RCD opens new dental suite

United Way provided funding for construction, staffing of new suite being named in honor of Bret Camp

Camp,Bret7

Bret Camp

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas was set to dedicate a complete new suite in its dental clinic on Friday, Dec. 16, and RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox said the new suite is being named in honor of Bret Camp, former RCD associate director in charge of the agency’s health services.

“We wanted to honor Bret’s 16 years with this agency, and his knowledge and service to our community,” Cox said. “We felt naming this dental suite after him was an appropriate way to do that.”

Camp left Resource Center Dallas last summer due to health issues.
The dental clinic is housed within the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, located on Cedar Springs Road near the intersection with Throckmorton Street.

Cox also noted that the costs of construction for the new dental suite and the cost of staffing it for one year came to $125,000, and was fully funded by United Way of Dallas. Those funds were part of the $225,000 total RCD received from United Way.

“Dental care is one of the highest priority needs” for people with HIV/AIDS who access health care assistance in Dallas County, Cox said, adding that facilities to meet the growing need were lacking.

“With this new dental suite, we can serve more clients and we can get them in for care faster,” Cox said. With the new suite in place, she said, RCD’s dental clinic will be serving about 1,000 clients a year.

As federal funding priorities shift and funding for HIV/AIDS-related services decline, Cox said last month that RCD is among those agencies looking for ways to expand its clinical services beyond just the HIV/AIDS community. But, she added this week, doing so will be a long and complex process.

“When you have a program funded with federal money, you have to keep that segregated, completely separate from your other services,” Cox said. “You can just lump it all together.”

Cox also said that RCD officials are considering whether some services now housed at the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic on Cedar Springs Road will remain at that location after the center moves into planned new facilities at Cedar Springs and Inwood Road. Construction on the new facility, designed by architect James Langford who was trained by I.M. Pei, is set to begin in 2014.

Cox said that a lot of the work of the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic revolves around HIV/AIDS testing and prevention efforts, and that the clinic’s current location in the center of the area traditionally considered Dallas’ LGBT neighborhood is most advantageous to that work.

“Right now, the clinic is located right in the heart of the neighborhood. It is a good location for those services, and that is a historically important site,” Cox said. “We do see some big advantages to continuing to maintain a presence there even after our new facilities are built.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Feedback • 12.02.11

Valdez.Lupe

Lupe Valdez

Valdez vs. Latham for sheriff

“Southern Baptists don’t believe in that.” Don’t believe for a second he won’t use her sexual orientation as a way to turn out religious voters for him if he feels the need.
Tyler, via DallasVoice.com

“I wasn’t raised that way.” What exactly is Latham implying by this statement? What exactly is “that way”? I guess in this part of the world religion trumps science.
Lynn, via DallasVoice.com

They can’t attack her on job performance because she’s doing a great job. After all, she brought the Dallas County jail up to state standards, something the previous sheriff wasn’t able to do.
Matthew, via DallasVoice.com

Texas Dems and gay marriage

While most of the GLBT community is focused on marriage equality and DOMA, personally I think that ENDA — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — is vastly more important to the community. Marriage and the concomitant rights that come with it are great and I’m all for that of course. But having the right to “marry” your partner if you are unemployed with no income means very little. Today, all over America, GLBT people can be fired just for being GLBT and that’s wrong. I wish our community would fight as hard for ENDA as they seem to want to do for marriage. In today’s very competitive economy, a good paying job should be of primary concern to our community, in my humble opinion.
Jay Narey, via DallasVoice.com

Jay, I agree. I just don’t know why we can’t put as much energy behind both. Both are important. Sadly there is not enough votes in congress to pass it. My side (Dems) are not all behind it, either. I know some think the president can just sign something and put it in place, but that’s not how it works. Congress makes laws; the president enforces them. ENDA is vital for everyone, but is going to be just as hard to get through as marriage is. It sucks.
George M., via DallasVoice.com

Freaking cowards. And just hours ago here on the pages of Dallas Voice, we read about that Waxahachie gal who was fired from her job for “working while lesbian.” It just sickens me.
Ray Harwick, via DallasVoice.com
This isn’t strategic; it is cowardly. Principals should rule politics, not fear.
Carrie Stewart, via DallasVoice.com

Ray, you’re not going to get ENDA from Texas. It needs to come from the U.S. government. Texas won’t pass it, even if Dems scream it, and I’m sure you know that.
George M., via DallasVoice.com

ENDA won’t pass here in the near term. But an ENDA resolution might help drive voter turnout. It could also help us to educate Texans. Most people don’t realize that you can be legally fired in Texas for being gay.
Matt, via DallasVoice.com

A few things: Prioritization of rights (ENDA trumps DOMA repeal, blah blah blah) is insulting to anyone who really regards himself or herself as a free and equal person. In other words, “How dare you tell me that certain civil rights are more important than others.” Injustice is injustice is injustice, plain and simple. I represent a growing LGBT population that is weary of this piecemeal, backburner approach to gaining our rights. “My thoughts are that we should be dealing with issues about jobs and education and the economy.”  This is a cop out, and not even a good one.
I will let the words of Harvey Milk sum this one up: “It takes no compromising to give people their rights. It takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no survey to remove repressions.”
What we are seeing is simply cowardice. The Democrats want our votes. They constantly remind us just how terrible the alternative would be. Well, NEWS FLASH! If they aren’t even willing to SAY they support us, they are helping fuel the fires of bigotry.
Remaining on neutral ground ALWAYS helps the oppressor, NEVER the oppressed.
So Dems, you want my vote? Make good on your commitment to this community or take a hike. I would rather sit out the damn election.
DSC, via DallasVoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Trans man wins first round in divorce battle

Judge declines to void marriage between Robertson, Scott in case that could set precedent, but wife’s lawyer downplays significance

Trans

WINNING ROUND 1 | Attorney Eric Gormly, right, says Judge Lori Chrisman Hockett’s decision to deny a motion to void the marriage between trans man James Allan Scott, left, and his wife Rebecca Louise Robertson is, as far as he knows, “the first time any Texas court has ruled that a transsexual man who marries a biological woman is in a legitimate marriage.” (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Political Writer
wright@dallasvoice.com

When Rebecca Louise Robertson and James Allan Scott married in Dallas in 1998, Robertson was well aware and fully supportive of Scott’s status as a transgender man, court records indicate.

But when the couple split up after 12 years in 2010, Robertson sought to have their marriage declared void — based on the fact that Scott was born a biological female, and Texas law prohibits same-sex marriage.

Last week, a Dallas County district judge rejected Robertson’s motion for a summary judgment in the case, declining to void the marriage and allowing the matter to proceed as a divorce.

Attorney Eric Gormly, who represents Scott, said if the judge had declared the marriage void, it would have prevented his client, who’s physically disabled, from obtaining a fair division of the couple’s property.

Gormly, who specializes in LGBT law, called the ruling from Judge Lori Chrisman Hockett a significant victory for transgender equality in Texas.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time any Texas court has ruled that a transsexual man who marries a biological woman is in a legitimate marriage,” Gormly said.

Unsettled law

The issue of transgender marriage has made headlines in Texas of late, thanks in large part to the case of Nikki Araguz.

Araguz, a transgender woman, is waging a high-profile fight to receive death benefits from her late husband, Thomas Araguz III, a volunteer firefighter who was killed in the line of duty last year.

In May, a district judge in Wharton County ruled against Nikki Araguz. The judge granted summary judgment to Thomas Araguz’s family, which filed a lawsuit alleging that the couple’s 2008 marriage is void because Nikki Araguz was born a man.

Nikki Araguz has appealed the decision, and LGBT advocates believe Hockett’s ruling in the Dallas case could help the transgender widow’s cause.

In both cases, motions seeking to have the marriages declared void relied heavily on a San Antonio appeals court’s 1999 ruling in Littleton v. Prange, which found that gender is determined at birth and cannot be changed.

However, critics argue that the Littleton decision is unconstitutional and isn’t binding in other parts of Texas.

In response to the Araguz case, a bill was introduced in the Texas Legislature this year to ban transgender marriage. The bill would have removed proof of a sex change from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. Strongly opposed by LGBT advocates, it cleared a Senate committee but never made it to the floor.

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who recently intervened in two same-sex divorce cases to try to block them, has thus far stayed out of the fray over transgender marriage.

After a transgender woman and a cisgender woman applied for a marriage license in 2010, the El Paso County clerk requested a ruling from Abbott about whether to grant it. But Abbott opted not to weigh in, with his office saying it would instead wait for court rulings in the Araguz case. The couple was later able to marry in San Antonio, where the county clerk went by Littleton v. Prange.

A spokesman for Abbott’s office didn’t return a phone call seeking comment this week about Hockett’s ruling in the Dallas case. But Gormly said he’d welcome the challenge if Abbott chooses to intervene.

“Bring it on,” Gormly said. “Let him give it his best shot. … I’ve got to think that Greg Abbott has more important issues to deal with.”

Attorney Thomas A. Nicol, a divorce specialist who represents Robertson, said he’s already notified the AG’s office about Hockett’s ruling.

“I think certainly the attorney general, if it wants, can certainly jump in and say they have standing because it appears the statute is not being followed,” Nicol said.

He called Hockett’s ruling “disappointing” but downplayed its significance.

Nicol said for his motion to be denied, Gormly needed to show only that one material fact was in dispute. Hockett provided no explanation in her one-page ruling dated Nov. 21, and Nicol said he now expects the judge to fully address the transgender marriage issue at trial.

“It’s hardly groundbreaking,” Nicols said of Hockett’s denial of summary judgment, which cannot be appealed. “It’s a non-event except for these two litigants, so I’m a little bit surprised that press releases were issued at this stage of the game, because nothing’s happened yet.”

From house-husband to activist

This coming weekend, the 57-year-old Scott will move out of a five-bedroom, 3,200-square foot house in Cedar Hill — and into a small rental cottage. Scott is being evicted after the house, which the couple built together in 2001, went into foreclosure.

Scott, who’s disabled from scoliosis, said he was a faithful “house husband” — he did the grocery shopping, took care of the dogs and provided emotional support — while Robertson worked as a radiologist at the Dallas VA Medical Center. “The only thing I didn’t do was cook,” Scott said.

Scott and Gormly allege that in July 2010, Robertson opened a personal bank account and cut him off from the couple’s funds.

“After 12 years of marriage, she basically was trying to shove him overboard without a life jacket and sail off with her new boyfriend,” Gormly said.

After Robertson filed to declare the marriage void in September 2010, Scott filed a counter petition for divorce in February. In June, Robertson filed her motion for summary judgment.

Gormly said the divorce likely would have been final six months ago if it hadn’t been for the transgender marriage issue. Instead, both parties have racked up tens of thousands of dollars worth of legal bills.

Scott said the case is about money.

“She stands to inherit a good deal of money that she doesn’t want me to get my hands on,” he said. “I didn’t marry her for money. I married her because I loved her. I just want what I would have gotten in a regular divorce.”

Scott said he’s known he was transgender since an early age. In high school he cross-dressed and dated girls. He jokes that he kept waiting for a penis to grow and was disappointed when his mother told him he needed to start wearing a shirt after he developed breasts.

In 1998, months before he married Robertson, Scott had his breasts and ovaries removed. At the time the couple had already been together for 10 years.

Scott also obtained a birth certificate from his native Iowa identifying him as male. The only transitional step Scott hasn’t undertaken is a phalloplasty — an expensive, imperfect and dangerous procedure for female-to-male transsexuals.

Scott, who sports a full beard and mustache thanks to hormone therapy, said no one except his doctor’s office knew he was transgender during the time the couple lived together in Cedar Hill. He acknowledges this will change now, but says the case is about more than just him now.

“Most importantly if it keep kids from killing themselves because they’re different — that doesn’t need to be,” Scott said.

“I’m fully aware that after this case comes out in the press, I could be threatened, but at the moment it seems minor compared to what my wife has done to me,” he added. “It’s about equality for everyone.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Cathedral of Hope distributes Thanksgiving baskets

For the 25th year, Cathedral of Hope will offer Thanksgiving baskets to needy Dallas families on Sunday, Nov. 20.

Members of the church are putting together baskets for 400 families that might otherwise go without a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

The baskets will be placed out on the church lawn in Sunday morning between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. The green-friendly recyclable bags or containers will be stocked with a complete Thanksgiving meal — a frozen turkey, potatoes, dressing, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes and three other side dishes, dessert and coffee and tea.

Cathedral of Hope members shop for the meals and create the baskets themselves or contribute $35 to have one made. The Thanksgiving Basket project began in 1986 and is part of the Cathedral of Hope’s Holiday Benevolence program that also includes the annual “Christmas Pac-the-Pantry” and “School Uniform” drive in December for needy families. Contributions to the program can be made online at CathedralOfHope.com or may be sent to Cathedral of Hope UCC, 5910 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas, TX 75235.

According to the 2011 Beyond ABC annual report by Children’s Medical Center released this month:

In Dallas County, an estimated 192,502 children — or 29 percent of the total population under the age of 18 — live in poverty. In the city of Dallas the figures are worse.

Within the city, 37 percent of all children live below the poverty line.

More than 183,000 children have inadequate food and poor nutrition. Almost 18 percent of Dallas County children have no private or government health insurance.

—  David Taffet

Trinity Health and Wellness Clinic celebrates grand opening

SHOWING OFF  |  Trinity Health and Wellness Clinic Director Dr. Gene Voskuhl, left, shows off some of the state-of-the-art equipment in the lab during a tour at the clinic’s official grand opening celebration on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The new AIDS Arms facility expects to serve 3,500 clients per year. The cost of medical care and case management by AIDS Arms is $2,800 per year. One emergency room visit by someone who is HIV positive averages $12,000. Since 89 percent of new AIDS Arms clients previously accessed Parkland Hospital ER and no longer do, the agency estimates the new clinic will save Dallas County taxpayers $6 million annually. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

To view more photos from the grand opening, go here.

—  Michael Stephens

LifeWalk steps off Sunday in Lee Park

Nobles says that park will not be fenced this year but is worried about added cost and barrier affecting next year’s event

KICKING UP THEIR HEELS | The LifeWalk organizing committee gets ready for Sunday.

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

New requirements by the city of Dallas could affect proceed totals from this year’s AIDS Arms LifeWalk, and at least one more new requirement is expected to be added to the list next year, according to LifeWalk organizers.

The 21st annual LifeWalk steps off from Lee Park on Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. for the 3.2-mile walk. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. Last year’s event raised $401,000 and this year’s goal is $500,000.

Although thousands of people are expected for the event, Lee Park will remain unfenced this year, even though the city has said such gatherings will require fencing in the future.

Officials with the Dallas Tavern Guild, which stages the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and the Festival in Lee Park each year as part of Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride celebration, decided to get ahead of the new requirement by fencing in Lee Park this year for the festival, although the city requirement had not yet gone into effect.

Tavern Guild officials also chose to charge a $5 admission fee to the festival this year to help offset expenses and raise extra funds that will be distributed to parade beneficiaries.

The admission fee raised the ire of some in the community, and attendance at the festival was down compared to last year. But Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman said the drop was not significant, and noted that the admission fee brought in about $25,000 that will be divided among beneficiaries.

But AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said new city requirements have already had an impact on LifeWalk, and she is worried that the new fencing requirements could affect next year’s walk.

“There were a lot more expenses from the city this year,” she said. “It really hits the bottom line.”

The cost of fencing next year will add an additional, unwelcome expense. But Nobles said she isn’t going to worry about that until after this weekend’s event. Right now, her main concern is getting people out to participate in this year’s fundraiser.

“Anyone can participate in LifeWalk,” Nobles said. “You can walk alone or bring friends or join a team. We even have poop-out vans: In case you can’t walk the entire three-mile route, someone will pick you up and bring you back to the park to have a good time.”

She also invited people to just come to the park and cheer.

“We need cheerleaders at the start and finish and at the water stations,” Nobles said. “We have pompoms for anyone who wants to cheer the walkers on.”

Registration for LifeWalk is $40 for people and $10 for dogs participating in LifeBark. People get a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana to show their support for people with HIV.

AIDS Arms is the primary beneficiary of LifeWalk, but other organizations also receive funds from the event, including AIDS Services of Dallas, Legal Hospice of Texas, Turtle Creek Chorale, The Women’s Chorus, Bryan’s House, Resource Center Dallas and the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

Money raised goes toward programming rather than capital costs. The chorale uses funds for their HIV fund, including giving tickets to performances through the year to people with AIDS.

Nobles praised that effort, saying that socializing is an important holistic element in treating HIV.

The Women’s Chorus will present a program at AIDS Arms in March on National HIV Women’s Day. Those expenses, Nobles said, should be covered by the group’s LifeWalk proceeds.

Nobles said it would be tempting for AIDS Arms to use the money to finish paying off the agency’s new Trinity Health and Wellness Center in Oak Cliff. She said that the new facility cost more than $2 million, and AIDS Arms needs to raise just $35,000 more to pay off the facility.

Trinity Health and Wellness Center opened in September and will have its formal grand opening in two weeks.

But despite the temptation, AIDS Arms will instead use proceeds from LifeWalk to support programs for clients at Trinity as well as at AIDS Arms’ older clinic, Peabody Health Center in South Dallas.

AIDS Arms also uses the money to administer HIV tests to more than 3,500 people a year and for case management for more than 3,400 people.

LifeWalk began in 1990 as a fundraiser for Oak Lawn Community Services. When that agency closed, management of the event moved to AIDS Arms.

LifeWalk Co-chair Marvin Green noted that his Green Team will mark its 20th year of participation in LifeWalk. He said he put the team together for the first time in the second year of LifeWalk because he had already lost 20 friends to AIDS.

That first year, three team members raised $75. This year, the 32-member Green Team has collected about $22,000.

Co-chair Fred Harris said that there were quite a few new teams this year.

“We’re reaching out to new communities,” Harris said. “There’s new energy. We’re branching outside Oak Lawn.”

He said teams are using creative new ways to raise money and AIDS Arms has actively brought in new sponsors such as Chipotle.

“Stoli is coming with a first-ever LifeWalk drink,” Nobles said. Returning sponsor Caven Enterprises will serve beer and Ben E. Keith donated iced tea.

Harris said planning has gone well, and that “LifeWalk is a well-oiled machine.”

Harris said he has seen more use of social media this year than ever, reaching out to people outside the Metroplex.

“This year Facebook has become a very powerful tool,” he said, not just for fundraising but also for recruiting walkers.

Last year, about 3,500 people walked, and this year, “Registration is ahead of where we were this time last year,” Harris said.

Waterpalooza, another AIDS Arms event, was moved to Pride weekend this year, just two weeks prior to LifeWalk. Harris said they took advantage of that event to sign up teams and walkers and generate excitement for this weekend’s walk.

Among the new teams, Harris said, are the DFW Sisters.

“Their efforts have been tireless,” he said. “They raise the bar.”

Nobles said that WFAA Channel 8 morning anchor Ron Corning will serve as M.C. in Lee Park. Although he’s appeared at several events since arriving in Dallas, this is the first big public event the openly gay television host has emceed.

LifeWalk received the Human Rights Campaign family-friendly designation, and Nobles said there will be bounce houses, clowns and face-painting for children.

Harris said the event is pet-friendly as well, “because pets are our family.”

There will be games and puppy pools for dogs as well as doggie adoptions, Nobles said.

She said the day would be a lot of fun but asked people to participate because the need is greater than ever.

“With the growth in the number of newly-infected people in Dallas County who need help in this economy, we’re seeing people who never would ask but must,” she said.

Next year, Nobles said, she would like to see LifeWalk return to Oak Lawn, but new city regulations for events may change those plans. Among the events changing plans this year because of the city involved Lone Star Ride.

Last year, Lone Star Riders participated in LifeWalk on bike. This year, city regulations banned bikes from walks so LSR riders who participate will have to walk.

Green was thinking about bigger plans for future LifeWalks. Other cities that raise more money stage longer walks. He said he’d love to use the new Downtown Deck Park that should be completed next year and dreamed of seeing LifeWalkers crossing the new suspension bridge that should be open in March 2012.

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

—  Michael Stephens

Uncertainty remains over future funding for ASOs

Clerical error rectified by Dallas County, but some agencies worry that more cuts are coming

Steven Pace

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Although initial reports of cuts in federal funding for meals programs for people with HIV/AIDS turned out to be a clerical error,  at least one Dallas County AIDS service agency still worries that cuts are coming.

Resource Center Dallas Strategic Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell said, “We’re still trying to assess the numbers and trying to see where we are.”

McDonnell said that the food pantry and meals program are not fully funded through government programs.

The agency also relies on a number of other grants from organizations like Mazon and on canned food drives run by community groups and businesses.

“We go into this budget year with a certain amount of uncertainty,” McDonnell said. “We are hopeful there are no cuts. It’s hard to determine if there will be.”

He added that the center will need all those who have supported its programs in the past to continue to do so into the future.

With federal and state governments slashing their budgets, McDonnell said that money could be cut at any time from the programs.

“Until we see the check in our hands,” they don’t count on the money, he said. “We’re doing the best we can, planning in an uncertain future.”

But the grant that comes through Dallas County has been restored for the immediate future for the Resource Center and AIDS Interfaith Network.

AIN relies on the grant money for a third of its meals program budget.

“The county did respond and did rectify the mistake,” AIN Executive Director Steven Pace said.

AIN has a weekday breakfast and lunch program and provides some weekend meals for persons with HIV. Resource Center Dallas runs a hot lunch program during the week.

Pace said that with grants of this type, there is always a degree of uncertainty. Even though the money has been restored for seven months, Congress can decide to cut funding to any program at any time.

He said it is just something nonprofit organizations that rely on government funding live with.

Because of a clerical mistake, funding for meals programs was moved to food pantry programs for the new fiscal year.

When AIN and RCD received emails confirming state grants that are funneled through Dallas County, the money for meals programs was omitted from the budget.

However, the money did not show up in the RCD grant budget even though that agency runs both meals and food pantry programs.

The state fiscal year begins Sept. 1 and final documentation needed to be back to the county by Aug. 12.

When Dallas County found the error, a new email was sent to the agencies. Pace worried at the time that he was missing the deadline to submit his budgets and documentation, but he has been assured the agency would not be penalized.

He said he promptly adjusted his figures and submitted the necessary paperwork to assure no interruption in funding.

RCD also readjusted its figures and resubmitted the paperwork.

Some years, grants are renewed from previous years. Other years, agencies must rebid to receive their funding. This year, money was renewed for seven months and agencies will have to rebid for the final five months.

Although the state funding year begins Sept. 1, the Ryan White fiscal year begins April 1.

“We appreciate that Dallas County corrected the error so quickly,” Pace said.

Even with lag time in receiving the additional funds, Pace said the meals program will continue uninterrupted, thanks to a recent $25,000 grant from the MAC Cosmetics AIDS fund.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

El Paso County votes down DP benefits

Unlike in Dallas County, commissioners were given a firm projected cost and actually took a vote. The El Paso Times reports:

County Judge Veronica Escobar brought up the issue of domestic partner benefits during a budget meeting on Tuesday.

After a discussion, Commissioners Dan Haggerty, Willie Gandara Jr. and Sergio Lewis voted against the measure, choosing not to look at providing health insurance benefits to unmarried couples of any gender. Escobar and commissioner Anna Perez supported the idea.

Escobar said it is in the best interest of the taxpayers to have as many people as possible covered with health insurance in the county. “The more people in our community who are uninsured, the more that it cost taxpayers to fund them,” she said.

Escobar said people with health insurance are more prone to receive preventive health care services than are uninsured people, who can’t afford to see a doctor and tend to use the emergency room at the University Medical Center. Taxpayers pay for services provided at the UMC emergency room, she said.

Analysts estimate it would cost the county almost $23,000 more a year to provide health insurance benefits to the partners of unmarried county workers.

—  John Wright

LANDMARK EVENT

SUCCESS | Lisa Blue Baron, center, keynote speaker for the Landmark Dinner held Aug. 13 at the W Hotel is pictured with Lambda Legal Leadership Committee member Brian Bleeker and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. The event raised more than $120,000 for Lambda Legal. (Photo courtesy Debra Gloria)

—  John Wright

Gary Fitzsimmons on DP benefits: ‘I don’t believe our community should expect anything less’

District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons

In today’s print edition we have a story about Parkland hospital’s decision to begin offering domestic partner benefits — and Dallas County’s decision not to. In the story we quoted openly gay Dallas County District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons, who criticized the Commissioners Court for failing to adequately study the cost of DP benefits before opting not to offer them due to the budget shortfall. Below is the full text of an email Fitzsimmons sent me about the issue:

It is certainly gratifying that the Parkland Board of Managers has included DP benefits to cover LGBT employees. They join the most progressive public and private institutions in Dallas County in providing such benefits.

I asked former County Judge Jim Foster, a gay man, to direct Dallas County HR and the Budget Office to begin studying this issue and analyzing costs for such an initiative back in 2007.  I was hoping that this information would be available to the new members of the court who took office in January 2011.  Unfortunately, Mr. Foster failed to do so.

I visited with the new members of the court in January of this year and made the same request. It is therefore disappointing to me to find out that the court has not yet directed county staff to study this issue in a systematic way.  The figures provided by the Dallas County public liaison were prepared “off-the-cuff” in response to an inquiry from the Dallas Voice.  This is totally unacceptable.

This issued, because it does involve the potential expenditure of funds, should be studied and analyzed. County staff should prepare a report based on a review of the financial impact encumbered by other jurisdictions and private corporations that provide DP benefits.

I understand that there might not be a majority vote at this moment among members of the court; however, we will never get one as long as the court is not provided sufficient information to make an informed decision.

Amending the Dallas County civil service statute to include protection for LGBT employees is great and admirable. But of course it is largely symbolic and it has little potential financial impact. Supporting an initiative that would have a financial impact in order to bring equality to the Dallas County workplace is where the rubber meets the road. I don’t believe our community should expect anything less.

—  John Wright