Legal Hospice of Texas receives ‘cy pres’ award

LEGAL AID | Legal Hospice of Texas received a “cy pres” award that will help them deliver services to low-income persons are HIV-positive or have other life-threatening illnesses in 16 North Texas counties. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Legal Hospice of Texas has received an award of $94,969 as part of the largest “cy pres” award to legal aid in Texas.

“Cy pres” awards are residual funds from a class action suit or other legal proceedings that cannot be distributed to class members or the intended beneficiaries for a variety of reasons. The class action suit, Meyers et. al v. State of Texas, et. al, involved allegations that the state violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act by charging Texans with disabilities for the standardized blue placards used for parking.

Executive Director Roger Wedell said attorneys involved in class action suits, along with mediators and judges, can influence how these excess funds are disbursed. Funds that are not distributed would be paid to the state.

Since the state was the defendant, Wedell said there was an interest in not returning this money to the state. The “cy pres” funds received from this suit will help provide legal aid to Texans with disabilities.

More than $2.6 million from the Meyers lawsuit was awarded to six legal aid organizations that provide civil legal services to low income Texans with disabilities. An additional $6.4 million from the suit will flow to other non-profit organizations that serve the needs of Texans with disabilities.

The funds come at a critical time for the agency, Wedell said, which has been particularly hard-hit by the recession.

Legal Hospice of Texas began as a volunteer organization that assisted with end-of-life paperwork at evening and weekend clinics at the Dallas Gay Alliance office on Cedar Springs Road. The organizations received its first grants in 1989 from the Dallas and Texas Bar foundations, adding its first staff when Ryan White CARE Act funding began in 1990.

In addition to Wedell, the organization now has two paid staff attorneys and works with about 40 volunteers from individual to large law firms.

Legal Hospice of Texas provides services to low-income persons are HIV-positive or have other life-threatening illnesses in 16 North Texas counties. Those with HIV must already be registered through one of the other agencies that can refer persons for service.

Wedell said most of Legal Hospice’s work is in three areas: estate planning, wills and preparation of other end-of-life documents. Attorneys also assist clients with legal issues relating to Social Security, unemployment insurance and other public benefits. Employment consultations with people newly diagnosed is a third area of expertise for Legal Hospice.

—  David Taffet

Honoring our saints on All Hallows Eve

People like Bill Nelson, John Thomas, Bill Hunt and others are no longer with us now, and although we have a long way to go to gain full equality, it was their courage and daring that won the freedoms we already have today

Activists such as, from left, John Thomas, Bill Nelson and Bill Hunt may be gone now, but they should never be forgotten.
Activists such as, from left, John Thomas, Bill Nelson and Bill Hunt may be gone now, but they should never be forgotten.

Like many of our holidays, Halloween bears scant resemblance to the holy day from which it evolved. Oct. 31 is the eve of the day the church historically has celebrated as All Saints Day. Like many church holidays, this one was deliberately set to co-opt the pagan celebration of harvest called Samhain.

Neither of those days have much relevance to how our community now observes Oct. 31, though. Still, perhaps this is a good time for us to remember some of our “saints” of the past who at times terrorized the general population with their outrageous demands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Our movement was begun officially with the Stonewall “Riots.” That story often gets told without noting that those who first resisted police oppression and brutality were mostly poor, people of color, drag queens and transsexuals.

They were our heroes. I’ll call them saints, since most of them are now dead.

The summer of 1969 was a long time ago, and it was on the far side of an epidemic that made saints out of too many of our heroes.

When I first came to Dallas in 1987, we often took to the streets. It seemed that every time I turned around William Waybourn, then president of the Dallas Gay Alliance, would call me and say, “Get your collar [clergy shirt] on and meet us at ______. We need you to speak about ______.”

I usually would follow Bill Nelson or John Thomas or Bill Hunt or some of the other heroes who spoke up for us. They are all saints now, and, somehow, I think each of them would appreciate being remembered on Halloween/All Hallows (saints) Eve.

Dallas is a very different city today. We have had openly gay city council members, school board trustees, county commissioners and an out, lesbian Latina sheriff.

Although it was 10 years ago, it seems like only yesterday that some heroes and saints were at City Hall until 2 in the morning fighting the Dallas Policy Academy’s dismissal of Mica England because she was a lesbian.

Many of those faces from that night are gone, but so is the city’s policy of discrimination.

Some of them were the same faces who went to the courthouse to protest against Judge Jack Hampton who gave a lighter sentence to Richard Lee Bednarski because the men he murdered were gay. On more than one occasion, we went to Parkland hospital because people who were dying of AIDS were forced to wait as long as 18 hours to receive care.

Folks like Howie Daire and Daryl Moore and so many others knew that they weren’t fighting for themselves, but for those who would survive them.

Recently, one of my best friends turned 50. He is one of the longest-term survivors of HIV/AIDS in the country. I give thanks for him and his health every day, and I also try to give thanks for those who now survive in our hearts and memories.

If we fail to appreciate those who went before us and made such great sacrifices for us all, then we are arrogant and cynical souls.

When the AIDS crisis was at its worst and it seemed we were holding funerals every other day, I began to think I was losing my mind.

I’d drive through the crossroads and raise my hand to wave at a friend, only to recall that it couldn’t be them because they had died.
I wonder though … .

Maybe I am crazy, but when I walk those streets today, I’d swear that some of those folks are still there. Maybe I’m the only one they haunt, but I hope not. I hope we all hold their memories so dear that it is almost like they are still with us.
So, dress up and join the parade this Halloween. It will be audacious and fun to take to the streets and party like free women and men.
Just remember that your freedom was won by heroes, many of whom are now saints. And don’t forget to wonder for whom you should be a hero and, eventually, a saint.

The Rev. Michael Piazza is president of Hope for Peace & Justice, a nonprofit organization that is equipping progressive people of faith to be champions for peace and justice. He also serves as co-executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, which is renewing progressive Christianity by training new entrepreneurial leaders, supporting the birth of new liberal/progressive congregations, and by renewing and strengthening existing progressive churches. He served the Cathedral of Hope for 22 years, first as senior pastor and later as dean.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

New gay Dallas artifacts: A letter from Log Cabin to Karl Rove, QL’s kissing booth and these pics

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell informs us that RCD has made some notable acquisitions of late for its Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library. For example, McDonnell said activists Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice recently dropped off some Queer LiberAction memorabilia, including a megaphone and the group’s patented kissing booth. Also, some recovering ex-Log Cabin Republicans provided a copy of a letter they wrote in the 1990s to Karl Rove, then an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush (we’re dying to read this). And finally, McDonnell sent over the below photos he took of photos that came in from William Waybourn, a pioneering Dallas gay-rights activist who now lives outside of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, many of these items will have to be placed in storage for the time being due to space concerns. But McDonnell says Waybourn’s pics are slated for display at the Center. After the jump, we’ve posted a few a more of them along with Waybourn’s descriptions.

This is a photograph I took of John Thomas in the mid-1990s. He loved it, saying it captured the essence of who he was. Later, when AIDS began to take its toll on him, John wanted it used as his “official” photo because he was concerned that people wouldn’t remember how he looked before AIDS, and not as someone ravaged by the disease. On a side note, I asked John, Bill Nelson, Mike Richards or others appearing in the media on behalf of lesbian and gay issues to look presentable, e.g. wear coats and ties, etc. John and Charlotte Taft, then Dallas’ most “out” lesbian, were always media outstanding role models, skewing people’s impression of what they thought “activists” looked and sounded like.

—  John Wright