WATCH: Dallas County passes 1st LGBT Pride Month resolution

LGBT advocates who attended Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting gather on the steps of the administration building after the Pride resolution passed. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates who attended Tuesday’s Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting gather on the steps of the administration building after the Pride resolution passes. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Dallas County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday declaring June LGBT Pride Month.

The resolution is the first of its kind for the county. The Dallas City Council has issued proclamations the past three years recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month.

Commissioner Theresa Daniel presented the resolution, reading it to the room before it passed. Commissioner Mike Cantrell, the only Republican on the five-member court, was absent from the meeting.

“On this special occasion, we must bear in mind that while we have overcome difficult obstacles, tolerance and acceptance is something we must all practice and teach future generations,” the resolution reads in part. (Read the full version here)

After its passage, activist Omar Narvaez then addressed the court with several LGBT supporters standing behind him. He spoke about the importance of the LGBT community having showing its Pride during June.

“It’s so appropriate that our symbol for the LGBT community is a rainbow because we are every single part, we are every fabric of that rainbow,” he said. “We are African-American, we’re Latino, we are white, we are Asian, we are Native American.”

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas County to vote on 1st-ever LGBT Pride Month resolution next week

dallas-county-seal

Dallas County Commissioners Court will vote on a resolution declaring June LGBT Pride month in the county on Tuesday.

While Dallas City Council has issued a similar proclamation for three years, this is the first time the county has done so.

Activist Omar Narvaez said the county has been progressive in the past with adding LGBT employment protections and domestic partner benefits, so he and Rafael McDonnell from Resource Center Dallas met with commissioners to make it happen.

“They probably have never done it because no one has ever asked,” Narvaez said.

McDonnell said the controversy with commissioners in adding domestic partner benefits last fall has blown over.

“There always seems to be drama at Commissioners Court and now the drama seems to have moved over to [City Hall],” he said, alluding to Wednesday’s council meeting.

The city of Dallas’ Pride events began last week with a kick-off reception. Events include events at area libraries and a family day at Dallas Zoo. Discount tickets for the zoo can be purchased at Resource Center. Another event has also been added. DFW Pride Movement is hosting a celebration with music and margaritas this Saturday at Lolita’s Restaurant, 4218 Lemmon Ave.

And GetEUQUAL TX is planning an evening rally on the day the U.S. Supreme Court announces the ruling in the two key marriage equality cases, which are expected on a Monday or Thursday before the end of the month. The rally will begin at 7 p.m. at the legacy of Love monument in Oak Lawn.

Read the resolution below.

—  Dallasvoice

Dallas County employees can now enroll in DP benefits program

Gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons forwarded this document that was emailed to county employees by the human resources department. (click to enlarge)

Dallas County’s domestic partner benefits program began Jan. 1 and the human resources department already has information up online reminding people of the qualifications.

After hitting roadblocks to offer the benefits through the healthcare co-op the county is a member of, the benefits were approved 3-2 by the Commissioner’s Court on party lines in October.

Partners of same- and opposite-sex employees who do not have insurance are can receive a subsidy toward their own privately purchased plan. They must have lived together for at least six months, be 18 years or older and not currently married. The county will reimburse employees for 45 percent of their partners’ insurance or up to $295.78 monthly — the amount the county contributes toward employees’ coverage — whichever is less.

Documentation for adults and children is listed below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Dallas County approves domestic partner insurance benefits


Derrick Spillman with DFW Pride Movement addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court on Oct. 30, 2012. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The gay and straight domestic partners of Dallas County employees will soon be eligible for a $300 monthly subsidy from the county to help pay for health insurance.

The County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday morning to offer the subsidy to employees who have same- or opposite-sex domestic partners who do not have insurance through other means. The subsidy will be equal to the amount the county contributes to an employee’s health insurance.

County Judge Clay Jenkins, and Commissioners Dr. Elba Garcia and John Wiley Price, who comprise the court’s Democratic majority, voted in favor of offering the domestic partner subsidy. Republican Commissioners Mike Cantrell and Maurine Dickey voted against it.

Commissioners made comments before several speakers addressed the court on the issue.

Dickey said the court shouldn’t fund a special group outside of the Public Employee Benefits Cooperative because its members didn’t approve it.

Jenkins and Garcia, who spearheaded the initiative, had initially hoped to offer domestic partner benefits through the PEBC, a multi-county partner agency, but other members — including Denton and Tarrant counties — would not allow it.

Dickey said approving benefits for domestic partners would lead to funding other special groups, such as obese people, smokers or people that have blue Pontiacs.

“We must stay within the realm of our group, of our PEBC, in order to offer our employees the best possible and lowest possible health insurance,” she said.

—  Dallasvoice

Ex-Councilman J.T. Price rescinds endorsement of Theresa Daniel over her support for gay rights

On Monday we told you that Theresa Daniel, a Democratic candidate for the newly redrawn District 1 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court, had sent out an endorsement letter signed by 17 “LGBT Leaders & Friends.” Among other things, the letter mentioned that Daniel is a longtime member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, which is, of course, the party’s LGBT caucus. Well, apparently that came as a surprise to former Dallas City Councilman Jesse “J.T.” Price, who had endorsed Daniel for Commissioners Court. Daniel reports this morning that, after learning that she’s a member of Stonewall, Price requested that she remove his name from her endorsement list.

“I am disappointed by this development, and had I known Price held this view, I never would have used his name to begin with,” Daniel said in an email. “To my mind, being a Democrat means that you are inclusive and accepting of others. It also means that you are committed to fighting discrimination wherever it exists. I am proud of my convictions, proud of my work with the LGBT community and Democratic Party, and proud of my membership in Stonewall Democrats.”

FYI, in case you’ve never heard of Jesse Price, according to Dallas Morning News archives, he served on the council from 1967 to 1972.

Read Daniel’s full email after the jump.

—  John Wright

17 ‘LGBT Leaders & Friends’ back Theresa Daniel for Dallas County Commissioners Court

Theresa Daniel, a Democratic candidate for the newly redrawn District 1 seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court, today sent out an endorsement letter from a group of “LGBT Leaders & Friends.”

Read our recent story on the District 1 race here. Coincidentally, The Dallas Morning News had a good primer on the race in today’s edition saying there’s a “good chance” the district (currently represented by retiring Republican Maurine “Trans Fat” Dickey) will go Democratic. The story also compares the new district to “the head of a pipe wrench” and notes that it “flows into the north, south and eastern parts of the county and includes parts of Pleasant Grove, Garland, Richardson, Oak Lawn and White Rock Lake.”

“Because of the new demographics, the winner will have to develop a coalition that crosses racial and geographic lines and be able to reach out to all the groups,” the DMN’s story states.

The letter in support of Daniel is signed by 17 people, from former State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt to former City Councilman Chris Luna, and states that Daniel “didn’t join the Stonewall Democrats last month or last year just because she is running for office.” Which, apparently, is a jab at one of her opponents in the primary, Daniel Clayton. The letter also notes that Theresa Daniel, a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, voted in favor of putting a marriage equality resolution on the statewide primary ballot earlier this year. As we’ve noted, that resolution has failed twice.

“Theresa Daniel does more than talk the talk,” the letter states. “She walks the walk. She has been there with us, and with dozens of other community groups, working to make Dallas County a better, more Democratic place. We don’t have to worry about where Theresa Daniel stands or how she will perform. She has earned our trust.”

Read the full letter after the jump.

—  John Wright

Dems seek supermajority on Commissioners Court

LGBT ally Theresa Daniel among those vying for Dickey’s seat

Going-after-Gay-vote1

GOING AFTER THE GAY VOTE | Cecile Fernandez, left, speaks to Log Cabin Republicans of Dallas on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at Texas Land & Cattle in Uptown. Fernandez is one of two Republicans who’ve filed to replace retiring GOP Commissioner Maurine Dickey. On the Democratic side, longtime LGBT ally Theresa Daniel, above right, and Daniel Clayton are two of the three candidates running for Dickey’s District 1 seat.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Stonewall Democrats President Omar Narvaez thinks Democrats have an excellent chance of picking up a fourth seat on the Dallas County Commissioners Court since newly drawn lines extend a district into Oak Lawn.

District 1 Republican incumbent Maureen Dickey — who voted against transgender nondiscrimination protections for county employees last year — isn’t seeking re-election. Two Republicans and three Democrats have filed to run for the seat Dickey has held since 2004.

Narvaez said two of the three Democratic candidates are members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas — Theresa Daniel and Gloria Levario.

The redrawn district, he said, will be harder for a Republican to retain. Cedar Springs Road is the dividing line. The northeast side of the street will be part of the new District 1. The southwest side of the street will be represented by District 4 Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia.

District 3 Commissioner John Wiley Price, also up for re-election, lost the Oak Lawn portion of his district but picked up more of Oak Cliff and Cedar Hill. Parts of South Dallas between Interstate 30 and US Highway 175 also shifted from Price to the new District 1.

Usually the filing period ends on Jan. 1 for the November race. Because of legal challenges to redistricting maps, Narvaez said the filing period will be reopened. Candidates whose districts have changed may decide to change races or may pull out of the running and receive a refund.

“And that’s extremely unusual,” Narvaez said.

So he said that the field of candidates — even for the Commissioners Court races where boundary lines haven’t been challenged — isn’t necessarily set. Although the primary is still tentatively scheduled for April 3, a firm date cannot be set until new maps are approved.

“I wonder how long this marathon is going to be,” said Daniel, one of the Democratic candidates for the District 1 seat.

Daniel was a staff member for Democratic Congressman Martin Frost. She has served on the State Democratic Executive Committee since 1996 and as chair of the Dallas County Democratic Party Advisory Committee for four years. Currently, she works with the Dallas Independent School District in program evaluation and accountability and is an adjunct professor of urban and public affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Daniel said she’s been a member of Stonewall Democrats for 10 to 15 years. As a member of the SDEC she helped add two seats to the state body for Stonewall Denocrats leaders.

“With their activity level, both locally and at a state level, they were a model,” she said.

In 2004, Daniel received Stonewall’s Democrat of the Year award.

Daniel said she’s glad sexual orientation and gender identity were added to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy last year and called health benefits for the domestic partners of county employees a “civil right.”
County Judge Clay Jenkins has said he supports DP benefits but didn’t bring the proposal forward last year due to budget constraints.

On healthcare issues, Daniel said she needs to take a look at how agencies are funded but said, “I’d work to keep funding on track.”

She called the new Parkland hospital “absolutely wonderful.”

“When you have an 80-year-old building we’re going to have problems,” she said, adding that the new hospital shows Dallas County’s commitment to public health.

Daniel Clayton is the third Democrat running for the District 1 seat. He has worked for state Sen. Royce West for five years and currently serves as his political director.
Before joining West’s office, he worked on a number of campaigns. In 2001, he campaigned for Jim McGreevey, who became New

Jersey’s “gay-American” governor. Clayton served as deputy field director for former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk’s Senate campaign.
Since 2007, Clayton has served as president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats.

In 2004, he was executive director of the Dallas County Democratic Party. That year, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and other Democrats swept into office, which began a run of Democrats who were elected to county-wide office.

“How do we make county government more efficient?” Clayton said when asked about his top concern.

He said continued funding for AIDS programs was a priority.

“Dallas County’s rate of HIV is so high,” he said. “It’s affecting the minority community terribly.”

On partnership benefits, he said the idea sounds fair and he needs to study the economic impact.

On the Republican side, Dickey has endorsed Cecile Fernandez, a former Dickey’s Barbecue executive vice president who helped create the franchise program and take the company national. District 2 Commissioner Mike Cantrell has endorsed Fernandez’s opponent, attorney Larry Miller.

Fernandez attended the kick-off event this week for the new Dallas Log Cabin Republicans chapter.

“I was impressed with the turnout,” she said of the meeting, adding that she attended because several of the founders “are longtime personal friends.”

She said that although the new boundaries of District 1 give Democrats a slight edge, her connections in the Hispanic community and position as vice chair of the Dallas chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly will make the difference.

“I think I’m the Republican who can win that seat,” she said.

She expressed support for LGBT issues. She backs partnership benefits for county employees, but worried that in the new budget year everyone’s benefits will have to be cut.

She said that funding for HIV and AIDS treatment must remain in place and added she sees no room for discrimination.

“It’s not the ’80s,” she said. “Everyone knows someone who’s died of AIDS.”

She said she supports Parkland Hospital and has had people in her family use the facility.

“The people at Parkland are so caring,” she said. Despite being overworked in a rundown facility, “they must really love their jobs.”

Miller and Levario did not return messages before press time.

Levario, the sister of Dallas County’s 204th District Court Judge Lena Levario, works for Baylor’s physician network to manage their medical practices. She’s also a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, Narvaez said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Top 10: County, DISD, FWISD added trans protections

TransProtections

STRIKING A POSE | LGBT activists celebrate outside the Dallas County Administration Building in April, after the Commissioners Court voted to add transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

No. 6

Although transgender rights continue to be the last frontier in the ongoing battle for LGBT equality, the trans community made significant progress in North Texas in 2011.

The all-too-familiar scenario of transgender being left out of laws protecting lesbians and gays played out in March when the Dallas County Commissioners Court voted in favor of adding sexual orientation — but not gender identity and  expression — to the nondiscrimination policy covering the county’s roughly 7,000 employees.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two Democrats who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, said they had not been aware of the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

But after Dallas Voice reported on the oversight, LGBT advocates went back to the court to insist that commissioners correct the omission.

Republican Commissioner Maureen Dickey added insult to injury during an April Commissioners Court meeting when she not only announced she would vote against trans protections, but also compared being transgender to being overweight.

But on April 26 — after activists spoke at several consecutive meetings in an effort coordinated by Resource Center Dallas — the court voted 3-2 along party lines to add trans protections. Jenkins, Garcia and Commissioner John Wiley Price voted in favor of trans protections, while Dickey and fellow Republican Mike Cantrell voted against them.

Dallas County is the only county in the state with a trans-inclusive employment nondiscrimination policy — and momentum from the decision appeared to spread as the year went forward.

In late June, the Fort Worth school board added gender identity and expression to the district’s anti-bullying policy. And in early August, shortly before the start of a new school year, came news that the Dallas school board would consider a series of policy changes intended to protect transgender students, faculty and other employees from discrimination and harassment. The vote to add the protections came on Aug. 25.

The wave of transgender victories hit a small snag in November, when the Dallas County Community College District initially refused to add trans protections, insisting that the district’s protections based on sexual orientation covered trans people. But after another effort coordinated by the Resource Center, DCCCD President Wright Lassiter announced in November that an amendment to the district’s nondiscrimination policy to specifically protect transgender people is on the agenda for the board’s January meeting.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

What is Dallas’ obsession with building useless crap downtown?

Proposed Fair Park tower, from a pdf of a City of Dallas Landmark Commission agenda

The latest piece of useless downtown architecture is a ferris wheel approved by Dallas County Commissioners Court at Tuesday’s meeting. Another ferris wheel? Really?

First Dallas built that hideous new 1980s glass box of a hotel that’s attached to the Dallas Convention Center. How much more would it have cost to tell the architect to make the building attractive? Make it a place people will say, “Hey, I wanna stay there.”

OK. The lighting at night is interesting. But the architecture is as updated as the city’s other half-empty decades-old reflective-glass office towers.

Next, there’s The Bridge to Ray’s Gun Shop. That’s not the official name, just what the people at the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League are calling it.

Impressive close up; a meaningless non-golden arch from a distance. Iconic? Only because the Trinity River will be recognized around the world as the smallest trickle of water ever crossed by suspension bridge. And it’s destined to become a traffic nightmare each evening when six-lane Woodall Rodgers crosses the mighty Trinity River and backs up onto two-lane Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas.

For the same money we could have had two or three new bridges that crossed to where much of the traffic is actually going — Oak Cliff. Hopefully Ray, operator of the oldest sporting goods store in Dallas, will see an increase in business.

Now the Dallas Commissioners Court has approved a new ferris wheel for Founders Plaza.

Daniel Cates and GetEQUAL will have to find a new location for weddings, protests and other demonstrations.

A ferris wheel? Don’t we already have one of the largest — yet mostly unused — ferris wheels in the world a mile away in Fair Park?

OK, this one is being billed as a 17-story “observation wheel.” What’s an observation wheel? Well, it’s round and has baskets and rotates in a vertical circle. Like a ferris wheel. What about it is not like a ferris wheel? The baskets will be air conditioned and a ticket will cost $15. And unlike the Texas Star in Fair Park, it will be a sightseeing attraction. And the Texas Star? Well, that’s just a ferris wheel.

And if downtown is going to have a ferris wheel, then Fair Park must have an observation tower. This planned 500-foot needle will be nothing like downtown’s Reunion Tower. And it will never be built because Fair Park is on the glide path to Love Field and the FAA won’t approve it, but that’s beside the point. And unlike Reunion, this won’t have a restaurant and there won’t be an elevator.

The observation deck itself will ride up and down the spire. To see downtown. Which you apparently can’t do from the nearby ferris wheel — because 49 weeks a year, it doesn’t operate.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Marathon of LGBT speakers call on Commissioners Court to add trans protections

Here’s video of the first six LGBT advocates who spoke at Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, with video of the remaining six to come later. As we noted earlier, the unprecedented marathon of speakers exceeded the maximum 30 minutes for public comment on the issue — a proposal to add transgender protections to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. It was the fourth straight week in which LGBT advocates addressed the Commissioners Court, and the community’s advocacy led to the court ultimately approving trans protections in a 3-2 party-line vote. The speakers in Part I (above) are Rebecca Solomon, Jesse Garcia and Louise Young; and the speakers in Part II (below) are Cd Kirven, Jeffrey Barnett and Mark Reed. As the old saying goes,  “This is what Democracy looks like!”

—  John Wright