Joe Solmonese, Eric Alva, Jessie Tyler Ferguson, Marlee Matlin, Caroline Rhea, Taylor Dayne, Chet Flake and the late Bud Knight are among those who will be honored or will speak at The Black Tie Dinner on Saturday.
Solmonese fears 2012 setback
LAST NIGHT | Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese speaks at a previous Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. Solmonese will be leaving HRC next March, making this weekend’s event the last Black Tie Dinner he will attend as president of the national LGBT advocacy organization.
Outgoing HRC president says community must fight for Obama
Joe Solmonese admits he’s “very concerned” about President Barack Obama’s prospects for re-election.
But Solmonese says he’s equally concerned about how the LGBT community — and his successor at the Human Rights Campaign — would respond if Obama loses.
Solmonese will step down as president of HRC after seven years in March. On Saturday, Nov. 12, he’ll make his final appearance as the group’s president at the Black Tie Dinner, of which HRC is the national beneficiary.
In an interview last month with Dallas Voice, Solmonese focused largely on the importance of 2012 elections, saying that depending on their outcome, major advances during his tenure could be all but erased.
“I don’t think that he’s going to lose,” Solmonese said at one point, attempting to clarify his assessment of Obama’s chances. “I think that if everybody does what they need to do, I think there is just as good a chance that Barack Obama will be re-elected, but I’m as concerned that he could lose.”
Solmonese said Republicans already have a majority in the House, Democrats have only a slim majority in the Senate, and “everything about these  elections points to us having real challenges.”
“I think that if everybody who has gained from the Obama administration does everything they need to do over the course of the next year, he’ll get re-elected,” Solmonese said. “But I would be lying if I said I’m not very concerned about the prospects of him getting re-elected.”
Solmonese said the message he wants to send to the LGBT community is that Obama has done more for us than any other president, and that the movement has seen more gains under the current administration than at any other time in its history.
“If we care about continuing with the forward motion that we’ve experienced, then we as a community need to do everything possible to re-elect Barack Obama,” Solmonese said. “And we can talk about and debate and press the administration on his ability to do more, and him coming out for marriage, or anything else that we want to talk about, but now is the time to sort of decouple that from all of the work we need to put into getting him re-elected. Because at the end of the day, it comes down to a choice, and the choice isn’t even hard for me: It’s Barack Obama or any of these other people who are running against him.”
Despite his concerns about Obama’s chances, Solmonese said he has no misgivings about leaving HRC seven months prior to Election Day. He said he made a commitment to give the organization six months notice, and his contract expires in March.
He said announcing his resignation at the end of August allowed HRC to begin the transition process, which will be completed when his successor takes over, midway through the Republican primary. Solmonese also said he’ll continue to be involved with the organization through next year, assisting with its efforts around the November election.
“I’m a lot more concerned about what happens the morning after the elections,” Solmonese said. “I’m a lot more concerned about this organization and its leader being in the best possible position to navigate those waters, and either we are contemplating a second term with Obama and a continuation of our agenda and perhaps a decidedly different Congress, or we’re contemplating President Mitt Romney and all of the implications that means for our community, and I want whoever is in this seat leading this organization contemplating where we go from there, to have had some time under their belt to figure that out.”
Asked whether that means he believes Romney will be the Republican nominee, Solmonese clarified that anyone claims to know definitively “doesn’t’ know what they’re talking about” — but he added that he thinks the former Massachusetts governor is the “odds-on favorite.”
And while Romney may appear less anti-gay than some other GOP presidential hopefuls, Solmonese said called him “someone you have to be careful of” because “he’s essentially beholden to no issue.”
“He adopts a position that works best for the political predicament he finds himself in,” said Solmonese, a Massachusetts native who’s watched Romney’s political career closely. “So, while he was seemingly pro-gay as he attempted to unseat Ted Kennedy, and his rhetoric isn’t harsh and he doesn’t have the same sort of narrative that a Rick Santorum has, he’s effectively said that he doesn’t believe in the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and that he would support the federal marriage amendment. But what we don’t know, just like we didn’t really anticipate with [President] George [W.] Bush, is how beholden he is going to feel to the hard right once he becomes president.”
It was Bush, of course, whose administration was pushing a federal marriage amendment when Solmonese joined HRC in 2005.
The marriage amendment, Solmonese said, represents the worst possible thing that could happen to the LGBT community, because it would enshrine discrimination into the Constitution.
And although the threat of the amendment may seem like a distant memory to some, Solmonese warned that it could easily resurface. Which is why, he said, the 2012 elections are the biggest challenge HRC faces going forward.
“I think the elections loom largest because what the elections really represent to me is the potential for us to really stop, potential derail and ultimately set back a lot of the progress that we’ve made,” Solmonese said. “What also concerns me then is that the community be braced for that, and we understand that we’ve been in these places before, and the measure of who we are and how we’ll be defined, is how we react in those moments, the degree to which we stay in the fight and make sure we continue to press forward regardless of the outcome of the election.”
Solmonese said he fears the progress of the last several years may lead to complacency. And he said based on his experience, when the LGBT community suffers setbacks, instead of regrouping and uniting, people have a tendency to lose their way and point fingers.
“If we lose, if the outcome is negative, if we go from the march toward marriage equality and the repeal of DOMA and the positive direction that we’ve been in, to a president and a Congress who decide they’re so troubled by all the success we’re having with marriage they want to take up the fight again to pass the federal marriage amendment — well, boy, we’ve come full circle from where we were back in 2005, the last time that happened,” he said.
“And you can react to that in one of two ways. You can say this is the inevitable ebb and flow of social change, so pull up your boot straps and let’s get going and turn that around again — and understand that that sort of energy that the other side has around something like that is a reaction to their own fear of the progress we’ve made — or you can become very dispirited and depressed and disenfranchised and decide that it’s our own doing, it’s our own lack of progress, it’s our own failing. And that would be the worst possible thing that we could do.”
Caroline Rhea: From the hip
From her role as Noleta Nethercott on Del Shores’ campy queer Texas-based sitcom Sordid Lives to taking over Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show, Caroline Rhea has long has a strong connection to the gay community. This week, she breaks new ground again, becoming the first professional comedienne to serve as soup-to-nuts emcee for the Black Tie Dinner.
Rhea took a moment this week to discuss her involvement with the LGBT community, her Texas ties and her new (like her, Canadian) reality TV show.
Dallas Voice:You’ve always seemed to be close to the LGBT community. Where does that stem from? Rhea: I am not a direct member of the LGBT community, but I have had a BLT. In the Venn diagram of life, there is a lot of crossover between gay men and female comedians. It’s a mutual lovefest.
How different is it to do a gay event like Black Tie vs. a comedy show on the road? The audience is much better looking.
For special events like this, do you bring your family? Not if it involves bringing a toddler on a plane.
What in you is fulfilled to do an event such as Black Tie Dinner? I want to support the LGBT community in all that they do.
If you were to rank all you do — acting, hosting, voiceovers, comedy, etc. — how do you rank your priorities? Motherhood first. Then comedy, and working with people that I like.
You have hosted a new reality competition series in your native Canada, Cake Walk: Wedding Cake Edition. How did you enjoy that? Did you get to taste the goods? Believe it or not, I didn’t taste the cakes.
Will there be a same-sex couple on the show? I hope so.
How do you think that would fly with the show’s audience? Same-sex marriage has been legal for years in Canada. It would be another beautiful wedding.
Having now worked with Del Shores on the Logo series Sordid Lives, how do you perceive Texas in general? Dallas in particular? Any misconceptions you had that were proven wrong? My dad’s family was from Texas and my father looked like J.R. Ewing. I am not a fan of your toll roads and every time I am on the George Bush Turnpike I feel like I am going backwards.
—Arnold Wayne Jones
Taylor Dayne can’t stop the music
More than 20 years after she packed the gay bar dance floors with her debut hits, the songstress is still going strong, and says her performance at Black Tie is a ‘win-win’ for her and her fans
Helping out LGBT people is nothing new for singer Taylor Dayne.
She can’t quite recall when she knew she was a hit with the gay community: Over the course of her 23-year career in pop music, she’s played venues of all sizes, but she did notice early on how a certain fan base seemed to keep showing up.
“It’s kinda hard to remember, but I would perform very specific shows and then some gay clubs and it dawned on me,” she said.
With an explosive debut, thanks to her platinum selling 1988 debut Tell It To My Heart and the more sophisticated follow-up Can’t Fight Fate a year later, Dayne became a quick force to be reckoned with on the charts.
But her pop hits were just as big on the dance floor, and Dayne was resonating across the queer landscape.
“I’ve had wonderful relationship with gay and lesbian fans for years. I’m so glad to be doing Black Tie because I have a great core of fan base here,” she said. “It’ll be a good show with lots of fun and for a good cause. It’s a win-win.”
Dayne’s performed at gay bars and Pride events in Boston, Chicago and the Delaware Pride Festival. But appreciation of her work in the community was clearly evident in 2010 when she was asked to record “Facing a Miracle” as the anthem for the Gay Games.
“That was quite an honor and then they asked me to perform at the games,” she said. “It was very emotional for me. The roar of the crowd was great.”
Even after two decades, Dayne remains just as committed to music as she was in 1988. She’s embraces her sort of “elder” status in pop music and instead of seeing the likes of Nikki Minaj and Katy Perry as rivals, she enjoys what they are bringing to the landscape of music now.
“I love listening to all the new stuff going on. There is some great talent out there. It’s nice to know I was some inspiration to them, the way ladies like Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar were for me. The cycle goes on,” Dayne said.
But they still push her to keep in the game. She admitted, “I’m pretty competitive that way.”
This year, Dayne released the single, “Floor on Fire,” which made it to the Billboard Dance/Club Charts Top 10.
At 49, Dayne doesn’t show signs of slowing. Along with a rumored second greatest hits album, she recently wrapped up filming the indie movie Telling of the Shoes and she’s a single mother to 9-year-old twins. Juggling it all is a mix of emotions, but her confidence pushes her through.
“I can say I’m a great singer, so when it comes to decisions, I’m fine about recording and performing,” she said. “But I would say I work really hard at acting. It’s nerve-wracking but it’s also amazing. But I’m not a novice at any of this.”
With her children, she doesn’t make any pretenses about the difficulty of being both a musician and a mom — as long as she instills the proper principles in them.
“We don’t try to get wrapped up in small time crap,” she said. “At the end of day it’s about having a good heart and they have great heart.”
It’s likely she’ll show the same at Black Tie.
BLACK TIE DETAILS
The 30th annual DFW Black Tie Dinner will be held Saturday night, Nov. 12, at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. The event is already sold out.
Special guests at this year’s dinner include Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin as keynote speaker and Emmy Award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Media Award winner. Singer Taylor Dayne will perform.
Chet Flake and his late partner, Bud Knight, will be honored as recipients of the Raymond Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and gay military veteran Eric Alva, the first U.S. serviceman injured in the Iraq war and an advocate for repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” will received the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award.
Dinner organizers this year decided, for the first time, to bring in an emcee for the evening, choosing popular comedian Caroline Rhea.
This year also marks the final time that Joe Solmonese will attend the dinner as president of the Human Rights Campaign, the national beneficiary of Black Tie, which each year receives about half the proceeds of the event. Solmonese has resigned as head of HRC, effective next March.
Seventeen local HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations have also been designated as beneficiaries.
Black Tie Dinner includes a silent auction, a live luxury auction and an after-party at the hotel.
As Perry eyes the presidency and Dewhurst makes a bid for the Senate, let’s look at the story the numbers really tell
Phyllis Guest | Taking Note
It seems that while David Dewhurst is running for the U.S. Senate, Rick Perry — otherwise known as Gov. Goodhair — is planning to run for president. I wonder what numbers they will use to show how well they have run Texas.
Could they cite $16 million? That’s the sum Perry distributed from our state’s Emerging Technology Fund to his campaign contributors.
Or maybe it is $4.1 billion. That’s the best estimate of the fees and taxes our state collects for dedicated purposes — but diverts to other uses.
Then again, it could be $28 billion. That’s the last published number for the state’s budget deficit, although Perry denied any deficit during his last campaign.
But let’s not get bogged down with dollar amounts. Let’s consider some of the state’s other numbers.
There’s the fact that Texas ranks worst in at least three key measures:
We are the most illiterate, with more than 10 percent of our state’s population unable to read a word. LIFT — Literacy Instruction for Texas — recently reported that half of Dallas residents cannot read a newspaper.
We also have the lowest percentage of persons covered by health insurance and the highest number of teenage repeat pregnancies.
Not to mention that 12,000 children have spent at least three years in the state welfare system, waiting for a foster parent. That’s the number reported in the Texas-loving Dallas Morning News.
Meanwhile, the Legislature has agreed to put several amendments to the Texas Constitution before the voters. HJR 63, HJR 109 plus SJR 4, SJR 16, and SJR 50 all appear to either authorize the shifting of discretionary funds or the issuance of bonds to cover expenses.
Duh. As if we did not know that bonds represent debt, and that we will be paying interest on those bonds long after Dewhurst and Perry leave office.
Further, this spring, the Lege decided that all voters — except, I believe, the elderly — must show proof of citizenship to obtain a state ID or to get or renew a driver’s license. As they did not provide any funds for the issuance of those ID cards or for updating computer systems to accommodate the new requirement, it seems those IDs will be far from free.
Also far from free is Perry’s travel. The Lege decided that the governor does not have to report what he and his entourage spend on travel, which is convenient for him because we taxpayers foot the bill for his security — even when he is making obviously political trips. Or taking along his wife and his golf clubs.
And surely neither Rick Perry nor David Dewhurst will mention the fact that a big portion of our state’s money comes from the federal government. One report I saw stated that our state received $17 billion in stimulus money, although the gov and his lieutenant berated the Democratic president for providing the stimulus.
And the gov turned down $6 billion in education funds, then accepted the funds but did not use them to educate Texans.
The whole thing — Dewhurst’s campaign and Perry’s possible campaign, the 2012-2013 budget, the recent biannual session of the Texas Legislature — seems like something Mark Twain might have written at his tongue-in-cheek best.
We have huge problems in public school education, higher education, health care, air pollution and water resources, to mention just a few of our more notable failures.
Yet our elected officials are defunding public education and thus punishing children, parents, and teachers. They are limiting women’s health care so drastically that our own Parkland Hospital will be unable to provide appropriate care to 30,000 women.
They are seeking a Medicaid “pilot program” that will pave the way for privatized medical services, which will erode health care for all but the wealthiest among us. They are fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from dealing with our polluted environment. They are doing absolutely nothing to ensure that Texas continues to have plenty of safe drinking water.
They are most certainly not creating good jobs.
So David Dewhurst and his wife Tricia prayed together and apparently learned that he should run for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat. Now Rick Perry is planning a huge prayer rally Saturday, Aug. 6, at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.
God help us.
Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2011.
Winconsin Family Action, an anti-gay group, has been sending out intentionally misleading ballots containing false instructions for voting in the state’s upcoming recall elections. The return address on the fliers say to mail the ballot back “before Aug. 11,” when the elections end on Aug. 9. WFA allegedly sent out the information on behalf of Americans for Prosperity.
WFA director Julaine Appling admitted to Wisconsin resident Barbara With that WFA was involved with the mailings to a concerned Wisc. citizen, With videotaped the conversation and posted it on Facebook. However, after learning that the ballots constituted mail fraud, Appling was quick to deny knowledge that the AFP was using her address.
According to the Wisconsin Gazette, WFA is a small group whose mission is to fight gay rights. The group has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Republicans in the Aug. 9 elections. Observers have questioned where WFA was able to obtain such large-scale, unprecedented funding. In her recorded conversation, Appling appears to say that her financial backing has come from billionaire David Koch’s group.
Is this a true case of misprinting, or is the conservative advocacy group trying to throw the election by weeding out Democratic voters?
According to Charles Schultz, a Democratic senior citizen from Wisconsin, “It seems to me like it was an effort by this organization to delay the process or make the process more complicated.”
Schultz officially filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, pointing out the inaccuracies of the ballots.
“It is interesting to me that I would receive it from the Republican organization, because I’m a Democrat,” Shultz said.
To avoid this kind of confusion in the future, Kevin Kennedy, Wisconsin’s chief election officer, said, “If you need or want to vote absentee, contact your municipal clerk directly and request a ballot.”
Today is President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday, and local Democrats are going to party.
The Dallas County Democratic Party is holding a celebration honoring the president’s big 5-0 tonight in the Atrium of the Infomart, 1950 N. Stemmons Freeway. The event begins with a reception from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by the party beginning at 7 p.m.
With 202 of 555 precincts reporting, former Pizza Hut CEO Mike Rawlings continues to lead in the race for Dallas mayor. And it’s looking more and more like Rawlings will face former Police Chief David Kunkle in a runoff.
Rawlings has 43 percent of the vote, Kunkle has 30 percent, and City Councilman Ron Natinsky has 25 percent. Edward Okpa has 2 percent. Kunkle now leads Natinsky for second place by almost 2,000 votes, but there’s still a ways to go. Remember, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June runoff assuming Rawlings doesn’t eclipse 50 percent.
In other Dallas races, with 20 of 56 precincts reporting, challenger Scott Griggs has expanded his lead over incumbent Dave Neumann in District 3. Griggs now has 59 percent to Neumann’s 41 percent, and appears well on his way to a rare upset of an incumbent. Griggs is endorsed by both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.
In District 14, with 11 of 59 precincts reporting, incumbent Angela Hunt maintains a hefty lead over gay candidate James Nowlin. Hunt has 63 percent to Nowlin’s 20 percent.
County Judge Clay Jenkins says he was not aware that sexual orientation didn’t include transgender people.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed today that he’s requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about adding transgender protections to the county’s employment nondiscrimination policy.
Jenkins’ request for information from county attorneys follows the Commissioners Court’s vote last week to add sexual orientation, but not gender identity, to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 employees.
Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, two newly elected Democrats who spearheaded the proposal to add sexual orientation to the policy, said they thought sexual orientation covered transgender employees, which experts say it does not.
Since then, Jenkins said he’s received about a dozen e-mails from people in the LGBT community — which he called a lot — asking him to revisit the issue.
“The reason that it’s not in there is not because we don’t support it,” Jenkins said of transgender protections. “I don’t want people to misinterpret that I wasn’t for one type of discrimination but somehow was for another type of discrimination. Nothing could be further from the truth than that.”
Jenkins said he’s asked the civil division of the DA’s office to assess the impact on county code of adding gender identity to the policy.
“It’s going to depend on getting three votes … and the first step is to look at what impact it would have,” Jenkins told Instant Tea. “I care about making sure that we have a welcome and open workplace for all, and discrimination against no one. I’m against any type of discrimination in the workplace. I’m for treating all people equally.”
Rafael McDonnell, of Resource Center Dallas, spoke during public comments of the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting Tuesday. McDonnell said he thanked commissioners for adding sexual orientation to the policy — which they did on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Maurine Dickey absent — and asked them to go back and add gender identity.
McDonnell said Commissioners Court rules prohibit him from speaking again during public comments for a month, so he encouraged others in the community to sign up to speak in coming weeks. To sign up, call the clerk’s office at 214-653-7886. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesdays in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St. in Dallas.
McDonnell and others also encouraged people in the LGBT community to contact all five commissioners to thank them for adding sexual orientation and ask them to add gender identity. Here is their contact info, with confirmed email addresses:
County Judge Clay Jenkins – 214-653-7949
When it comes to same-sex marriage, the nation is divided roughly into thirds, according to a new poll from Daily Kos.
Thirty-four percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, 31 percent favor civil unions and 31 percent are opposed to any legal recognition for gay couples, the poll showed.
The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, and Daily Kos says it will be asking the question every four weeks.
Not surprisingly, younger people and Democrats were more likely to support marriage equality, while Republicans, Teabaggers and older people were more likely to oppose it:
But there are some surprises in this poll, if one believed the claims that African Americans and Latinos are less tolerant than whites. In fact, this poll suggests the exact opposite. Of course, the sample sizes for both those demographics is small, so these numbers could just be a function of a large margin of error. It’ll be interesting to track them over time to see if they hold up as the number of Latino and African American respondents add up over time.