The power of coming out

ABC News co-anchor Dan Koeffler set an example we all should follow if we want to reach the goal of equality

dan-kloeffler

Dan Koeffler

There’s probably never before been a safer — or more critical — time in American culture and politics for LGBT people to come out and acknowledge their identities.

This week when Dan Koeffler, an ABC News co-anchor on the World News Now show, acknowledged he was gay, in a reference to Star Trek actor Zach Quinto, Koeffler likely caused a lot of people to realize we might just pop up anywhere — even on TV at 3 a.m.

The television personality’s off-hand quip that he might drop his rule against dating actors in favor of Quinto, who recently came out in a New York Magazine interview, might serve as an good example for members of our community who have thus far opened the closet door only a little bit.

The television journalist’s declaration hopefully will inspire LGBT people who are tired of listening to Republican presidential candidates backed by evangelical stooges, condemn us and threaten to rollback our hard-won human rights gains.

If there was ever a moment for us to stand up against the likes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was introduced recently at a campaign event by First Baptist Church of Dallas’ senior pastor Robert Jeffress, it is now. The thought of Jeffress — who has made a pastoral career out of trampling on the rights of LGBT people — having the ear of the next U.S. president ought to be enough to scare anyone into action.

If Jeffress would dare to publicly condemn the Mormon faith of Perry’s Republican political rival Mitt Romney in a weaselly attack before reporters after the event, what retributions against our community might he attempt to exact in exchange for helping deliver the evangelical vote to Perry in a presidential election?

We’re talking about an obsessed man who goes on TV to rail against anyone who doesn’t follow his religious philosophy, declaring that merely being a good person is not enough. Anyone one who doesn’t want to burn in hell must believe as Jeffress does, according to his sermons.

A friend of Perry’s who has known him for more than a half-century told me recently that the governor is more enlightened and tolerant than the LGBT community perceives him to be. But I don’t buy that — especially after he failed to condemn Jeffress’ outrageous remarks.

The message doesn’t get much better over in the camp of Herman Cain, who has vowed to veto the Employment Non-Discrimination Act if it were to pass Congress if he is elected to the presidency. There are other Republican candidates, such as Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman, vying for the party’s presidential nomination that are just as scary. But they appear to be trailing so significantly in

David-Webb

David Webb The Rare Reporter

the polls that they aren’t a threat — at least for now.

Veteran LGBT activists have long known and shared their wisdom with us about the need for people to come out and stand united against hypocrisy and bigotry. And much has been accomplished as a result. There is strength in numbers, and to quote one of my favorite gay activists, William Waybourn of Washington D.C., “If everyone who is gay came out at once, the discrimination and bullying would stop immediately.”

That obviously won’t ever happen, but it does present a strong argument for the kind of mass, non-threatening demonstration that is the philosophy of the National Coming Out Day. The event has already passed this year, but there is nothing to say we couldn’t declare 2012 a coming out year in light of the importance of the national election.

Bullying is something everyone needs to remember and condemn, and it’s what Kloeffler said was on his mind when he came out on national television in the early morning television broadcast. He was referring to a gay teenager, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, N.Y., who had valiantly fought intolerance and violent anti-gay discrimination to the point of posting a YouTube video titled “It Gets Better,” only to finally succumb to suicide when he lost the will to endure more intolerance from his peers.

Although Koeffler was likely confident he would suffer no repercussions at work nor in the rest of his life by his admission, it was still a courageous move, apparently undertaken in an effort to help others in less comfortable situations. Too many people who could make a difference sit by idly and silently when opportunities arise to speak out against intolerance and discrimination. And Koeffler acknowledged he had been one of those for quite some time.

When it comes to anti-gay discrimination and bullying or any other class of prejudice, situations just don’t get any better without concerted resistance on the part of the oppressed. I know this because I have in the past tried to reason with evangelical Christians, including a close associate of Jeffress’, whom I have known most of my life.

Their reaction to my pleas for compassion as regards the plight of young LGBT people who are victims of anti-gay bullying and other issues involving discrimination was something along the lines of, “They deserve what they get.”

A typical response during the conversations was a flabbergasting, “We are so far apart on this,” which was based solely on what I consider to be misguided religious beliefs.

What I learned from trying to reason with the opponents of our quest for equal rights is that it was destined from the start to be a fruitless endeavor, and that our only hope in attracting allies is to appeal to the compassion of open-minded individuals who believe in fairness.

Even if that wasn’t Koeffler’s conscious objective in speaking out on the broadcast, I think his words probably reached a lot of people who are realizing our sheer numbers necessitate them giving more thought to our mission.
Maybe it’s a good time for others to follow Koeffler’s lead and see what kind of difference they might be able to make in spreading tolerance and fairness in their communities.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Ed Oakley: ‘What is [Tom Leppert] smoking?’

Ed Oakley is shown alongside Tom Leppert during a runoff debate in 2007.

Turns out we aren’t the only ones concerned about the potential negative impact of Tom Leppert’s gay-loving past on his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012. From a Dallas Morning News article Sunday about Leppert’s chances, which appeared under the headline, “Ex-Dallas mayor Tom Leppert faces tough odds in U.S. Senate run”:

There are photos of Leppert participating in Dallas parades celebrating gay pride, which could cause angst for conservative voters, as well. …

But Leppert says he’ll be able to convince voters that he has the tools.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I always have been,” he said. “What our issues have to be is building a tax base. What you’ve got to do is grow the economy. I want to make a difference on those national economic issues.”

Leppert said he’s guided by his faith on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. He’s a member of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. He’s against abortion and believes marriage is between a man and woman.

“On the fiscal issues, on the spending issues, you’re going to find me as conservative as anybody,” he said. “On the social issues, I view those as faith issues. I’m comfortable talking about them, but I don’t want to lose sight on what’s going to make a difference.”

Leppert, of course, never mentioned his anti-LGBT views while serving as mayor. In fact, when we asked Leppert about marriage equality in 2008, he told us he was undecided on the issue. But don’t feel bad, because the LGBT community isn’t the only thing Leppert was for before he was against it. In a separate article on Sunday, the Morning News reported that Leppert, who championed the Trinity River Project as mayor, is now suddenly opposed to funding the project with earmarks. The article quotes openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley, who was defeated by Leppert in the mayor’s race in 2007:

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Navy investigates sex videos; Prop 8-backing pastor accused of pedophilia

1. The Navy has launched an investigation into a series of raunchy sex videos that were shown to the crew of an aircraft carrier deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007. A Navy spokesman called the videos, uncovered by The Virginia-Pilot newspaper, “clearly inappropriate.” Gee, ya think? The videos, which contain anti-gay slurs and simulated sex acts, reportedly were produced by Capt. Owen Honors, who at the time was second-in-command of the carrier, the USS Enterprise. Powers has since taken command of the carrier, which is scheduled to deploy in a few weeks. This is just a wild guess, but we’re saying Honors won’t be aboard the ship when it leaves Norfolk.

2. California pastor and Prop 8 supporter Tom Daniels is being held on $6 million bail after being charged with multiple sexual assaults of a child. In other words, this guy thinks gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, but it’s fine for him to rape kids. Daniels, who made two monetary donations to Yes on 8, is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Rio Linda in Sacramento County.

3. Have we mentioned that there’s no hope for ENDA or DOMA in the new Congress?

—  John Wright

Gov. Perry wages war on Christmas. Shouldn’t he be on First Baptist Church’s ‘Naughty List’?

Pastor Robert Jeffress needs to give Gov. Rick Perry a big spanking, or maybe a lump of something that’s rock hard. That’s because Perry has been a naughty, naughty boy and once again left out any mention of Christmas in his family’s holiday card. Needless to say, Instant Tea didn’t actually receive one of these, but according to the Texas Freedom Network, the card is shown above. And as you can see, it says, “We wish you Joy from our hearts.” Joy my ass. There appears to be a Psalm at the bottom, but if you think that counts, you’ve obviously made some sort of deal with the Devil. Perry himself has accused the American Civil Liberties Union of waging “war on Christmas.” And, of course, he’s closely tied to a lot of the nutjobs like Jeffress who have weird sexual fantasies involving the Grinch. So why hasn’t anyone said anything about this card, the TFN wonders:

So where are the howls of protest from the religious right about Gov. Perry’s personal “war on Christmas”? We hear nothing but crickets chirping. Why? Because groups like AFA and Liberty Institute aren’t serious. Their “war on Christmas” nonsense is just a gimmick — one that uses faith as a political weapon to divide Americans and to raise more money. ‘Tis the season to be a hypocrite, apparently.

—  John Wright

‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas’

Progressive religious leaders weigh in on 1st Baptist’s ‘Grinch Alert’ website, calling it everything from a marketing ploy to just plain mean

DAVID TAFFET  |  taffet@dallasvoice.com

Locally owned Viewpoint Bank is on First Baptist Church’s naughty list. They have poinsettias in their branches, but they don’t have a Christmas tree.

American Airlines made the naughty list because of “excessive use of holiday, no mention of Christmas. With a name like American Airlines, come on.”

Because what’s more American than telling someone else that they need to observe your religion?

Cracker Barrel “includes Santa and Christ in store.” That’s nice according to First Baptist.

Hopefully it’s Santa as we know him today — in the red suit that was created by Coca Cola for a 1935 ad campaign. The red was chosen to match Coke’s corporate color. Apparently, nothing says Christmas like corporate greed to First Baptist.

Previously, Santa was “dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot,” as described in Twas the Night Before Christmas.

To combat the so-called “War on Christmas,” First Baptist Church in Dallas created a new website, GrinchAlert.com, for people to report stores and other service companies that are naughty or nice. Naughty is anyone who greets you with that offensive term, “Happy Holidays.”

The Rev. Steven Pace suggested the website shows that First Baptist isn’t paying attention to the right issues this holiday season.

“I can’t believe an institution with that kind of capacity to do real social action work could concern itself with something so trivial,” Pace said.

“They need something more meaningful to do.”

Yet emphasizing the consumer side of Christmas and penalizing retailers that don’t put Jesus in the middle of their marketing plans is, apparently, exactly what First Baptist wants.

Macy’s in the Galleria is on the naughty list because a single employee in a single transaction returned a customer’s “Merry Christmas” with the offensive “You, too.”

And no doubt it was the Muslim extremists in the small town of Crowley, Texas south of Fort Worth who hung “Happy Holidays” in huge letters in front of city hall. Or was it their massive Jewish population?

“How about peace on earth and good will to all?” suggested the Rev. Colleen Darraugh of MCC of Greater Dallas. “It’s the kind of thing that gives Christians a bad rap.”

She said that although she’s Christian and celebrates Christ at Christmas, she has Jewish friends whom she wishes Happy Hannukah.

“We want to wish happy holidays and seasons greetings to people of all faiths,” she said.

Darraugh said that by emphasizing what retailers are doing, it emphasized that Christmas was for consumers.

She questioned whether the website’s creators know about the religious part of the holidays … uh, Christmas.
Cantor Don Croll of Temple Shalom in North Dallas said, “So I guess at New York-style delis, they should just say ‘Happy Hanukkah.’”

He pointed out that The Christmas Store in Richardson has a large Hanukkah section and wondered if it offended First Baptist that a store with that name would be selling anything else, or if it should offend Jews to shop in a store with that name?

“I guess I’m old fashioned. I like saying happy holidays and including everybody,” he said.

The Rev. Jo Hudson of Cathedral of Hope was aghast at a church’s emphasis on the retail aspect of the holiday rather than the religious part of Christmas.

“It shifts focus from what it should be,” she said.

Hudson suggested more appropriate lessons from a church might be feeding the hungry, caring for the sick or, if retail must be the emphasis, buying toys for poor children.

She admired it as a successful marketing scheme. But questioned whether Christmas be used as such a blatant promotional mechanism by a church?

But Hudson did acknowledge the ploy’s success.

“The website is clever because people have responded to it,” she said.

Northaven United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Eric Folkerth agreed with Hudson, but he questioned whether the campaign appealed to prospective members or the lowest denominator of the church’s base.

“The pastor there has shown himself to be a master of publicity,” Folkerth said. “But it only speaks well to the people they already have.”
Folkerth called the campaign silly, annoying and mean.

“Among his base it sells, but it sells a theology of division. He has a remarkable way of doing divisive things,” Folkerth said, referring to Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church.

Folkerth also suggested that during a recession, the website sends bad signals.

“Given the way the economy is, it’s such a bad message to say we’re not going to this store or that because of a perceived lack of Christian-ness,” he said.Folkerth said that religion should call us to our better natures.

“This doesn’t seem like our better nature,” he said.

“People who are secure in who they are don’t have to impose it on other people,” Hudson said, adding that people of different faiths have more in common than they have differences.

“How you greet people isn’t a measure of your faith,” she said

“How you treat people is.”

She said the GrinchAlert.com website was a good example of people not treating each other well and she found it particularly offensive during Christmas.

“Someone can wish me Happy Holidays and I can wish them Merry Christmas,” Darraugh said.

Taking either of those greetings as anything but best wishes, she said, “flies in the spirit of Christ who brought good will for all.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Turtle Creek Chorale helps Adolphus Hotel make First Baptist Church’s ‘Nice List’

The Turtle Creek Chorale will perform from noon to 1 p.m. today at the Adolphus Hotel to kick off WRR 101.1 FM’s weeklong Caroling at the Adolphus series, a live program of seasonal choral music. You can watch the TCC’s performance in person while enjoying complimentary coffee, cider and cookies, but you may want to head out soon because seating is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis. And of course if you can’t make it just tune in to WRR in about 40 minutes.

It’s great to see TCC as part of Caroling at the Adolphus this year, especially since the series has helped land the hotel on First Baptist’s Church’s “Nice List.” Given that our submissions to the list for the Round-Up’s Christmas decorations have been rejected, this may be the closest we come to beating the system. Unfortunately Caroling at the Adolphus will become slightly less gay-affirming on Tuesday when the Highland Park Presbyterian Church Chorale performs.

—  John Wright

First Baptist Dallas launches ‘Grinch Alert’

Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas

You all remember Pastor Robert Jeffress over at First Baptist Church in Dallas, right? He’s the one who riled up the LGBT community a couple of years ago with his “Gay is Not OK” sermon.

Well, now Pastor Jeffress is at it again. He and his church have created a new website, GrinchAlert.com, to warn us all about those horrible business people who have the nerve to say something like “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or who, even worse, don’t recognize the Christian holiday at all.

So if someone or some business pisses you off while you are out commercializing Christmas this year, you can go to this website and post a comment designating them as “naughty.” And if they spell out “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” on their chain link fence using colored plastic cups and Christmas lights, you can go to the site and reward them with a “nice” post.

Jeffress told Dallas Morning News: “Too many businesses have bowed down to political correctness. I thought this would be a fun way to call out businesses that are refusing to celebrate Christmas.”

He also told the Morning News that First Baptist isn’t creating any standards on what determines “naughty” or “nice,” and that the church won’t be monitoring the site to protect businesses owned by non-Christians. I wonder if that means if I go to the site and add a post declaring Pastor Jeffress and his church are “naughty” because he is a completely hateful, bigoted jackass, that they will leave it up there? Or would they remove it and add me to the “naughty” list instead?

It’s tempting, but I will refrain. Instead, I will just offer this reminder to Pastor Jeffress and others like him: In the New Testament, in one of the Gospels, there is a story about how the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into saying something that would get him in trouble, so they asked him, “What is the most important commandment?” (The trick, of course, is that no one commandment should be considered more important than any other.)

Jesus replied, “Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God above all else. Do that, and you will be following all the commandments.”

So here’s my message to Pastor Jeffress: Jesus said love your neighbor as yourself, and guess what — not all your neighbors are Christians. Don’t you think is is a little less than loving to expect them to kowtow to your religious beliefs by saying Merry Christmas, and by chiding them on your ridiculous website because they prefer to say “Happy Holidays” instead?

—  admin

Goofy-looking bigot Randel Everett steps down from Baptist General Convention of Texas

Randel Everett

Randel Everett, who oversaw the Baptist General Convention of Texas during a period when two churches were forced to leave because of their acceptance of gays, is stepping down as executive director. The Dallas Morning News reports that Everett will become pastor at First Baptist Church in Midland, which frankly sounds like a better fit for him than Dallas. The story talks about how Everett had to “grapple with the recession and with the general decline of denominations. Under him, the BGCT continued to trim staff and cut its budget due to decline in giving from affiliate churches.”

Well, it seems kinda hard to complain about this stuff when you’re actively driving churches out of the convention because of your homophobia. Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth left the convention voluntarily in September, and Royal Lane Baptist Church was kicked out in May.

When Royal Lane was kicked out, Everett called the decision “painful.” Everett said BGCT churches should “welcome homosexuals,” but Royal Lane’s decision to allow “practicing homosexuals” as deacons meant that it was going against the group’s view that homosexuality is sinful.

If the convention were smart and wanted to stop the bleeding, they’d find someone to replace Everett who’s a little more open-minded. Trouble is, these folks don’t appear to be very smart.

—  John Wright

Did Dallas evangelist and Christian TV mogul Marcus Lamb have an affair with a transsexual?

Marcus and Joni Lamb

Marcus and Joni Lamb, co-founders of North Texas-based Daystar, America’s second-largest Christian TV network, announced Tuesday on the air that Marcus Lamb cheated on his wife a few years ago. In admitting Marcus Lamb’s marital infidelity, the Lambs also alleged an extortion attempt, saying someone has demanded $7.5 million of “God’s money” to keep the scandal out of the media.

None of this is terribly shocking, and you may be wondering why we’re even bothering to repeat it on this LGBT blog. Well, for one thing it’s yet another example of religious hypocrisy, and for another some leading anti-gay figures, including Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church of Dallas, appear on Daystar. But what really caught our attention was the following quote from one of the couple’s marriage counselors, Fred Kendall, who reportedly provided some of the few details about the affair:

“He had one inappropriate period of misbehavior with one person, and it wasn’t a man. It wasn’t a transvestite. It was with a woman,” Kendall said.

We have absolutely no idea why Kendall felt compelled to point out that the affair wasn’t with a man or a transvestite — as if this somehow makes it any better — but we’d like to point out that his statement leaves open the possibility that the affair was with a transsexual woman.

OK, that’s all, carry on now.

—  John Wright

More of Chris Krok’s bigotry, including evidence that his boss lied to Instant Tea earlier today

Earlier we reported that Jeff Catlin, operations manager at Cumulus Radio Dallas, told Instant Tea that he disciplined KLIF host Chris Krok for his anti-gay rant against Joel Burns. As proof of this, Catlin cited the fact that Krok hadn’t talked about Burns again since the original rant in October. But Talk About Equality is calling bullshit, and they’ve got proof. The below clips indicate that Krok talked about Burns on at least two occasions since then. Seriously, this guy is quickly becoming the No. 2 bigot in Dallas, close behind Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress at First Baptist Church of Dallas. Listen to these two clips, then call Catlin at 214-526-2400 or e-mail him at jeff.catlin@cumulus.com.

—  John Wright