phillip Jones this afternoon. Maybe I can also find out what happened to my invitation.

—  John Wright