Community mourns ‘Chief’ Guy-Gainer

Gay 23-year Air Force vet became North Texas’ pre-eminent advocate for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

IMG_6362

PAYING RESPECTS | The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, center, who delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Dave Guy-Gainer on Feb. 7, also spoke at the impromptu candlelight memorial at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Feb. 4. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

American flags lined the walk in front of Cathedral of Hope for the funeral of Dave Guy-Gainer on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The 63-year-old gay Air Force veteran who served for 23 years and spent a decade working tirelessly for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” died unexpectedly Feb. 2.

At a hastily called memorial at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Saturday, Feb. 4, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink said, “I don’t know why Dave died, but I do know why he lived.”

Gainer.Dave

Dave Guy-Gainer

Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the day Guy-Gainer died was the saddest of his life.

And Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez recalled that on the day DADT repeal took effect last year, Guy-Gainer told him, “The fight’s not over.”

Among the continuing fights Guy-Gainer envisioned was acceptance by and service from the military’s Chaplain Corps. Toward that end, Guy-Gainer helped create the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. In October, he brought a group together from around the country for a meeting at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in Dallas to formalize plans for the forum.

And while gays, lesbians and bisexuals can now serve openly, Guy-Gainer continued to fight for the rights of transgender men and women to serve.

“It’s very sad for us,” said Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, where Guy-Gainer was a board member. “He was dedicated to state work as well as federal work.”

Guy-Gainer worked locally as well. In 2010, he ran as an openly gay candidate for City Council in Forest Hill, a small town south of Fort Worth in Tarrant County. Although he made it to the runoff, he lost to the 12-year incumbent by a few dozen votes.

In remarks at the funeral, gay retired Army Col. Paul Dodd said Guy-Gainer, who became the pre-eminent advocate for DADT repeal in North Texas, worked just as hard to end the problem of bullying. He alluded to Guy-Gainer’s death-by-suicide indirectly.

Dodd said that on Sept. 20, 2011, the day DADT repeal went into effect, Guy-Gainer wrote, “After a celebratory, euphoric high, this old airman crash landed tonight with reports of another youth who took his own life. We simply aren’t getting to the youth who are suffering.”

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, who was a close friend of Guy-Gainer’s and delivered the eulogy, talked about the suicide more directly. He said he felt anguished over how to deal with it in the funeral service.

“Everyone was hurting from it,” Sprinkle said. “Frustration, anger, guilt — that’s what I had to address.”

DADT-party

CELEBRATING REPEAL | Gay and lesbian veterans, including Dave Guy-Gainer, far right, identified themselves at a celebration at the Resource Center Dallas on Sept. 20, 2011, the day the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” went into effect. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

He said he decided to talk about Guy-Gainer’s suicide so that those mourning his loss wouldn’t treat it as a scandal but as a tragedy. And he said he needed to dismiss fundamentalist beliefs of eternal damnation for those who take their own lives.

“One of our tall trees fell, and we all feel it,” Sprinkle began his eulogy. “I begin with sighs too deep for words.”

He spoke about the biblical concept of lamentation.

“Lamentation is something the community needs to know how to do,” he said. “Suicide is a single act with plural effects that arose from problems and pain.”

But he said he’d simply miss Guy-Gainer’s “sweet, awkward goofiness” and praised him as a “relentless advocate for human rights” who fought “bullying and anti-LGBTQ religious bigotry.”

Guy-Gainer joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and served for 23 years. His work for the repeal of DADT and his LGBT activism began after another gay vet insisted he march in uniform in Austin’s Pride parade in 2001.

He became vice president of American Veterans for Equal Rights and served on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for about five years.

Gainer grew up in Charleston, W. Va., in what he called a “very, very fundamentalist family.”

In a 2009 profile published by Dallas Voice, he said growing up he knew he was gay, but that he was raised to be a minister.

“I figured, I’ll join the military, that’ll fix me,” he said. “I’ll get married like all the GIs did, and that’ll fix me. But you know what? It didn’t fix me.”

Guy-Gainer’s daughter, Brie, said that wasn’t his only reason to join the military.

“Dad has a true passion for the rights and duties of people who choose to live in a free country,” she wrote to Dallas Voice in 2009.

Guy-Gainer received five Meritorious Service medals and the Bronze Star and retired in 1990 as a chief master sergeant, a rank achieved by the top 1 percent of enlisted men and women.

He met his husband David Guy in 2000. They married in San Francisco in 2004 and had a commitment ceremony in Texas followed by a party at the military base in San Antonio where he worked at the time.

His work to end DADT earned him an invitation to the White House signing ceremony for the repeal legislation in December 2010. In September 2011, at a party celebrating the repeal going into effect, he donated boxes of papers relating to his work to the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library at Resource Center.

After the funeral service at Cathedral of Hope, Guy-Gainer was buried at the DFW National Cemetery in Dallas with full military honors.

Guy asked that donations be made to Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, in care of Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs, Dallas, Texas 75235.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Rawlings to meet with LGBT leaders

Protest planned outside City Hall over mayor’s refusal to sign marriage pledge

STRAINED RELATIONS | Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, shown during an interview with Dallas Voice last year, is under fire from the LGBT community for not only failing to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage — but also for his handling of the controversy. (Brent Paxton/Dallas Voice)

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Senior Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Activists from GetEQUAL plan a rally outside Dallas City Hall on Friday night, Jan. 27 to call on Mayor Mike Rawlings to change his mind and sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Rawlings is set to meet privately Saturday, Jan. 28 with a group of 20-25 LGBT leaders to discuss his decision not to sign the pledge.

However, LGBT activists said this week that their beef with Rawlings, who took office last summer, now extends beyond the pledge itself.

They said they’ve been very alarmed by the language and tone Rawlings has used in defending his decision not to sign the pledge in the media.

Most recently, on Wednesday, Rawlings told WFAA-TV that the marriage pledge — signed by more than 100 mayors across the country, including from all eight cities larger than Dallas — was an example of “getting off track” and that the issue of marriage equality is not “relevant to the lion’s share of the citizens of Dallas.”

“Sadly, I think the more he talks about this in the press, the more he digs in as completely out of touch,” said Patti Fink, president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. “He’s really pissing off our community. We really have a much deeper, more profound problem than this pledge. … This mayor is naïve. We’re not irrelevant, and we are a part of the lion’s share.”

Fink noted that DGLA issued a rare warning against voting for Rawlings in 2011.

“We certainly hoped that he would prove us wrong when we put a warning on him last year, but I fear that perhaps that warning was well justified, because it certainly appears from this encounter that he puts business before civil rights, which was the essence of our warning,” Fink said.

Paula Blackmon, Rawlings’ chief of staff, said he wasn’t available for comment Thursday. Rawlings told Dallas Voice last week that although he personally supports marriage equality, he didn’t sign the pledge because he wants to avoid social issues that don’t impact the city.

Daniel Cates of GetEQUAL, which is organizing Friday night’s protest, also questioned Rawlings’ handling of the controversy. On Monday, Blackmon told Dallas Voice that Rawlings was skipping a “Meet the Mayor” community meeting in Kiest Park because it would be unfair to subject other residents to an LGBT protest. “He just does not want to put them through that,” Blackmon said.

Cates called such language “damaging and destructive” and said it smacks of “thinly veiled homophobia.”

Rawlings’ decision to skip the Kiest Park meeting appeared to backfire when residents who showed up called him “cowardly” for dodging the protest.

“I think he’s got the worst PR team on earth,” Cates said.

Cates said Friday’s “Sign the Pledge” rally, set for 7 p.m. outside City Hall, will include speakers and a chance for people to address personal notes, including family photos, to the mayor. Cates said he planned to hand-deliver the correspondence to Rawlings at Saturday’s meeting.

“The goal is really for our mayor to finally have his policy match what he says his personal views are,” Cates said. “We are going to continue to apply pressure, and that can stop whenever he wants.”

Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of the Resource Center, organized Saturday’s invitation-only meeting between Rawlings and LGBT leaders.

Cox said she reached out to the mayor’s office last week after his explanation for not signing the pledge “sent up about 100 red flags.”

Saturday’s meeting, which is closed to the media, is scheduled for an hour and a half. In addition to the marriage pledge, Cox said she hopes to address other LGBT-related city issues including transgender health benefits, pension benefits for the domestic partners of employees, nondiscrimination requirements for contractors and mandatory diversity training.

Pam Gerber, one of Rawlings’ prominent LGBT supporters during last year’s campaign, said she’s willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and she hopes something positive will come out of the meeting.

Gerber noted that even though neither DGLA nor Stonewall Democrats endorsed Rawlings, he appeared at a gay Pride month reception his first day in office and later rode in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

“If he absolutely will not sign it, then how do we leverage this opportunity to bring something good about for our community?” Gerber said. “I’m not 100 percent confident that he won’t change his mind, because he is a good man who is incredibly well-intentioned. But if that’s the case, then we need to be pragmatic about it and figure out how to move forward and make gains for the LGBT community, instead of looking at the whole thing as all or nothing.”

Fink seemed less optimistic, and she said no matter what, it’s unlikely the conversation will end this weekend.

“This is an education hill we must climb together as a community and engage him as much as possible,” Fink said. “He is not leaving us behind because we are going to be pulling on the cuffs of his trousers every step of the way, and he will not marginalize the LGBT community of Dallas.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: More video of LGBT advocates speaking at Dallas County Commissioners Court

In the video above are Annemarie St. John, Tori Van Fleet and Cece Cox. In the video below are Elizabeth Lopez, Patti Fink and Stephen Sprinkle. To watch the other six speakers, go here.

—  John Wright

Students launch gay group at Baylor University

More than 50 students reportedly met last week to discuss forming an LGBT student group at Baylor University. (Baylor Lariat)

Patti Fink, a Baylor University alum who serves as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, alerted us to this story from the Baylor Lariat newspaper about a new group for LGBT students at the Baptist school in Waco:

The group, named the Sexual Identity Forum, is in the process of applying to be an officially chartered student organization at Baylor, and its founding members expect a final decision on the chartering to be made before the end of the month.

Alvarado senior Samantha Jones, the organization’s president who affirmed during the meeting that she is openly gay, said she was motivated to start a discussion group because she believes the administration has not always been accepting of students with alternative sexual identities.

“I feel as though the student body in and of itself is very welcoming,” Jones said. “Everyone I’ve come out to or approached has been very welcoming and very compassionate and tolerant. I feel as though the high administration … refuses to recognize that there are gay students on campus, and they refuse to allow a group like this to exist.”

The story goes on to say that Baylor prohibits students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” However, the university’s director of students services wouldn’t comment on whether the Sexual Identity Forum is likely to receive a charter.

This is a remarkable development at a school where Kenneth Starr is president and where, in the past, students have been expelled for being gay.

UPDATE: The group’s charter has been denied. Read more here.

—  John Wright