Hunt considering run for mayor

Angela Hunt

LGBT political leaders praise her advocacy for the community, say they want to see who else enters race

RELATED STORY: Openly gay candidate considers run for Hunt’s District 14 seat

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, who represents one of the gayest districts in the city, announced Wednesday, Jan. 12 that she is considering a run for mayor in municipal elections set for mid-May.

“It’s still something I am considering,” Hunt told Dallas Voice on Thursday. “I have been really honored that some folks I respect have encouraged me to consider running. So now I am talking with folks whose opinions I respect and value, discussing what I can bring to the table and how I might be able to lead our city into the future.”

Hunt said she will make her decision on whether to run for mayor based on where she believes she can do the most good for Dallas.

“To me, it’s not about my title, but about what I can accomplish,” she said. “If I can accomplish the most as a council member, then that’s terrific. But there are things I would like to see us do as a city, things the citizens are asking for, and if I can best accomplish those things as mayor, I will run.”

Hunt said she would like to see the city’s elected officials change their priorities, because she believes that is what the city’s residents want.

“When I talk with folks, they are frustrated with the idea that we are focusing on creating a city for tourists rather than residents,” she said.

She said that high-dollar projects like the Trinity River Park toll road, the new bridge over the Trinity River and the Convention Center hotel “take focus off the acute, more immediate needs of residents, while the residents want to see their parks taken care of and their streets taken care of and the city’s infrastructure taken care of.”

“The citizens want us to focus on making our city a great place to live rather than a great place to visit,” Hunt said.

Hunt added that she expects LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS issues to continue to come before the council from time to time, and that she will continue to be an advocate for the community when that happens.

“I think when we are looking at funding issues that may affect the LGBT community — things like funding for HIV/AIDS programs — that’s when having voices on the council that are strong advocates becomes absolutely critical,” she said. “I don’t think anyone on the council now is anti-LGBT. But there is a difference between folks who are not opposed to certain issues affecting the LGBT community, and those who are staunch advocates who will pick up on those issues and move forward with them.”

Hunt said she has appointed several openly LGBT people to city boards and commissions, and that she hopes “I have shown my door has always been open.” And she said she has many supporters in the LGBT community who have encouraged her to run for mayor.

“I have been very honored by the response I have received, very appreciative of that,” Hunt said.

LGBT political leaders praised Hunt’s advocacy for the community, but said there are still too many variables up in the air to start making endorsements yet.

“It’s not a surprise” that Hunt is considering running for mayor, said Erin Moore, former president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and current vice president of Texas Stonewall Democrats. “There have been rumors since the Pride parade [in September] that she was going to run.

“She has been fairly progressive on our [LGBT] issues anytime something has come up. There have been some mixed reviews on her; she has her supporters and her detractors in our community,” Moore said. “But I would say her heart is definitely in the right place, which is a good thing, for sure.”

Still, Moore added: “Right now we’re not sure who is actually running. It’s a very competitive game.”

Current Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez also praised Hunt’s record on LGBT issues.

“She has a pretty positive record, especially from two years ago when the council was deciding whether to cut the HIV/AIDS funding out of the city budget,” Narvaez said. “She stepped up and worked with us to try and keep that from happening, and when it became obvious the cuts would happen anyway, she worked with us to try and save as much of the funding as she could.”

Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Moore’s spouse, said she believes Hunt would be “a very viable candidate in a citywide race,” having raised her visibility with strong stances on high-profile issues, including plans to build a toll road through part of the Trinity River Park and building a city-owned hotel near the Convention Center downtown.

Hunt opposed both proposals, although both eventually passed.

“She has certainly been a strong advocate for our community in the time she has been on the council,” Fink continued. “There haven’t been that many LGBT issues that have hit the horseshoe since she was elected. She wasn’t there when the city passed the non-discrimination ordinance [protecting LGBTs]. But she has been a leader in stepping up on issues when we have asked her to.

“I think she is an advocate for the community, rather than just a supporter who follows others,” Fink said.

Both Fink and Narvaez stopped short of saying they would endorse Hunt for mayor, noting that their respective organizations would be screening candidates and making endorsements in municipal elections soon.

“We will be starting our PAC meetings in a week or two, then we will start sending out endorsement packets and setting up screenings with candidates,” Fink said. “We anticipate a wide range of candidates coming our way, asking for endorsements.”

Fink also noted that DGLA’s PAC has in the past endorsed a number of past and current City Council members that might run for mayor this year. That means the DGLA endorsement will not be automatic for any one candidate.

Narvaez said Stonewall Democrats will also be making endorsements in city elections this year for only the second time.

Originally, because Stonewall is a partisan organization that will endorse only Democrats and city races are non-partisan, the organization did not endorse city candidates.

Screenings for city candidates seeking Stonewall’s endorsement will be held March 19.

“I personally hope that she [Hunt] will decide to run and that she will ask for our endorsement,” Narvaez said. “We will have to wait and see what happens. Also, it will be interesting to see who might try to win her [District 14] seat if she runs for mayor. There very well might be some LGBT people running for that seat.”

Fink agreed. “I think we have some incredibly qualified people in our community, and I would love to see some of those people step up and run for that seat,” she said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright

Phyllis Frye becomes Texas’ 1st trans judge

Phyllis Frye

It’s been a historic couple of weeks for the transgender legal community.

On Nov. 2, Victoria Kolakowski became the first transgender trial judge in the nation when she won a seat on the Alameda County (Calif.) Superior Court.

Then, just this morning, longtime Houston activist Phyllis Randolph Frye became the first trans judge in Texas, when Mayor Annise Parker appointed her as an associate municipal judge.

Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports:

Phyllis Randolph Frye, longtime legal advocate for the transgender community, was sworn in this morning as the state’s first transgender judge. Frye was appointed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker as an Associate Municipal Judge. The city council unanimously approved her appointment, along with a couple dozen other appointments, with little fanfare and no dissent.

The significance of the moment was not lost on Mayor Parker who fought back tears as she welcomed the appointees to the council dais. Council member Sue Lovell who, along with Parker and Frye, fought for years as a citizen to improve the lives of queer Houstonians, beamed as she spoke of how far the three of them have come. Several council members specifically thanked Frye for her willingness to serve.

It was only 30 years ago that Frye risked arrest every time she entered City Hall. At that time the City of Houston and most American cities had ordinances criminalizing cross dressing. Frye defied the law to fight for it’s repeal, which finally happened in 1980.

UPDATE: Here’s an e-mail that came across this afternoon from Frye:

Dear Friends, Family and Neighbors,

With humility, I wish to share that this morning, October 17, 2010, I was sworn to be an Associate Judge for the City of Houston Municipal Courts.  Considering the many and varied discriminations I have borne over the past four decades, this is an honor that has great significance both for me and for the OUT-Transgender community.

For those of you who are not familiar, let me assure you of what this means and what it does not mean.

It means that I an assistant judge for the city courthouse.  I will be scheduled to do night court dockets and weekend probable cause dockets in rotation with other Associate Judges.  And from time to time I will sit as Judge in a trial, substituting for an ill or vacationing Judge.  The types of cases heard in Municipal Court are offenses that can be ticketed in this, the 4th largest city in the nation.  This is a great honor.  I thank Mayor Parker for nominating me and the City Council for unanimously  confirming me through a scheduled Council vote.

(NOTE: Mine is the second position where an OUT-TG has been appointed to a City of Houston position.  The first was Jenifer Rene Pool on the city’s Buildings and Inspections Oversight Commission.  Jenifer has recently announced that she is running for City Council At-Large #2 — the incumbent will be term-limited — in November 2011.  If you desire to wish her well or to send her a contribution, she is at jrpcom@aol.com <mailto:jrpcom@aol.com> .)

(NOTE: Mine is not the first OUT-TG Judgeship.  I think there are a few other  appointed OUT-TG municipal judges across the country.  Last month in California, Vicki Kolakowski was elected to a Judgeship, and I think that she will be sworn in January.  Congratulations to Vicki.)

My being Associate Municipal Judge DOES NOT MEAN that I will give up my “day-job.”

I WILL REMAIN as senior partner of Frye and Associates at www.liberatinglaw.com <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/> .

Our firm will continue to provide a variety of legal services for the LGBT and Straight-Allies community.  And our firm will continue to fight the Nikki Araguz case, of which many of you have followed.

I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more Mayors or other appointive bodies to give OUT-TG lawyers a chance to be appointed to various judicial posts across the nation.  I hope that my appointment and Vicki’s election encourage more OUT-TG lawyers will run for elected Judgeships.

NEVER GIVE UP!

For more go to http://www.legislativequeery.com/2010/11/trans-pioneer-phyllis-frye-becomes.html
Phyllis Randolph Frye
THE PHYLLABUSTER  <http://www.liberatinglaw.com/>
www.liberatinglaw.com  <http://www.tglegal.com/>
www.tglegal.com
prfrye@aol.com

—  John Wright

Interfaith Peace Chapel opens on COH campus

Interior of the new Interfaith Peace Chapel

The Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope opened this morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Rev. Jo Hudson, senior pastor at COH, officiated.

“We have many partners here today,” Hudson said.

In attendance were representatives of 17 of the world’s religions.

Among those offering prayers were Cantor Don Croll of Temple Shalom who also presented Hudson with a mezuzah for the chapel. A mezuzah is a parchment inscribed with a prayer from Deuteronomy that is hung on the doorpost of a building.

Tom Metcalf offered a Buddhist prayer, Sister Uma a Hindu prayer and Imam Zia a Muslim prayer.

Elected officials at the ribbon-cutting included Dallas City Councilwoman Pauline Medrano and District Judge-elect Tonya Parker. Medrano presented a city proclamation.

“It looked exactly like what I thought it would,” said the Rev. Michael Piazza, who first walked through the completed building on Friday.

The chapel is only one part of a new cathedral that has been planned for 15 years. The project was the final design of architect Philip Johnson. Piazza said Johnson originally turned down the project because churches take so long to build. The chapel was not part of the original design for the new cathedral but was added later by Johnson because COH needed a smaller space for daily events such as weddings and funerals.

—  David Taffet

National spotlight focuses on Burns

As Fort Worth councilman’s staff, volunteers continue to field e-mails, calls from bullied teens seeking help, Dallasites stage a 2nd vigil to remember teen suicide victims


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

PROUD COUPLE  |  Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)
PROUD COUPLE | Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, right, and his partner, J.D. Angle, march with the city’s contingent in the Tarrant County Pride Parade earlier this month. Burns has garnered national attention with the “It Gets Better” speech he delivered during the Oct. 12 Fort Worth City Council meeting. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Joel Burns has been a familiar name and face in North Texas since 2007 when he was first elected to the Fort Worth City Council, becoming Cowtown’s first openly gay council member.

But in the last two weeks, thousands have learned Burns’ name and are hailing him as a hero of the LGBT community and the battle against bullying and teen suicide.

Fort Worth City Council’s Oct. 12 meeting started out as usual. But then Burns took his turn during that part of the meeting in which councilmembers routinely offer recognition to individuals and events in their own districts. But this time, Burns took on a national topic.

Struggling to choke back tears until finally giving up and letting the tears run down his face, Burns talked about several teenagers who were LGBT, or at least perceived to be LGBT, who had recently taken their own lives after enduring months, sometimes years, of anti-gay bullying and harassment.

And then the councilman told his own story, how he had himself been bullied as a teen and had contemplated suicide.

By the time he finished, everyone in the Council Chamber had risen to their feet to salute him with applause.

But it didn’t stop there. Burns posted the official  Fort Worth City Council video on YouTube as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign to encourage and reassure LGBT teens — and suddenly, Burns was an Internet sensation.

Newspapers around the world posted the video on their websites and it went viral on YouTube. Before he knew it, Burns was being asked to be on, first local and then national and international news programs, including The Today Show with Matt Lauer. On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Burns was a guest on Ellen DeGeneres’ television talk show.

During an appearance on Ellen, Burns said that the best part of the last two weeks has been the number of teens from around the world who have e-mailed him and contacted him on Facebook.

“The countless number of kids from around the world … who said, ‘I was in a really, really bad place and I was making plans to take my own life,’” he said. “The fact that they have reconsidered — that makes it worth me crying at City Council, the heartache for my mom and dad, worth every bit of all that because they’re still alive.”

While Burns has been traveling coast-to-coast speaking out against bullying on all of the network morning shows in New York, on cable news and on Ellen in Los Angeles, a team of volunteers has been sorting through thousands of messages pouring into his e-mail inbox at Fort Worth City Hall.

By Monday, Oct. 18, more than 20,000 e-mails had arrived after the video had been streamed 1.3 million times. On Thursday, Oct. 21, the number of YouTube hits passed 2 million, and the e-mail and Facebook messages continue to pour in.

The YouTube page has logged more than 27,000 comments.

Actually reaching Burns or his office this week has been almost impossible. His office phone switches to directly to voice mail.

The Fort Worth City Hall media office said they would pass a message to his office to contact Dallas Voice. But spokesman Bill Begley said he’d walk a message down to Burns’ office himself.

Will Trevino in Councilmember Kathleen Hicks’ office said that former staff and volunteers in Burns’ office had been working overtime trying to keep up with the flood of messages.

Remembering the lost ones
Wednesday was Spirit Day, designated to remember young people who have committed suicide as a result of bullying. Many wore purple to show solidarity for efforts to stop the bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the call for an end to bullying by releasing an “It Gets Better” video earlier this week and wearing purple on Spirit Day.

More than 200 people gathered in the Caven parking lot off Cedar Springs Road and held a candlelight vigil marching to the Legacy of Love monument at Oak Lawn Avenue.

Marchers carried purple signs that read “Hope” and “It Gets Better.”

At the monument, organizer Ivan Watson read the names of recent suicide victims and a moment of silence was observed for each one.

Watson said he was inspired to organize the vigil after hearing about Asher Brown, the recent Houston suicide victim.

Organizer Steve Weir of DallasGay-Agenda.com billed the event as a peace march and vigil in memory of those who died and a stand against bullying D/FW area. He said that school policies must change to make schools safe for LGBT youth.

Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas said he searched bullying policies of school districts across the state and found none that specifically addresses bullying based on sexual orientation. Austin’s comes closest, he said.

McDonnell also said that Philadelphia’s school system passed a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that specifically addresses sexual orientation and sexual identity.

“It’s in Lew Blackburn’s hands,” McDonnell said.

Blackburn is the DISD trustee who has shown the most interest in crafting a policy that will protect LGBT students and those perceived to be.

The “It Gets Better” campaign continues. Randy Potts is the grandson of evangelist Oral Roberts. His uncle was gay and committed suicide. He is recording an “It Gets Better” video this weekend.

To watch video from Wednesday’s vigil, go to DallasVoice.com/videos

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 22, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Business Week on Annise Parker, lesbian

Annise Parker at Dallas Pride.

Business Week ran a story this week about Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

She told the magazine that when she first started running for office, it was as if “lesbian” was her last name.

When Craig McDaniel sat on the Dallas city council, he used to jokingly refer to himself as Craig McDaniel, F.O.G. Those initials, which stood for First Openly Gay, came from every reference to him by the Dallas Morning News, even when the story was about something completely unrelated. If the story was about the opening of the State Fair, it would have read, “Mayor Ron Kirk, council member Chris Luna and First Openly Gay Councilman Craig McDaniel were at the State Fair today….”

Parker’s office forwarded me a link to the story from Business Week. After rereading my own story about Parker from last week, I noticed I used the word “lesbian” 10 times. Once was referring to Christine Quinn, who heads the New York City Council, so that doesn’t count; and once referred to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, so neither does that one. The others were mostly quoting her, though. And I never called her “Annise Parker, Lesbian.”

But during our conversation, I did ask about some of the issues she’s passionate about — like fixing the flooding problems in South Houston and other infrastructure problems. And we talked about her trade mission to China.

I think I was clearer about why she actually won — most people in Houston got past the whole lesbian thing and voted for the person they thought would do the best job. Her opponent in the runoff was a good guy who would have made a decent mayor but she had a lot more experience than anyone else running and people just like her. Her approval rating has soared since the election.

I’m surprised Business Week missed one important business piece of the story — she’s the only big city mayor who hasn’t had to lay anyone off, mostly because she’s been good at managing the budget.

She’s advanced the image of gays and lesbians as being hard-working average Americans. In my talk with her she said her family and friends were surprised when she ended up running for public office because she was more of a nerdy policy wonk.

She told Business Week, “I’m a middle-aged soccer mom and I appear in public with my spouse of 20 years and my kids. It’s hard to make me scary.”

But the line I really love is, “I take a lot of credit for raising Houston’s coolness factor.”

She’s right. We love Houston’s mayor, but Dallas has always been much cooler.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Vonciel Jones Hill again snubs the gays, and we’re officially ‘castigating’ her for it

Vonciel Jones Hill

We’ve confirmed with a staff member in Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt’s office who handles the invitations that Vonciel Jones Hill is the only councilmember, other than Mayor Tom Leppert, who doesn’t plan to attend gay Pride this year.

As we reported earlier, Leppert has a “longstanding personal commitment” on the day of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, but he’s appeared at Pride twice before. Hill, on the other hand, has never appeared in the parade since joining the council in 2007 and has in fact stated that she never will.

No one answered the phone in Hill’s office Monday afternoon, but we’re assuming her reason for not attending the parade hasn’t changed from last year. Here’s what she told us a year ago:

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Hill said. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are, Hill said: “I believe that all people are loved by God, all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless. It does not mean the person is any less God’s child. I’m entitled to stand for what I believe, and I don’t appreciate anyone castigating me for standing for what I believe.”

Not only does Hill not believe in gay Pride, but she also even refuses to sign the letter from the City Council that appears in the Dallas Tavern Guild’s annual Pride guide, which will be distributed inside this coming Friday’s Dallas Voice. The letter simply congratulates and thanks the Tavern Guild for putting on another successful Pride celebration. The staff member in Hunt’s office said Hill is the only council member who refused to sign the letter.

With a city election in May 2011, we’re hoping this will be Hill’s last chance to totally disrespect her LGBT constituents in District 5.

—  John Wright