JCPenney taps Girl in a Coma’s brand new “Heatwave” cover for July national ad campaign

To get in the summertime groove, Girl in a Coma just released their cover of the classic “Heatwave.” Personally, as a big Martha and the Vandellas fan, this made my day and am adding to my summer playlists. But the bigger news is that North Texas-based retailer JCPenney has picked up the song for its July national ad campaign. Whether by coincidence or design, this should reinforce the company’s support of the LGBT population. But they pretty much have won the community over already.

“Heatwave” is now available on iTunes.

—  Rich Lopez

The AFA isn’t happy with corporate America

The hate group American Family Association isn’t very happy with corporate America.

Not only did J.C. Penney feature a gay Dallas couple in a recent catalog, but the Plano-based company doesn’t seem to really care what the AFA has to say about it.

On its website, the AFA says JCP is now blocking emails from its alert system and advises members to send messages from their personal accounts instead.

And now the AFA is annoyed at Target, too. For Pride month, Target is selling several Pride items and is donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the Family Equality Council up to $120,000. The AFA doesn’t want you shopping there either.

And AFA announced that they sent petitions to Home Depot for “extensive support for homosexual activism and direct the company toward neutrality in the culture war.”

AFA doesn’t specify what the beef is, but apparently some lesbians work there. And they get equal benefits.

The group is asking people to boycott Home Depot and pray for Chairman Frank Blake, then print a copy of the petition and “distribute it at Sunday school and church,” because nothing says love your neighbor like distributing petitions at church calling for hardworking people to get fired.

And look out for that radical group AARP. They’re apparently using member resources to “advocate for immoral behavior.” The AFA claims that the AARP’s LGBT resources pages links to “articles on personal finance, travel and other issues of interest.” Shocking.

Of course, AFA would like us to get back to traditional marriage as it’s existed since biblical times … as depicted in this photo released by the Israeli Defense Forces this week in honor of Pride month:

—  David Taffet

Thousands converge on Dallas for Out & Equal

Executives from major corporations meet in Dallas to discuss LGBT equality on the job

Keeton.Elyse

Meredith Baxter

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

LGBT executives, employees and allies from hundreds of companies around the world met at the Hilton Anatole Hotel this week for the annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit to discuss equality in a corporate setting. Among the top issues discussed were transgender equality and equality around the world.
People from about 30 countries attended.

One attendee from Italy was gathering resources for a new Out & Equal organization he has formed that already is affiliated with 10 companies.

Local companies such as JC Penney, Kimberley Clark, Texas Instruments and Frito Lay were well represented. Even ExxonMobil, notorious for its 0 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and for stripping Mobil employees of benefits after their merger, paid for several employees to attend the conference.

Louise Young said her company, Raytheon, underwrote 50 employees who attended from around the country.

Houston-based Chevron brought in employees from around the world. Nick Thomas is a project manager for a $220 million water-purification project in Kazakhstan. He said he works 28 days on and then 28 days off the project and lives in Amsterdam when not in the Central Asian country.

With him was Erin Myers, a geologist, who is moving from Houston to Perth, Australia next week.

Chevron’s 100 percent rating with HRC gives the company a competitive edge, Thomas said, referring to Dallas-based ExxonMobil. But he preferred nondiscrimination and benefits equality over competitive advantage.

Tracey Ballard began working on employee equality at work in the early 1990s. Ballard works for the Central Intelligence Agency, which, she said, has a very diverse workforce and is always looking for the best and the brightest.

She said that the agency decided to start attending conferences like this one, “because we don’t need people self-selecting out.”

And change has come to the CIA both from the top down and from the bottom up. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta and current chief David Petraeus were very progressive with employment policies, Ballard said.

With Ballard was Michael Barber, who said that if an award was given at Out & Equal for best job title at the conference, he’d win: Barber is community outreach and LGBT liaison program manager for the CIA. The Agency Network of Gay and Lesbian Employees, “that includes allies, Bi’s and T’s,” is known as ANGLE and has about 200 members.

Barber said he was there to dispel myths about the CIA, like “Everyone drives sports cars with machine guns in the tailpipes,” and that the agency is homophobic. Barber didn’t say what type of sports car he actually does drive, however.

Barber said ANGLE has made some positive steps. Partner benefits are limited by the Defense of Marriage Act, just as at all federal agencies, he said, but a CIA employee being transferred overseas can take a partner.

All employees of the agency must report if they are cohabitating with someone who is a foreign national and offer a letter of resignation. But they also may register an intent to marry. ANGLE intervened in the case of a gay employee who reported his domestic partnership with a foreign national but was unable to marry.

Virginia, where the agency is based, has no relationship recognition. But the gay employee was allowed to retain both his job and live with his spouse.

Among the celebrities attending was Meredith Baxter, who played Elyse Keaton in the 1980s sitcom Family Ties. She spoke at the morning plenary on Wednesday about coming out on The Today Show last year.

“When my partner and I left the NBC studio that morning, I felt free, unburdened and so calm,” she said. “I had faced the devil and I survived quite nicely.”

Geri Jewell played Cousin Geri on the sitcom The Facts of Life. Born with cerebral palsy, she was the first actor with a recurring role in a prime time television show with a disability. She spoke at the Women’s Leadership Luncheon along with Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

“Being gay, having cerebral palsy, being blind are not disabilities,” Jewell said. “Prejudice, hypocrisy, false pride and hatred are the real disabilities.”

She signed copies of her book, I’m Walking As Straight as I Can at the Anatole. Baxter, who also recently released a memoir, signed copies at the hotel and that evening at Nuvo on Cedar Springs Road.

Rick Welts, the former manager of the the Phoenix Suns and recently hired president of the Golden State Warriors in Sacramento, is the highest-ranking male sports executive to come out.

“We’re afraid of things we don’t understand,” he said at the conference.

Welts spoke about breaking down barriers for the LGBT community even in professional sports.

“Before the story came out in the New York Times on the front page, I had no idea what to be prepared for,” he said. “I certainly was not prepared for the absolutely overwhelmingly positive response I got.”

Welts said that putting a human face on being gay made that difference.

Comedian Kate Clinton emceed Thursday night’s gala, which featured Margaret Cho and Wilson Cruz (Rent). JC Penney presented a fall fashion show. Speakers included Northrop Grumman Chairman, CEO and President Wes Bush and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.

The conference concludes Friday afternoon.

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

—  Kevin Thomas

HRC releases list of best places to work

The Human Rights Campaign released a new list this week of the Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.

The Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality distinction is awarded to businesses that scored 100 percent on HRC Foundation’s 2011 Corporate Equality Index. The list is larger this year than ever, although companies like Target and Best Buy that were on the list last year were removed because of political donations to anti-LGBT organizations.

The list includes a several DFW-based companies including American Airlines, Brinker International, JC Penney and Texas Instruments.

The list includes more obvious categories in service sectors like airlines, retail and hospitality but also includes several industries not seen as being in the forefront of equal rights. Waste Management Inc. of Houston is among those rated as a best place to work, as is mining and metals company Alcoa.

A new project was launched to get more Houston-based Fortune 500 companies to participate in the CEI Index. Only nine of 29 Houston-based Fortune 500 companies participate.

—  David Taffet

Panels from AIDS quilt on display in Plano

Lavonne Barrows points to a quilt panel she made in 2004

Panels from the Names Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt will hang at Event1013 in Plano through Wednesday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

Among the 13 panels are those from AIDS Services of Dallas and the Round-Up Saloon.

Lavonne Barrows is a quilt monitor. Her son has been HIV-positive for 20 years. Along with C.U.R.E. President Rosemary Odom, she made several of the panels hanging in Plano. The panels she made honor children from the Bless Gerard’s Children’s Home in Mandeni kwaZulu/Natal, South Africa. The panels were sewn in 2004 and presented to the Names Project on World AIDS Day that year.

Odom explained that they had gotten permission to honor the orphanage’s children who died of AIDS. About a year later, the couple who ran the home was ambushed and murdered.

The display is presented by Community Unity Respect Education, or C.U.R.E., a Plano-based group that educates about AIDS through displays of the Quilt.

Event1013, 1013 E. 15th St., Plano. Nov. 29-30 until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. followed by a reception from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Free parking is available in a lot across the street that is accessible from 14th Street.

—  David Taffet