Obama official highlights business equality at N. TX GLBT Chamber dinner

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Fred Hochberg, the openly gay president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., speaks at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s eight annual Business Excellence Awards dinner on Thursday night. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Fred Hochberg is using his position as president of the Export-Import Bank to advance LGBT equality among business leaders and politicians.

Hochberg said he frequently gets an opportunity to educate anti-equality lawmakers about LGBT issues because they want and need to understand the issues of international business.

Hochberg, the first openly gay president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and the highest-ranking gay person in the Obama administration, spoke about the importance of educating people on LGBT issues as the keynote speaker at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s eighth annual Business Excellence Awards Dinner Thursday.

Hochberg’s role includes trying to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the U.S., Hochberg said he has conversations with people who vote against LGBT issues, but strive to understand the issues in a global market. And he uses his position to help gain understanding for the LGBT community.

But even as the highest ranking openly LGBT official, Hochberg said times weren’t always so accepting, mentioning his hesitancy to come out in the 1970s. He joked that he came out slowly instead of young people now who come out on Facebook.

“If you’re not out, I’ll let you it is a hell of a lot better on the other side,” Hochberg said.

While his career was in business, he said he wanted to do more and dedicated himself to helping elect President Bill Clinton and then focused on lifting the ban on gays in the military, which he called “a gift to America.”

Clinton appointed him to head the Small Business Administration in 1998. And President Barack Obama later tapped him to head the Export-Import Bank in 2009, a position for which he was recently nominated again.

He said he was proud to see Obama repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” sign an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes bill into law and come out for marriage equality. But he reminded the audience that the work is not done, and when people see successful groups like the GLBT chamber, they think all LGBT people are successful and happy, when there are many who are not.

“They don’t see the discrimination. They don’t see that our brothers and sisters who work at jobs are afraid to come out or our partners that are not covered by insurance,” Hochberg said. “We all have to keep working because I think our work is not done.”

Recipients of the chamber’s business excellence awards were recognized during the dinner. The awards were: The law office of Rob Wiley, Business of the Year; Kristopher Parker of Resource Center Credit Union, Emerging Leader; Jeremy Bradford of the American Cancer Society, Member Service; Cooper Smith Koch of Cooper Smith Agency, Community Service; Nancy Minchillo of Hewlett Packard, Supplier Diversity Champion; Southwest Airlines, Corporate Ally; and Marsha Thomas of TNT Promotions, Chairman’s Award.

More photos below.

—  Anna Waugh

GLBT Chamber’s LEAP Scholarship deadline approaching

From left: GLBT Chamber Treasurer Bob Stutz, Chairman Derrick Brown; LEAP scholars Pamela Hancock, Alex Parrish and Constance Siegel; and Vice Chairman Gib Murray.

The deadline to apply for a LEAP scholarship offered by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce is Aug. 3.

Created in 2009, LEAP — Leadership Education & Advocacy Program — scholarships support youth and nurture the development of leaders in the LLBT community. LGBT students, members of LGBT families and allies who have worked closely with the LGBT community are encouraged to apply.

“In 2011 we distributed $7,500 in scholarships,” Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda said. “The LEAP Board has allocated $10,000 for the 2012-13 academic year.”

Applicants must be Texas residents, be LGBT or members of LGBT families or allies, and show a commitment to civil and human rights. Applicants should exhibit leadership potential, demonstrate strong academic abilities and be actively involved in school and community organizations. The application can be found online.

The primary fundraiser for the scholarship is the annual Holly Jolly Ball in December. Donations can also be made online.

Vedda said that applicants should complete the application and submit it as soon as possible. He said he could extend the deadline on backup documentation until Aug. 13.

—  David Taffet

FW Councilman Joel Burns, rugby star Ben Cohen will be among dignitaries at Dallas Pride

Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade dignitaries for 2011 include, from left, male co-grand marshals Gary Miller and Alan Pierce, female grand marshal Chris Bengston and honorary grand marshal Joel Burns.  British rugby star Ben Cohen, pictured below, is special VIP guest for the Pride festivities this year.

Round-Up Saloon owners— and life partners — Alan Pierce and Gary Miller will share male grand marshal honors for the 2011 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on Sept. 18, and longtime Caven Enterprises employee and community volunteer Chris Bengston will be female grand marshal, according to information released by the Dallas Tavern Guild, the organization of local LGBT nightclubs that puts on the parade each year.

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, who made national headlines last year with his emotional speech during a council meeting to tell LGBT teens considering suicide that life does get better, will be honorary grand marshal. The theme for this year’s parade is “It Only Gets Better.”

The Tavern Guild is dedicating its annual Pride Guide — the magazine published at the first of September each year to detail Dallas Pride activities — to the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. And British rugby star Ben Cohen, who has campaigned against homophobia and bullying, will be the Tavern Guild’s special VIP guest at the parade this year.

Ben Cohen

—  admin

Six local youth headed to National Equality March, thanks to chamber dinner attendees

Youth

Last night during the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s Pride Dinner at the Warwick Melrose Hotel, keynote speaker Cleve Jones issued a challenge: If you can’t make it to the National Equality March in October, send someone in your place.

Shortly after Jones concluded his remarks, six chamber members and/or Pride dinner attendees responded, with each agreeing to pay for one of the local LGBT youth on hand to go to Washington. The six beneficiaries from Youth First Texas, shown after the dinner, are Will Mason, Chris Lopez, Victor Rodriguez, Steven Richmond, John McKnight and Hai Duong. They are pictured along with chamber member Jay Forte, far right.

Sending the youth to D.C. reportedly was the idea of longtime lesbian activists Louise Young and Vivienne Armstrong, who conceived it during the dinner and will be sponsoring one of the youth. Afterward, Young noted that many of Dallas’ pioneering activists, including Bill Nelson and Don Baker, attended the first gay-rights march on Washington in 1979.

“I think it’s so important for the next generation of activists to have some of the experiences that have sustained us,” Young said. “These things [marches] are very energizing.”

UPDATE: According to Chamber President and CEO Tony Vedda, the others who agreed to send a youth to D.C. were Cordey Lash, Derrick Brown, Mark Reed (2) and Jonathan Palant.

—  John Wright

LGBT community must keep pressure on Omni Hotels to become gay-friendly

A conceptual drawing of the Convention Center hotel.
A conceptual drawing of the Convention Center hotel.

The city of Dallas has secured commitments from investors to buy $479.8 million in bonds to finance construction of the Convention Center hotel, according to The Dallas Morning News. Mayor Tom Leppert says a groundbreaking for the hotel will be held within a few weeks, and construction could be complete by early 2012. So what better time to post this column I wrote recently about the company that will operate the hotel, Irving-based Omni Hotels, and its recent decision to offer domestic partner benefits to employees at the facility. The column was intended for the print edition of Dallas Voice a while back, but got bumped due to a lack of space. Read it after the jump.

—  John Wright