Community mourns ‘Chief’ Guy-Gainer

Gay 23-year Air Force vet became North Texas’ pre-eminent advocate for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

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PAYING RESPECTS | The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, center, who delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Dave Guy-Gainer on Feb. 7, also spoke at the impromptu candlelight memorial at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Feb. 4. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

American flags lined the walk in front of Cathedral of Hope for the funeral of Dave Guy-Gainer on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The 63-year-old gay Air Force veteran who served for 23 years and spent a decade working tirelessly for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” died unexpectedly Feb. 2.

At a hastily called memorial at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Saturday, Feb. 4, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink said, “I don’t know why Dave died, but I do know why he lived.”

Gainer.Dave

Dave Guy-Gainer

Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the day Guy-Gainer died was the saddest of his life.

And Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez recalled that on the day DADT repeal took effect last year, Guy-Gainer told him, “The fight’s not over.”

Among the continuing fights Guy-Gainer envisioned was acceptance by and service from the military’s Chaplain Corps. Toward that end, Guy-Gainer helped create the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. In October, he brought a group together from around the country for a meeting at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in Dallas to formalize plans for the forum.

And while gays, lesbians and bisexuals can now serve openly, Guy-Gainer continued to fight for the rights of transgender men and women to serve.

“It’s very sad for us,” said Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, where Guy-Gainer was a board member. “He was dedicated to state work as well as federal work.”

Guy-Gainer worked locally as well. In 2010, he ran as an openly gay candidate for City Council in Forest Hill, a small town south of Fort Worth in Tarrant County. Although he made it to the runoff, he lost to the 12-year incumbent by a few dozen votes.

In remarks at the funeral, gay retired Army Col. Paul Dodd said Guy-Gainer, who became the pre-eminent advocate for DADT repeal in North Texas, worked just as hard to end the problem of bullying. He alluded to Guy-Gainer’s death-by-suicide indirectly.

Dodd said that on Sept. 20, 2011, the day DADT repeal went into effect, Guy-Gainer wrote, “After a celebratory, euphoric high, this old airman crash landed tonight with reports of another youth who took his own life. We simply aren’t getting to the youth who are suffering.”

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, who was a close friend of Guy-Gainer’s and delivered the eulogy, talked about the suicide more directly. He said he felt anguished over how to deal with it in the funeral service.

“Everyone was hurting from it,” Sprinkle said. “Frustration, anger, guilt — that’s what I had to address.”

DADT-party

CELEBRATING REPEAL | Gay and lesbian veterans, including Dave Guy-Gainer, far right, identified themselves at a celebration at the Resource Center Dallas on Sept. 20, 2011, the day the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” went into effect. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

He said he decided to talk about Guy-Gainer’s suicide so that those mourning his loss wouldn’t treat it as a scandal but as a tragedy. And he said he needed to dismiss fundamentalist beliefs of eternal damnation for those who take their own lives.

“One of our tall trees fell, and we all feel it,” Sprinkle began his eulogy. “I begin with sighs too deep for words.”

He spoke about the biblical concept of lamentation.

“Lamentation is something the community needs to know how to do,” he said. “Suicide is a single act with plural effects that arose from problems and pain.”

But he said he’d simply miss Guy-Gainer’s “sweet, awkward goofiness” and praised him as a “relentless advocate for human rights” who fought “bullying and anti-LGBTQ religious bigotry.”

Guy-Gainer joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and served for 23 years. His work for the repeal of DADT and his LGBT activism began after another gay vet insisted he march in uniform in Austin’s Pride parade in 2001.

He became vice president of American Veterans for Equal Rights and served on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for about five years.

Gainer grew up in Charleston, W. Va., in what he called a “very, very fundamentalist family.”

In a 2009 profile published by Dallas Voice, he said growing up he knew he was gay, but that he was raised to be a minister.

“I figured, I’ll join the military, that’ll fix me,” he said. “I’ll get married like all the GIs did, and that’ll fix me. But you know what? It didn’t fix me.”

Guy-Gainer’s daughter, Brie, said that wasn’t his only reason to join the military.

“Dad has a true passion for the rights and duties of people who choose to live in a free country,” she wrote to Dallas Voice in 2009.

Guy-Gainer received five Meritorious Service medals and the Bronze Star and retired in 1990 as a chief master sergeant, a rank achieved by the top 1 percent of enlisted men and women.

He met his husband David Guy in 2000. They married in San Francisco in 2004 and had a commitment ceremony in Texas followed by a party at the military base in San Antonio where he worked at the time.

His work to end DADT earned him an invitation to the White House signing ceremony for the repeal legislation in December 2010. In September 2011, at a party celebrating the repeal going into effect, he donated boxes of papers relating to his work to the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library at Resource Center.

After the funeral service at Cathedral of Hope, Guy-Gainer was buried at the DFW National Cemetery in Dallas with full military honors.

Guy asked that donations be made to Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, in care of Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs, Dallas, Texas 75235.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

—  admin

Ray Hill kicks off campaign for Texas House with YouTube videos

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

As previously reported by Houstini Ray Hill, the iconic and iconoclastic Houston LGBT activist, announced this year that he would challenge ten-term incumbent state representative Garnet Coleman in next spring’s Democratic Primary. Hill is running what he calls an “unfunded campaign,” relying on social media and support from community members to get his message out.

We haven’t heard much about the campaign since Hill filed at the beginning of the month (perhaps he’s been distracted by his recent arrest during an attempt to prevent the HPD vice squad from harassing strippers), but Hill seems to have gotten back into the campaign saddle, releasing two YouTube videos about his campaign and why he thinks he’s the best choice to represent district 147 (they can be viewed after the jump). The audio’s not the best (tip: taping next to a roaring waterfall does not produce the best sound), but in both videos Hill expresses his belief that the common people of the district will vote him into office. Judge for yourself:

—  admin

LGBT Person of the Year: Equality Texas’ Dennis Coleman

In his first year as ED of the state’s LGBT lobby organization, Coleman led the way in getting anti-bullying bills passed. Now he’s setting his sights on marriage equality

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CAPITOL GAINS | Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman said two anti-bullying bills passed this year represent the first successful pro-equality legislation the state has seen since 2001.

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

Shortly after he took over as executive director of Equality Texas in July 2010, Dennis Coleman was faced with a tough decision.

Thanks to the economic recession and several months without an ED, the organization could barely pay its bills and was surviving from fundraiser to fundraiser.

In a move he now says should have come sooner, Coleman was forced to lay off three people — or half of Equality Texas’ staff.

“The unfortunate thing was that I had to come in as a new person and make that very hard decision,” Coleman said recently. “In order for the organization to breathe, it was going to have to happen, because there had been so much cutting already done, that there was nowhere to go except to the payroll. And it was not even an option of making the recommendation of reduced salaries. It had to be a complete cut of those positions. Those cuts were in our field and our political department, which was a very hard decision considering we were heading into the session.”

Those who were let go included Randall Terrell, the group’s chief lobbyist, and with the biennial Legislature set to convene in January, Coleman acknowledged that board members and donors were nervous.

Riding a Tea Party wave, Republicans had seized a supermajority in the Texas House in November elections, and there were fears that anti-gay legislation from past years could be revived.

But Coleman said in retrospect, the layoffs brought together Equality Texas’ board members and remaining staff in an unexpected way. Volunteer board members were motivated to not only raise money like never before — but also to roll up their sleeves and help with the day-to-day work of the organization, especially lobbying.

Still, no one harbored any illusions about passing pro-LGBT legislation in 2011. Coleman said with right-wing lawmakers apparently preoccupied by immigration and women’s rights, he was just hoping for an “opportunity to get my feet wet.”

“Little did we know what really awaited us, and I think once again credit goes to the staff that’s there right now, as well as the board members, how we were able to adjust and take advantage of the opportunities that were opening up before us,” he said.

Dennis-Coleman-and-Shuck-Smith

STEPS TO EQUALITY | Coleman, shown with Deputy Director Chuck Smith, said the group is now looking at ways to begin chipping away at Texas' 2005 marriage amendment.

Those opportunities took the form of anti-bullying legislation, which Equality Texas had backed repeatedly in previous sessions to no avail. But this time, in the wake of a series of highly publicized teen suicides across the nation, even conservative lawmakers wanted to get something done.

Under Coleman’s leadership, Equality Texas was able to seize upon the momentum, forging a coalition alongside groups including the Texas Freedom Network and the Anti-Defamation League.

Equality Texas also brought in advocates like gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, by then a celebrity for his “It Gets Better” speech, and reached out to the parents of suicide victims — including gay 13-year-old Asher Brown of Houston.

Six months later, the result was passage of what Coleman called the first two pro-equality bills to become law in Texas since 2001, when Gov. Rick Perry signed hate crimes legislation.

While the anti-bullying bills don’t include specific protections for LGBT youth, Coleman said they would not have passed if they did.

“The final version is not the ideal policy, but at the same time, we were not excluded,” Coleman said. “I know that’s a difficult thing to try to explain to a community that not just feels but knows it’s targeted because of who they are. But it was important for us to get something passed to protect children. … That was one of the things that we had promised to the families, that we would get something passed.”

Meanwhile, Equality Texas also managed to fight off anti-gay legislation — including efforts to eliminate funding for LGBT resource centers on college campuses, and ban transgender marriage.

And today, as the group prepares to enter 2012, its finances are looking up. Coleman said the recently approved budget for next year includes funds to reinstate two positions that were eliminated in 2010.

For his role in turning around Equality Texas — the statewide LGBT equality group in the nation’s second-largest state — Coleman is Dallas Voice’s LGBT Person of the Year.

‘It’s been a great year’

Jeanne Rubin, an Equality Texas board member from Frisco, said it was only her first or second meeting in early 2010 when former Executive Director Paul Scott announced he was stepping down.

“It’s been a great year,” Rubin said this week. “We really have come full circle, and Dennis really had to hit the ground running. If we were going to get anything done, it had to be a nonpartisan effort, so we had to go out of our comfort circle. I think maybe partially because Dennis was new, he was really able to do that and forge those relationships with legislators.”

Anne Wynn, an Austin attorney who chairs the group’s board, was one of those who drew on her own lobbying experience to help out after the layoffs. During the session, Wynn, Coleman and Deputy Director Chuck Smith became “the three musketeers of Equality Texas,” she said.

“Since he got here, we have righted the ship, and he’s done a good job of helping us do that,” Wynn said of Coleman. “He’d never spent any time at the Capitol. I didn’t have any idea that we’d be able to pass not one but two anti-bullying bills. Dennis did a great job of meeting the legislators and their key staff people, and establishing relationships with them, so that we could help get those bills through the committees, and then back on the floors and eventually passed. For a person that was a complete novice about the legislative process, he really did a great job.”

Although Coleman was relatively new to the State Capitol, he had plenty of experience in the LGBT equality movement. Prior to joining Equality Texas, Coleman spent seven years as executive director of the South Central Region of Lambda Legal, based in Dallas.

Ken Upton, a senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal who worked closely with Coleman, recalled him as “very jocular.”

“He laughs, he smiles a lot, and I think that’s one of the things people like about him. He brings kind of a fun-ness to the job,” Upton said. “He’d walk into a room and talk to anybody. That really was his strength.”

Upton also noted that Coleman is one of the few local activists he’s met who’s originally from here.

Coleman, now 48, said he grew up in an upper middle class household in the heart of South Dallas. His parents were members of the Methodist church at Malcolm X and Martin Luther King boulevards, just west of Fair Park, and Coleman graduated from Bishop Dunn High School.

After studying communications at the University of Texas, Coleman first became an activist when he volunteered for the speaker’s bureau at Resource Center Dallas, educating people about HIV/AIDS in local churches.

From there he got involved with the Black Tie Dinner and served on the board of the LGBT fundraiser for four years. He then joined the Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign, which he eventually co-chaired.

“Like a lot of people, I started really on the ground,” Coleman said.

In 2003, Coleman left a career in sales and marketing at Sprint to join Lambda Legal.

He said he was happy there and had no intention of leaving, until being approached last year about the Equality Texas position.

His only reservation was the prospect of a permanent move to Austin, which wouldn’t have worked for him and his partner, fellow activist Gregory Pynes.

Coleman met Pynes when they were both volunteering for HRC. They’ve been together nine years and share a home off Garland Road near the Dallas Arboretum.

But Coleman was open to commuting from Dallas and living part-time in Austin — so he took the job.

From bullying to marriage equality

Since then, Coleman said he’s logged more than 30,000 miles on his car, driving back and forth from Big D to the capital — which he said makes a good time for conference calls.

When the Legislature isn’t in session, his focus is fundraising and education, and he’s traveling throughout the state, meaning he doesn’t need to be based in Austin.
Equality Texas recently completed its strategic plan for 2012, which focuses heavily on civic engagement, Coleman said.

The group is scrapping its State of the State conference — previously held in Austin in off legislative years — and replacing it with a series of 12 regional equality projects throughout Texas.

“We want to, instead of saying come to us, we want to go to you,” Coleman said. “We want to work with you in your own community.”

Utilizing college interns, a project called “Real Texas, Real Lives” will document the experiences of LGBT people and their allies.

The aim is to build political power and create more advocates like David and Amy Truong, Asher’s Brown’s parents.

“Here was this family who had never been to Austin, never lobbied before, never spoke publicly before, but saw this thing through,” Coleman said. “Sometimes Amy would beat me to some of the meetings I had set up. I wish everyone could experience that and see that if we just got people to do phone calls, what a difference that can make, or show up to hearings, what a difference that can really make.”

Coleman said Equality Texas’ relationships with the families of bullying victims likely was the group’s biggest contribution to the passage of the anti-bullying bills.

“No other group in the coalition had those relationships,” he said. “When it was time for the hearings, we had Montana Lance’s family, we had Jon Carmichael’s family, and we were working with them. No other organization was working with them, and when the session was about to end and there was not any traction, Equality Texas was the organization that at that moment could call those families and say, ‘Hey, we need you here in Austin to go with us, because we need this to move, and it can move with you.’”

In addition to passage of the anti-bullying bills, Coleman said committee hearings were held on 10 other pro-LGBT measures. And at most of those hearings, the group was able to call witnesses.

Coleman recalled one hearing on an employment nondiscrimination bill, in front of a committee made up of all Republicans.

“The conversation was not around sexual orientation, it was really around gender identity and expression,” he said. “We didn’t talk about gay. We talked about transitioning in the workplace. What an eye opener to me.”

He added that he believes the threat of anti-gay legislation in Texas is nearing its end.

“You’re going to have your Wayne Christians,” he said, referring to the author of the failed effort to de-fund LGBT resource centers. “But people are slowly moving away from using gay people as punching bags.”

Coleman said he now knows what it takes to get a bill passed, and with a large number of incumbents retiring, Equality Texas is re-energizing its PAC and focusing on voter registration.

One of the keys for the group will be the ability to hire staff to help out with development and field operations.

“Right now there are three of us trying to do the job I wouldn’t even say of six but of 10,” Coleman said. “In a state of this size, we need people on the ground. … I’m in the very cautious growth stage, but I know that we need to have people that can implement the field programs, as well as someone to help raise money. Right now I’m the sole fundraiser for the organization, and so we need someone who can definitely help us with our monthly donors, our capital club members, while I concentrate on engaging corporations with our work.”

In the 2013 session, Coleman said, Equality Texas’ two legislative priorities will be employment nondiscrimination and relationship recognition.

Armed with results from its 2010 Equality Poll showing broad support for relationship recognition, Coleman said the group’s strategy will include incremental gains, but with the ultimate goal of marriage equality.

He said legal experts are already looking at how to chip away at the 2005 constitutional amendment, which banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

“It is definitely a multi-year strategy, but I think that as our poll indicates, we have over 63 percent of voting Texans who would support civil unions, and we have almost 45 percent that would support marriage. That’s double what it was in 2005,” Coleman said.

“We’re talking to our colleagues in New York. We’re talking to our colleagues in California. We’re talking to folks at Freedom to Marry, about what does it look like here in Texas, and what have you seen? We’re going to be engaging our friends at Lambda Legal, who won Iowa. What does that look like and what should our steps be?”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 23, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

—  admin

PHOTOS: Response to ‘The Response’ begins

Riki Miller, Zombie McZee and Britney Miranda.

The responses to “The Response” are under way in Houston. First out of the gate was Friday night’s LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally.  Despite temperatures that had barely come down from the triple digits, Houstonians thronged to Tranquility Park in downtown. Beyond commenting on the temperature, the common theme of most of the speakers was that the American Family Association and Gov. Perry’s rally is not representative of Houston and is not welcomed.

Robert Shipman, president of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said: “I kinda think Rick Perry chose the wrong city!”

He continued “They are the bigots, we are not … we are Houston.”

“I guess we should take comfort in the fact that, except for some of his staffers, [Gov. Perry] couldn’t find enough homegrown bigotry in the state of Texas to put on the event himself,” said Mike Craig, co-chair of Out & Equal Houston. “He had to bus them in from Tupulo, Miss., and Colorado Springs, Colo.” Craig was referring to American Family Association (based in Tupulo) and Focus on the Family (based in Colorado Springs), both co-sponsors of “The Response.”

State Rep.  Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, provided the closing address. He criticized Gov. Perry for using divisive religious rhetoric for political gain. “Being here today I’m proud that we are fighting back against a narrow, theocratic view of the world that we live in and of our country that says that people are not welcomed — that says that people are bad because of who they are. That is not America,” said Coleman. “That is what is dividing our city, our state and our country.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more coverage of the LGBT community’s response to “The Response.” More photos from the LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally below (click to enlarge):

—  admin

YFT plans new lobby effort

YFT
SPEAKING UP | Members of Youth First Texas gather in Sen. Florence Shapiro’s office on Monday, March 7, as part of Equality Texas’ Lobby Day efforts. The teens visited lawmakers to tell their personal stories of bullying and harassment in order to get support of anti-bullying measures now being considered by the Legislature. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Teens tell lawmakers personal stories of bullying, suicide attempts

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Ten teens from Youth First Texas went to Austin to talk to legislators about anti-bullying legislation on March 7. They joined about 350 LGBT activists and allies from around the state who came for Equality Texas lobby day.

Equality Texas executive director Dennis Coleman talked to the group about coming back to Austin later in the session to testify before committees that will hear testimony about the proposed laws.

As they rehearsed their stories, trying to pare them down to one minute each, the teens realized that they wouldn’t be able to speak to every representative and senator personally. But because they believed their personal stories could make a difference in the way lawmakers vote, the teens began brainstorming on how to get their stories out.

They came up with the idea of recording their stories to DVD to send to each senator and representative. The teens planned to start the project as soon as they returned to Dallas.

The group’s first stop in the Capitol on Monday was the office of Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano, who represents the district in which three of the teens live.

YFT member Giancarlo Mossi, one of the three living in Shapiro’s district, began telling the group’s story to two legislative aides. He said he was regularly called a faggot at Plano Senior High School, and other students threw things at him on the bus.

Reporting it didn’t make a difference and the harassment continued through graduation, Mossi said.

Pierce Magnus is still in school. He walks with a cane and said he has always been treated differently. At best, other students give him the coldshoulder, something that’s been going on since middle school. At one point, he tried to kill himself.

After his suicide attempt failed, Magnus said, he was put in an institution and is now on medication. He blames the suicide attempt on bullying and harassment by other students and the indifference with which the school staff reacted.

“That’s a terrible way to go through high school,” Magnus said.

Alice Nightingale said that her high school teachers know how she’s treated and don’t do anything about it.

“I stood up for myself once and got suspended,” she said. “It seems like we try and just do more harm.”

Magnus and Nightingale also live in Shapiro’s district.

The students were lobbying lawmakers to vote for Asher’s Law, Rep. Garnet Coleman’s anti-bullying bill that he renamed this week and reintroduced into the Texas House of Representatives. Sen.

Wendy Davis of Fort Worth introduced anti-bullying legislation in the Senate that will be heard in Shapiro’s education committee.

Mossi said that passing Asher’s Law was crucial.

“I try to let people know they’re not alone,” he said. “But I’m not in high school anymore.”

Magnus said that YFT is a safe space, but “Passing this law will make schools a safe space, too.”

Sen. John Carona’s office was the group’s next stop. Carona represents Richardson, the Park Cities, parts of Garland and most of North Dallas. Other YFT members explained their experiences to Carona’s staff.

Elliott Puckett said that when he was attacked in the bathroom at his high school, the principal told him he brought it on himself.

“I’ve been through so much bullying,” said YFT member William Morvant, “I almost became one of those statistics.”

He tried killing himself three times, he said.

“I’ll be graduating from school soon,” Morvant said. “But I don’t want others going through this.”

Morvant was among those who had also spoken at a Dallas Independent School District meeting before their new anti-bullying policy was adopted.

After their morning lobbying session, the group walked across the Capitol lawn toward First United Methodist Church on Lavaca Street, where Equality Texas provided lunch.

They returned to speak to more legislators in the afternoon and stayed through Tuesday for a second day of lobbying.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Mayoral candidate Ron Natinsky, Equality Texas’ Dennis Coleman to appear at Log Cabin tonight

Ron Natinsky

District 12 Dallas City Councilman Ron Natinsky, who’s running for mayor, will make an appearance tonight at the monthly meeting of Log Cabin Republicans, according to LCR President Rob Schlein.

Also speaking at the meeting will be Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman.

Schlein said he expects a good turnout for the meeting, which is at 6:30 p.m. at Mattito’s Cafe Mexicano, 3011 Routh St.

—  John Wright

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