Play about Dianne Hardy-Garcia debuts

Dianne Hardy-Garcia

Just Outside Redemption is a new play inspired by the work of Dianne Hardy-Garcia, former executive director of the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas (now Equality Texas) and the LGBT community’s fight for inclusion in the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

Hardy-Garcia led LGRL through the 1990s and devoted much of her time to attending the murder trials of those accused of hate crimes around the state. She was voted most effective lobbyist in Austin.

Her nemesis in the Legislature was Rep. Warren Chisum from Pampa, one of the most conservative members of the House. Whenever she saw him, she would stick out her hand and say, “Rep. Chisum, I need your vote.” If he saw her coming, he would go in the other direction. In 2001, however, she got his vote and the hate crime bill passed with “sexual preference.”

Just Outside Redemption debuts tonight in Austin at the City Theater. Saturday night’s performance is a benefit for Equality Texas. From the producing company Theatre en Bloc:

The play dramatizes the personal, professional and political sacrifices involved in the fight for hate crimes legislation in the Lone Star State in the 1990′s.

Based on actual events and set in the city where it all happened, Austin, this play is an honest and emotional observation of Dianne Hardy-Garcia’s journey to include sexual orientation in a bill that would eventually become the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act.

This legislation was the precursor to the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The story is a triumphant reflection of how government can enact laws that ultimately bend the course of history toward justice.

Tickets are available at 512-522-4083.

—  David Taffet

PHOTO: 6 who’ve led Texas’ statewide gay-rights group gather at service for Bettie Naylor

The executive directors are, from left, Randall Ellis, Paul Scott, Laurie Eiserloh, Dianne Hardy Garcia, Glen Maxey and Dennis Coleman.

All of the former executive directors of Equality Texas, originally known as the Lesbian Gay Rights Lobby, as well as its current leader gathered in Austin on May 5 for a memorial service for Bettie Naylor.

Among those attending the service to honor the group’s founder were current Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman and the group’s first director, Glen Maxey. Maxey left the organization to run for the Texas House of Representatives. He remains the only out person to have served in the Legislature. The other executive directors are Randall Ellis, Paul Scott, Laurie Eiserloh, Dianne Hardy Garcia

After coming out in her 50s, Naylor began lobbying the Texas legislature on gay and lesbian issues. Her efforts evolved into what is now Equality Texas.

Naylor, 84, died April 18. She was also a founder of Annie’s List and Human Rights Campaign. Before coming out, she lobbied the Texas Legislature about women’s issues since the 1960s.

—  David Taffet