Putting the final touches on Black Tie

Co-chairs hoping for banner year as fundraiser marks its 30th year

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com
With two weeks left to go before the annual Black Tie Dinner, organizers are busy putting the finishing touches on what BTD Co-chairs Nan Arnold and Chris Kouvelis said this week will be one of the most outstanding events in the dinner’s 30-year history.

“We have a particularly good line up for the dinner this year,” Arnold said. “We are absolutely thrilled to have Marlee Matlin as our keynote speaker this year. And we have an emcee — Caroline Rhea — this year for the first time. I am sure our patrons will be glad they don’t have to listen to me and Chris all night!”

Award-winning actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of television’s Modern Family will be on hand to accept the 2011 Media Award, and singer Taylor Dayne will provide entertainment.

Gay Marine veteran Eric Alva, the first U.S. serviceman injured in the war in Iraq, will receive the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award, and partners Chet Flake and the late Bud Knight will receive the Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

Arnold noted that tables at the dinner sold out in August, “before we even announced that Marlee Matlin would be our guest speaker. We were just ecstatic when we sold out that early. I think that is the earliest date we’ve ever sold out,” Arnold said.

But the co-chairs also pointed out that there is a waiting list available for regular and VIP individual tickets that might become available at the last minute. “Anyone who still wants to buy a ticket can go online to our website, BlackTie.org, and get on the waiting list. Or if you want to talk to someone directly, email Mitzi Lemons at mlemons@blacktie.org,” Kouvelis said.

Arnold added, “We will also accept cash donations from folks who want to support the organization but can’t attend the dinner.”

“Thirty years is a huge milestone, no doubt. But we had a huge retrospective for our 25th anniversary, bringing in past board members and honorees from out of town and looking back at the history of Black Tie, and that wasn’t that long ago,” Arnold said. “So we chose to focus on having a celebration, on looking ahead to 30 more great years. That’s why we chose ‘Shine’ as our theme this year, because we want to shine a light into the future.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: Dead birds and DADT repeal; gay shooting hero Daniel Hernandez; Chely Wright

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Whacko preacher Cindy Jacobs, founder of Red Oak-based Generals International, says the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” may be to blame for the recent bird and fish deaths in Arkansas. Others, however, have suggested that Jacobs’ wardrobe is the real culprit. In case you didn’t know, Red Oak is a little town in Ellis County, about a half hour south of Dallas on I-35. Here’s what Jacobs says in the video above: “Well, there’s something interesting we have been watching — let’s talk about this Arkansas pattern and say, could it be a pattern? We’re going to watch and see. But the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well the Governor of Arkansas’ name is Beebe. And also, there was something put out of Arkansas called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by a former Governor, this was proposed, Bill Clinton. As so, could there be a connection between this passage [Hosea 4] and now that we’ve had the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, where people now legally in the United States have broken restraints with the Scripture because the Scripture says in Romans 1 that homosexuality is not allowed. It could be because we have said it’s okay for people who commit these kinds of acts to be recognized in our military for the first time in our history, there is a potential that there is something that actually happened in the land where a hundred thousand drum fish died and also where these birds just fell out of the air.”

2. The Los Angeles Times draws a comparison between Daniel Hernandez Jr., the gay intern who may have saved the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — and Oliver Sipple, a gay Marine who thwarted an assassination attempt against President Gerald in 1975. It’s sure nice to know that Instant Tea, which broke the story about Hernandez being gay, probably won’t be getting sued like the newspapers that revealed Sipple was gay. And the column is an excellent illustration of how what it means to be gay has changed so dramatically over the last 35 years. …

3. … But we’ve still got a ways to go. Country singer Chely Wright, who appeared at this year’s Black Tie Dinner in Dallas, says the perception that coming out has helped her career is flat out wrong. “My record sales went directly in half,” Wright says in a new interview with Autostraddle.com, adding that she’s also received death threats.

—  John Wright

Gay active-duty Marine from North Texas: ‘I think it’s still a little too risky’ to come out

A gay active-duty Marine from North Texas said this week’s injunction ordering the military to stop enforcing “don’t ask don’t tell” was “a good start.”

But the Marine, whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under the policy, says he won’t be satisfied until the 17-year-old ban on open service is fully and finally repealed.

In a message to Instant Tea on Saturday, the Marine said although his commanders have reportedly been notified of the injunction, there hasn’t been any announcement at his level.

“I haven’t came out to anyone new yet,” said the Marine, who is stationed overseas. “I think it’s still a little too risky.”

U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips issued the injunction on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Two days later, the Obama administration asked Phillips to stay the injunction pending its appeal of her September ruling declaring the policy unconstitutional. But the judge has yet to rule on the administration’s request.

“I’m really disappointed in the president,” the gay Marine said. “I think he needs to make good on his campaign promises and repeal this law.”

To read our previous story on the Marine, go here.

—  John Wright

GLBT History Month’s 1st icon is gay ex-Marine from Texas who lost leg in Iraq war

For the fifth consecutive year, the Equality Forum presents GLBT icons for each day of October, to mark GLBT History Month. And this year’s first icon is Texas’ own Eric Alva of San Antonio, who was the first casualty of the Iraq war. Alva, a Marine staff sergeant, lost his leg when he stepped on a land mine three hours into the ground invasion in 2003. But it wasn’t until after Alva returned home — and had been visited by President George W. Bush in the hospital and appeared on “Oprah” — that he came out as gay and become a spokesman for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” From our story on Alva in April 2007:

He says it wasn’t until one night last fall that it came to him. He had always wanted to help people, but wasn’t sure how.

“I would always talk about it, but it was more words just coming out of my mouth because I never did anything about it,” he says.

After Alva’s partner, whom he met after returning from Iraq, pleaded with him to do something before his notoriety wore off, Alva decided to e-mail HRC.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how I may help you, but the story is I am a gay Marine,’” Alva recalls.

A few days later, HRC returned his call. Then, after U.S. Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., announced plans to reintroduce the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” they called again.

“They called and said, “‘Eric, we need you now,’” Alva says. “I knew that what I was about to do was a huge sacrifice on my part. But I needed to tell people that this is the way the country should be.”

Of course, more than three years later, “don’t ask don’t tell” remains in place. So perhaps it’s fitting that Alva is the first icon of this year’s GLBT History Month. We haven’t heard much from him lately, but according to the Equality Federation, he’s working on his master’s degree in social work.

—  John Wright

Local gay vet: Time to regroup, refuel, attack again on DADT

Veterans and active servicemembers express outrage and frustration but will use this time to regroup

John Wright  |  Online Editor wright@dallasvoice.com

Dave Guy-Gainer
Dave Guy-Gainer

Gay current and former servicemembers from North Texas expressed frustration and outrage over this week’s vote in the U.S. Senate that halted progress on a repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

But they vowed to continue fighting the military’s 17-year-old ban on open service, in hopes the Senate will take up the measure again during the lame duck session that follows November elections.

The Senate voted 56-43 on Tuesday, Sept. 21 to move forward with debate on the 2011 Defense spending bill that includes a provision to repeal DADT, but the margin fell short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

Dave Guy-Gainer, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant from Tarrant County and a board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, chalked up Tuesday’s vote as a lost battle, but said the war won’t end until the policy is history.

“Now is the time to regroup, refuel and attack again,” Gainer said. “We’ll see this scenario again in December and again and again until repeal happens. It will happen. Between now and then, the voices of our community and our allies must become louder and more incessant than ever before. This is not a political issue — this is a discrimination issue. After 17 years we cannot give up now. We are still alive in the Senate and in the courts.”

Two weeks before the Senate vote, a federal district judge in California declared DADT unconstitutional, but the U.S.

Justice Department, which is defending the policy, hasn’t said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon review of the impact of DADT repeal is due Dec. 1.

Kevin, an active-duty gay Marine from North Texas whose name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under DADT, called on  President Barack Obama to issue an executive order ending discharges under DADT until the policy can be repealed — either legislatively or judicially.

Currently stationed overseas, Kevin is a member of OutServe, an underground network of actively serving LGBT troops. Kevin’s partner is also on active duty.

“This was a huge letdown, and has made me just about completely lose faith in our government,” Kevin said of Tuesday’s vote. “But we at OutServe are standing by our word, we are not going to give up the fight.

“I would also encourage the American public to still stay on their congressmen and senators, call them and tell them to repeal this unjust policy,” Kevin said. “This is human lives that this policy is affecting.”

Danny Hernandez, a former Marine from Tarrant County who was discharged under DADT and now works with SLDN, said he was in the Senate gallery when Tuesday’s vote took place.

“The Senate continues to play games with the lives of thousands of servicemembers,” said Hernandez, a graduate of Texas A&M University who hopes to one day return to the Marines. “There were GOP senators who voted not to represent their constituents, but to follow party lines even though they support the repeal of DADT. A vote against the bill is one thing, but a vote against the opportunity to bring it up for debate is shameful.

“I am remaining optimistic and hoping that this will pass during the lame duck session at the end of the year,” Hernandez added. “It would be nice to see politics placed aside as well as for the support of all our men and women in uniform.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Closeted gay Marine from North Texas reacts to DADT vote: ‘I was absolutely outraged. I still am’

A while back we interviewed a gay Marine from North Texas who is a member of OutServe, the underground network of actively serving LGBT troops. We sent the Marine a message Tuesday afternoon inquiring about his reaction to the Senate vote that halted the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Here’s his response:

“When I heard the news, I was absolutely outraged. I still am,” he said. “This was a huge letdown, and has made me just about completely lose faith in our government. But we as OutServe are standing by our word, we are not going to give up the fight. We will be here fighting until every servicemember has equal rights. We aren’t going anywhere. This is a setback, but it’s not the end of the fight. Now I would urge President Obama to stand up and do what is right: Issue an executive order to stop discharges until the final review is over in December. I would also encourage the American public to still stay on their congressmen and senators, call them and tell them to repeal this unjust policy. This is human lives that this policy is affecting.”

—  John Wright