13 LGBT Dallas employees honored for participating in ‘It Gets Better’ video

ItGetsBetter

City employees who took part in an It Gets Better video with council members and video funders Ed Oakley and Greg Kilhoffer.

Dallas City Councilwoman Delia Jasso honored 13 LGBT city employees who participated in the city of Dallas “It Gets Better” video at a council briefing this morning.

Jasso said what the employees did was truly special.

“They sat in front of a movie camera and told stories of being picked on and bullied at school and losing family and friends,” Jasso said.

She said she was proud this video that has been viewed more than 3,000 times. She also thanked former Councilman Ed Oakley and Caven Enterprises President Greg Kilhoffer for providing the funding.

“To make the video happen quickly took money,” Jasso said.

Oakley described the 13 participants as people you work with everyday who revealed part of their life you don’t know about. He said he hoped the video would inspire LGBT youth to know they could serve on City Council or run for mayor.

He said some of the people in the video he worked with everyday when he served on the council and didn’t know they were part of the community.

Mayor Mike Rawlings concluded the presentation.

“I love our LGBT community,” Rawlings said.

—  David Taffet

Delia Jasso to recognize employees featured in city’s ‘It Gets Better’ video

Councilwoman Delia Jasso addresses an audience of  about 80 people at the LGBT Pride month kick-off Wednesday in the Flag Room at City Hall. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Councilwoman Delia Jasso at Dallas City Hall

Councilwoman Delia Jasso will recognize Dallas city employees who participated in the city’s “It Gets Better” video released in January at the council briefing tomorrow.

The video includes 13 LGBT city employees who told their coming out and bullying experiences. They talk about challenges they faced, hoping to inspire others who are struggling with their identity. Also featured are Mayor Mike Rawlings and City Manager Mary Suhm.

The video is part of the It Gets Better Project, whose mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that their situations will get better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.

At tomorrow’s council briefing, Councilwoman Delia Jasso will recognize the city employees who participated, as well as Ed Oakley, Gregg Kilhoffer and Caven Enterprises, who funded the video’s production.

The meeting takes place at Dallas City Hall, Council Briefing Room – 6ES, 1500 Marilla St. tomorrow at 9 a.m.

—  David Taffet

Tom Leppert convinces evangelical leaders he’s sufficiently ex-gay-friendly to represent Texas

I was baffled when I saw this headline in the DMN last week, because the story was over a year late. I now suspect the newspaper was just doing its part to help Leppert distance himself from his past.

In November 2009, after then-Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert enthusiastically joined the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas, I opined here on Instant Tea that the move was purely politically motivated because Leppert was planning to run for U.S. Senate. After calling Leppert’s decision to join First Baptist “a slap in the face to not only the LGBT community, but also to Hindus, Muslims and Mormons,” I wrote that it would be “good riddance for Dallas if he steps down to run” for Senate.

Not surprisingly, Leppert’s office, including openly gay chief of staff Chris Heinbaugh, didn’t take kindly to my comments, and let’s just say I ended up being called on the carpet. But to this day, I stand by those statements, and in retrospect, it would certainly appear as though they were dead on.

When he did finally step down as mayor to run for Senate, Leppert promptly sent out his infamous anti-gay tweet, before coming out against both same-sex marriage and civil unions on his campaign website. During his Senate run, Leppert has been attacked by the other GOP candidates for appearing at gay Pride twice while mayor, but now it looks like he’s managed to win over some of the folks you’d expect to be most critical of his decision to participate in such an “orgy” of “drunken revelries,” in the words of Lela Pittinger.

The Dallas Morning News reports today that a group of evangelical pastors, led by none other than First Baptist’s Robert Jeffress, has formally endorsed the former mayor. The group includes others such as David Dykes of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Randel Everett of First Baptist Church of Midland, etc. (On a side note, we’re sure the DMN’s main headline on its Metro page last Friday quoting Ed Oakley as saying Leppert had “abandoned gays” didn’t hurt his cause among the pastors. At first I was baffled by this headline because it was over a full year late, but now I consider it to be nothing more than a ceremonial political ex-gay cleansing by the city fathers, if you will.)

As I wrote last month, it’s sad to think that on paper at least, Leppert may be the least anti-gay of the four major GOP candidates for Senate. But I don’t care, I’ll still be glad when he comes in third May 29 behind Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former solicitor general Ted Cruz. And in the highly unlikely event that Leppert were to decide to never again run for public office, it would indeed be good riddance.

—  John Wright

ELECTION: Mayor’s role vital for LGBTs

Gay former councilman says that choice between Rawlings, Kunkle means gay community ‘can’t lose’

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Even though Dallas has a “weak mayor” form of government where the city manager is the person with actual control over the city’s day-to-day operations, having mayor who supports LGBT equality is still very important for Dallas’ LGBT community, advocates said this week.

Voters go to the polls Saturday, June 18, to decide whether Mike Rawlings or David Kunkle will replace Tom Leppert, who resigned from office earlier this year to run to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison in the U.S. Senate. Although Leppert reached out to the LGBT community for votes, pledging his support on LGBT equality issues, when he ran against gay candidate Ed Oakley in 2007, in recent months he appeared to backtrack on those issues as he prepared for his senate campaign.

Ed Oakley

Oakley, a former City Council member, said this week that having elected officials who understand and embrace the diversity of the city played an integral part in progress the city has made on LGBT issues.

“We wouldn’t have passed [the] nondiscrimination [ordinance including protections for LGBT people] if Laura Miller wasn’t sitting in that [the mayor’s] seat,” he said.

Miller, who had campaigned on adding a nondiscrimination ordinance, put it at the top of her agenda when she came into office.

“The city manager could not have done that,” Oakley said. “The mayor accomplishes what he wants to accomplish.”

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink agreed.

“Until Laura Miller made it [the nondiscrimination ordinance] a priority and put it on the agenda, it didn’t happen,” she said.

She said that although the city has a strong city manager form of government, the mayor can be an advocate, and he or she is the one that presides over the council that sets policy.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez said the mayor is the face of the city.

“The mayor makes sure people and city services are being taken care of. He makes sure our civil rights are being protected. His big job is promoting the city,” Narvaez said.

And the city’s LGBT community can play a big role in who wins the seat this year.

In the general election on May 14, turnout in what are considered the top 10 precincts in the LGBT community, mostly in Oak Lawn and North Oak Cliff, was 38 percent, compared to a citywide turnout rate of only 11 percent.

Patti Fink

And if early voting totals are any indication, LGBT voters have the chance to play an even bigger role in the runoff outcome. In the May election, 46,109 people voted early in Dallas County.

In the runoff, only 27,962 voted early.

Narvaez said that because voter turnout is traditionally low in runoff elections, the LGBT community could decide the mayor’s race.

“People [in our community] were heavily engaged in this election,” Narvaez said. “I don’t see them suddenly not voting for mayor.”

While DGLA and Stonewall Democrats have both endorsed David Kunkle in the runoff, Mike Rawlings has the support of many members of the LGBT community, including several gay former elected officials.

Both candidates actively sought the endorsement of both DGLA and Stonewall, and both have actively campaigned in the community.

Oakley said that Rawlings’ life experiences are different than some members of the City Council that Oakely served with who did not support LGBT issues.

“He faced our issues in the corporate world,” Oakley said.

He said that Rawlings’ company, Pizza Hut, had nondiscrimination policies in place and embraced diversity.

Fink said Kunkle has a prove, and public, record on LGBT issues.

“Kunkle has a proven record working in the community and being an advocate for us,” she said, noting that as police chief, Kunkle turned the LGBT Dallas police liaison position into a fulltime position and presided over the police department while an officer transitioned without incident and with his support.

“And we worked with him on diversity training,” she said.

Former Dallas City Councilmember Chris Luna said, “The biggest role the mayor plays is cheerleader, spokesperson and figurative head of government.”

Chris Luna

He said that when something like the Rainbow Lounge raid in Fort Worth or a raid at a gay bathhouse happens, the mayor’s job is to say, “This is wrong. I’m going to go gather the facts.”

The mayor needs to know when something’s wrong, he said.

“That’s why so many people feel burned by Leppert,” he said.

Luna said that the mayor also appoints the chairs to all boards and commissions, which many council members served on before being elected to office and Rawlings was president of the park board.

The mayor makes committee assignments. When Councilmember Angela Hunt opposed Leppert’s positions, he took away those assignments away.

“The mayor helps distribute the power,” Luna said.

In the race between Kunkle and Rawlings, Luna said, “I have my preference, but from a community standpoint, we can’t lose.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Suspect arrested in murder of gay E. Dallas couple found in burned apartment

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A 23-year-old homeless man has been arrested in the murder of a gay Dallas couple found dead inside their burned-out apartment last month, The Dallas Morning News reports. The suspect, Oscar Mirelez Young, told police that one of the victims picked him up for sex and that he and an accomplice planned to rob the couple. Mike Humphrey, 59, and Clayton Capshaw, 61, were found dead in their apartment in the 11200 block of Woodmeadow Parkway on April 27, after the apartment was set on fire to cover up the crime. Humphrey reportedly had a habit of going to the Bridge, Dallas’ homeless shelter, and picking up men for sex. Young was captured in Uvalde, west of San Antonio, after being pulled over while driving a stolen vehicle, and admitting that he killed two people in Dallas. Young faces a charge of capital murder. The second suspect is still being sought.

Ed Oakley

2. We’ll have more on last night’s LGBT mayoral forum at the Cathedral of Hope in a bit, but for now I wanted to point you to this clever headline in the DMN: “Peace, love and understanding mark Dallas mayoral debate at Cathedral of Hope.” The DMN also reports that openly gay former Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley has endorsed Mike Rawlings for mayor. Oakley previously backed Ron Natinsky, who didn’t make the runoff. Oakley was defeated in a runoff for mayor by Tom Leppert in 2007.

Joel Burns

3. Anti-bullying language is included in standards of care for Fort Worth’s youth programs adopted by the City Council on Tuesdsay night, according to the Star-Telegram. Gay Councilman Joel Burns applauded the ordinance adopting the standards for children ages 5 to 13, which mirrors language in an anti-bullying bill that passed the Texas House on Tuesday night. The House voted 118-26 to concur with changes to the bill, HB 1942, and it now proceeds to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk. The bill, by Rep. Diane Howard, R-Arlington, is Equality Texas’ top priority in this year’s legislative session.

—  John Wright

Turnout key in Dallas mayoral runoff

Mike Rawlings, left, and David Kunkle

Kunkle, Rawlings pledge to stay on message; advocates say LGBT vote could have significant impact

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Turnout. That’s the key for Dallas mayoral candidates who wrangled their way into runoffs after the May 14 general elections.

Mike Rawlings and David Kunkle are facing off in the June 18 runoff, and both said this week that turnout and support in the LGBT community will play key roles.

Gay former Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley knows something about runoff strategies. Four years ago, he lost his bid for mayor in a runoff with Tom Leppert. Oakley said this week that Rawlings and Kunkle “have about five weeks now to get their voters re-energized to go back to the polls” on June 18. It won’t be an easy task.

“They have to raise about the same amount of money they raised for the general election [to pay for] advertising on TV, mailers — all the same things they paid for before,” Oakley said. “On top of that, the candidates will end up having to do all the debates all over again.

“It’s totally different in a runoff. Messages get refined,” he added. “In my race, we ran a great ground campaign and we raised the money, but we got off message. The media started targeting the gay issue” — Oakley was in a position to become the first openly gay mayor of a large U.S. city, which became a focus in the media — “and that became such a big issue that our message got lost.”

Oakley also predicted that Kunkle, who got 32 percent of the general election vote, faces an uphill battle against Rawlings, who ended the general election with 41 percent. Rawlings outspent all three of his general election opponents, while Kunkle relied on a strong grassroots effort.

“You have to hand it to [Kunkle] and his staff. They ran a great grassroots campaign to get into the runoff. But while the grassroots campaign is great, in a runoff he has to be able to spend the money to reach out to different voters, and I think he is going to be a little handicapped,” Oakley said.

Kunkle himself said this week that “in the most simple terms, I have to get my voters out a second time and try to get as many of [third-place finisher] Ron Natinsky’s supporters over to my side as possible.”

Kunkle said he will focus on his vision for the city, and will work to differentiate himself from Rawlings and his approach to governing Dallas.

“We are two different people with different backgrounds, different values and different decision-making processes,” Kunkle said. “I know this city, its neighborhoods and its people, and my priority is creating strong, livable neighborhoods, and building a good future for the city by driving sustainable economic development.”

Rawlings said his efforts leading up to the runoff will be to “do what I always do, which is look at what has worked and keep doing that.”

Rawlings said he will focus on “improving in areas where I did well [in getting votes], but also looking at those areas where I didn’t knock it over the fence and try to improve there, like in Angela Hunt’s district, District 14.”

Rawlings said he believes his message in the general election “resonated well with the voters,” considering that he garnered 41 percent of the vote, and he believes that those who supported Natinsky before will be drawn to his campaign now.

“I think my message as far as economic development and focusing on growth as a city matches up very nicely with what Natinsky’s supporters are looking for.”

Both Rawlings and Kunkle said they believe support in the LGBT community is essential for a runoff victory.

“I have always appreciated so much the friendships I have had for a long time in the LGBT community and the new friendships I have made during this campaign,” Rawlings said. “I think the LGBT community is a great example of what makes Dallas strong, and that is inclusion, rather than exclusion.

“More than that, I think it comes down to how we treat each other and the degree of civility involved. That should go beyond group to group; it’s about individual to individual. Government should do a better job in that area, and I have decided I will make a difference in that” if elected.

Kunkle pointed to his long-standing relationship with the LGBT community dating back to his days as Dallas police chief.

“I have the support of Stonewall Democrats, and I won all the precincts that are identified as strong GLBT precincts,” Kunkle said. “One of the things that makes Dallas successful as a city is that it is a cool place to live, and it has a growing economy, and I think people in the GLBT community can feel comfortable coming to Dallas, given the equal opportunity here in employment and the strong community that exists here.

“And the reason [LGBT people] come to Dallas is not because it has this giant downtown where you can go work in some corporate headquarters, but because it has strong neighborhoods and a strong community. That’s what I want to help to grow and improve.”

LGBT support

Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink and DGLA PAC Chair Damien Duckett this week agreed that the LGBT community could have a significant impact on the outcome of the mayoral runoff.

DGLA endorsed Natinsky in the general election, and Duckett said the PAC is meeting Friday, May 20, to “determine whether we want to recommend a new slate of candidates for the runoff, and that include the mayor’s race, since our endorsed candidate didn’t make it through.”

But, Duckett said, DGLA isn’t considering new endorsements just because the organization’s original candidate didn’t make the runoff.

“It’s our responsibility to make a recommendation to our community, based on the candidates who are available,” he said. “We have a responsibility to make sure our community hears from us.”

In issuing endorsements for the general election DGLA not only backed Natinsky, the organization also issued a “warning” against Rawlings, saying his strong focus on business and economic development might override his commitment on civil rights issues.

Duckett said one issue that concerns him in the runoff is “whether the candidates are keeping honest. This is the runoff; this is sudden death. And this is where candidates can get desperate and start slinging mud, where they start making promises they don’t intend to keep and showing false sincerity in paying attention to issues presented to them.

“I hope our mayoral candidates are being honest instead of just saying something that is politically expedient,” he added. “I hope the voters and the media will really pay attention to what is said in the coming weeks and how that measures up to what was said in the general election.”

Fink pointed out that especially in elections where turnout is low — as was the case with the May 14 general election in Dallas and is likely to be the case in the June 18 runoff — the LGBT community, if it turns out in force, “has a real opportunity to have our votes become more inflated in terms of influence.”

She pointed to the District 6 council race where Monica Alonza, endorsed by Stonewall Democrats, defeated Luis Sepulveda, endorsed by DGLA. Only 1,035 people voted in that race, with Alonzo getting 634 votes to Sepulveda’s 401.

“If we [DGLA] had just mobilized 200 people in our community in District 6 to get out in vote on Election Day, that would have been huge in that race. That would have been one-fifth of the total electorate in that race,” Fink said.

“Turnout is, historically, much lower in runoffs, and the smaller the number of total votes in an election, the more impact each vote has,” she added.
“Our community, if we will turn out and vote, could have tremendous impact on who is the next mayor of Dallas.”

Watch the May 27 issue of Dallas Voice for coverage of the mayoral runoff in Fort Worth’ and in Chris Hightower’s runoff effort to become the first openly gay member of the Arlington City Council.

—  John Wright

Low turnout could amplify gay vote

Dallas mayoral candidates make final pitch to LGBTs

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE:
COMMUNITY SPLIT OVER DISTRICT 14 RACE
FORT WORTH ELECTION ROUNDUP

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

With turnout expected to be dismal for Saturday’s municipal elections, LGBT voters could play a pivotal role in determining which two candidates advance to an all-but-certain runoff for Dallas mayor.

It’s arguably the gay-friendliest field in the city’s history, with all three major candidates seeking the endorsement of both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. And all three — David Kunkle, Ron Natinsky and Mike Rawlings — have their share of high-profile supporters in a community that’s still smarting from the betrayal of former Mayor Tom Leppert.

Overall turnout in municipal elections is expected to hover around 10 percent, or just 50,000 of the city’s half-million registered voters. But with hotly contested council races in Districts 3 and 14, as well as a gay candidate in District 7, turnout among LGBT voters could be much higher.

“With a turnout as small as it’s predicted to be, for everyone who goes to the polls, their turnout almost counts multiple times,” Natinsky said this week. “Every vote becomes more important. We’re just trying to get voters out.”

In an interview with Dallas Voice, Natinsky again touted his record of support for the LGBT community during six years on the council, as well as the backing of three openly gay former councilmembers. Natinsky was also endorsed by the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

“I have not hesitated from day one, or previous to that, over the years to participate and support the GBLT community,” Natinsky said. “I think I’ve got a lot of strong supporters and friends within the community, who are seriously out there working hard to help me get elected, and they wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t believe in me. And the difference is that I’m a proven quantity.”

Even in a nonpartisan race, Natinsky’s Republican Party affiliation could hurt him among some LGBT voters. But gay former Councilman Ed Oakley, a Democrat who lost a runoff for mayor to Leppert four years ago, said he doesn’t think it should.

“I’m supporting him because he’s the right person at the right time for Dallas, and I don’t care if he’s a Republican,” Oakley said recently. “I wish everybody would just put their partisan issues aside and look at the candidates, and support who you think is the best person.”

Natinsky initially sought the backing of Stonewall Democrats but withdrew from the screening process at the last minute over questions about whether his party affiliation would make him ineligible for the group’s endorsement.

Stonewall Democrats voted to endorse to Kunkle, the former Dallas police chief who this week predicted he will win the overall LGBT vote.

“I believe that I will be the one who will work the hardest to make their [LGBT residents’] lives better and also to help grow the economy in a way [in which] they will personally prosper,” Kunkle said. “I think I will do better [than the other candidates] within the LGBT community. I think the Stonewall Democrats’ support carries a lot of weight. … I’m not going to change who I am and what I believe. My core, basic way of thinking and reacting is not going to change, and that will be supportive of the GLBT community.”

Both Natinsky and Rawlings said recently during a forum that they opposed Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. But Kunkle said only that he didn’t vote on the amendment.

This week Kunkle clarified that if he did vote, he would have voted against the amendment.

“It seems to me that if two people love each other and want to commit to each other … that’s not a bad thing to happen in society,” Kunkle said.

Jesse Garcia, a past president of Stonewall who’s backing Kunkle, pointed to things like the former chief’s support for a full-time LGBT liaison officer at DPD.

“I’ve had the honor of meeting all four candidates for mayor. I respect their decisions to seek office and truly believe they want what’s best for Dallas,” Garcia said. “But when it comes to the LGBT community, Kunkle stands out as someone that was tested on LGBT issues and made the right call.”

Rawlings, who’s raised by far the most money and is perhaps an odds-on favorite to at least make the runoff, said his plan for economic development and philosophy of inclusion makes him the best candidate for the LGBT community.

“When this city is grown in the correct way, we all win, and most of the LGBT community I know are very pro-growth, are great professionals, and want to have a fabulous business environment,” Rawlings said. “We have the ninth-largest city in this country, and the more we include all the diversity throughout the city, I think the stronger we are.”

In endorsing Natinsky, DGLA issued a rare “warning” about Rawlings, saying the former Pizza Hut CEO’s “passion for commerce and business interests supremely overwhelms his appreciation for the civil rights of all people.”

But Rawlings has vehemently denied DGLA’s accusation, saying he demonstrated his willingness to stand up for people’s civil rights as the city’s homeless czar.

“I don’t think any CEO that I know has spent five years dealing and working with the homeless,” Rawlings said. “If I’m able to do that, I would think I could do it for groups that are much more powerful than them, and I think the LGBT community is one of them.”

Lesbian activist Pam Gerber, a member of both DGLA and Stonewall, has called DGLA’s warning about Rawlings “irresponsible” and immature.”

Gerber, also a member of a city task force on LGBT issues, said this week she’s supporting Rawlings because he has “the right combination of skills.”

“Whether it was him running a successful company or running a successful nonprofit endeavor, he’s proven that he can do it all, and I think that’s a valuable pallet of skills,” Gerber said. “I just think Mike has more to offer.”

But Gerber added that she doesn’t think any of the three major candidates would do harm to the LGBT community as mayor.

“I think they all have our best interests in mind,” Gerber said. “I think we’re really lucky to have the candidates we have. The only thing we’re not lucky about is the apathy of our community to get out and vote.”

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. For a full list of locations, go to www.dalcoelections.org.

—  John Wright