President Obama set to deliver keynote at HRC dinner; Kerry introduces anti-discrimination bill

President Barack Obama, left, and Sen. John Kerry

Officials with the Human Rights Campaign announced this week that President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address at HRC’s 15th annual National Dinner on Saturday night, Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C.

This will be the president’s second time to speak at the HRC National Dinner; the first time was in 2009, less than a year after he was elected president.

HRC President Joe Solmonese praised the president’s “tremendous record of accomplishment for LGBT people,” and said that even as we celebrate the final repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the LGBT community must “redouble our efforts for the fights that remain ahead.”

In other news out of D.C., Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts today introduced legislation that would ban discrimination against LGBT people in the housing and credit markets. The Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act would amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or source of income.  It would also amend the Equal Opportunity Credit Act to prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in credit decisions.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler is set to introduce the companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

In a press release sent out by his office, Kerry said: “It’s hard to believe that in 2011, any law-abiding, tax-paying American who can pay the rent can’t live somewhere just because of who they are. Housing discrimination against LGBT Americans is wrong, but today in most states there isn’t a thing you can do about it. This legislation would end discrimination that continues to hurt people.”

—  admin

Baldwin: ‘We will see brighter days ahead’

Congresswoman tells Black Tie audience not to give up hope; Wright applauds heroes who chose ‘never to hide a day in your lives’

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. To see a slideshow from Black Tie, go here.

During her keynote address at the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner on Saturday, Nov. 6, openly lesbian Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin wasted no time in acknowledging the apparent blow the Republican victories in this month’s midterm elections dealt to the LGBT community’s push for equality.

“I needed to get away. It’s been a tough week, a very painful week for many Americans,” Baldwin said.

But then she went on to reassure the more than 3,000 people packed into the Sheraton Dallas’ Lone Star Ballroom that “we will see brighter days ahead.”

Baldwin acknowledged that the community’s high hopes when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 have not, for the most part, been met. “There is frustration that we haven’t come far enough, fast enough, and I share that frustration.”

Recalling the last time that Republicans controlled Congress, Baldwin said efforts to secure LGBT equality were “rebuffed at every turn,” and she added that she is “not holding my breath” that things will be different this time, with Republicans controlling the U.S. House and the Senate nearly equally divided between the parties.

Although there is a possibility that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy could be repealed during the upcoming lame duck session, chances are “slim to none for now and for the foreseeable future” that passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and Baldwin’s own Domestic Partnership Benefits and Responsibilities Act and other LGBT-positive measures will happen.

“But that doesn’t mean that we will throw up our hands and give up,” Baldwin said, “because LGBT equality is a movement, not a moment in time.”

Baldwin’s theme of keeping up the fight and looking forward to better days reverberated throughout the evening, as Media Award winner Chely Wright related her life story to the crowd. She spoke of knowing from a young age that she was gay, and how she had struggled to keep her orientation a secret to try and earn — and later, preserve — her career in country music.

“Living two lives is quite a chore,” Wright said, as she talked about reaching a point where “I knew something had to give,” and the cold morning in 2006 when she went so far as putting the muzzle of a 9-mm pistol in her mouth.

But instead of pulling the trigger, Wright said, she prayed to God, as she had all her life. But this time, instead of praying for God to change her, she prayed that God would “give me a moment’s peace.”

Immediately, Wright continued, “oceans and oceans of peace washed over me,” and she knew that not only would she not take her own life, but that she would come out “as a gay woman, as a proud Christian and as an advocate for youth.”

Wright, who came put publicly only six months ago, acknowledged that others in the room had spent much longer fighting for LGBT equality.

“It is a bit of a strange thing to be honored by Black Tie Diner and this esteemed group of people. I look out and see so many of you who have not been able to or who have chosen not to hide a day in your lives, and to have you applaud for me is, well, it’s surreal,” she said.

“I look to you as heroes. … You are simply amazing to me. Thank you for leading the way,” she continued. “It is certainly not lost on me that you folks in this room tonight are the reason that the movement of equality, fairness and understanding continues to evolve.”

The evening began with an appearance by Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, whose personal and passionate speech before the council last month about teen suicide went viral as a YouTube video and turned him into a national sensation.

Burns reminded the audience that teen suicide and bullying continues to affect LGBT youth at an alarmingly high rate, and led the crowd in a moment of silence in memory of LGBT youth who have died.

After Broadway star Gavin Creel, backed by the Turtle Creek Chorale, performed, the Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, came on stage to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

With a beaming smile, West recalled the early heroes of Dallas-Fort Worth’s LGBT community, reminding the crowd that “we stand on their shoulders” as the movement progresses. But, she added, the community leaders of today must also remember that the leaders of tomorrow “will someday stand on our shoulders.”

Employees of American Airlines were on hand to accept the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award on behalf of their company. Betty Young, director of Diverse Segment Marketing for the airline, said it was “a tremendous honor” for the company and its employees to receive the award.

“American Airlines has always been very involved in Black Tie Dinner and we certainly appreciate all they do. But for the company to be recognized this way, it caused tremendous excitement throughout the company and in each of us who touches this community,” Young said. “We are just honored beyond words.”

Ron Guillard, who co-chaired Black Tie Dinner this year with Nan Arnold, said organizers were “incredibly happy” with how the event turned out.

“And given the fact that we had a full ballroom, and considering how well the luxury auction went, we are feeling very optimistic about having a very generous amount to distribute to our beneficiaries this year,” he said. “We still have money to collect and some bills to pay, but I think this will be a very good year for our beneficiaries.”

Guillard noted that funds from the dinner will distributed to beneficiaries during a reception Dec. 9 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel.

“We want to encourage the whole community to come out and be part of what is definitely the most important part of Black Tie each year,” Guillard said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Local Briefs • 08.13.10

Landmark dinner inaugural

Lambda Legal is holding its inaugural Landmark Dinner at the W Hotel-Victory Park on Aug. 14. The gala celebrates the organization’s many landmark rulings including Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court decision invalidating criminal sodomy laws across the country, and the Iowa case that secured marriage equality in that state.

Paul J. Williams will be master of ceremonies. A former Lambda Legal plaintiff will deliver the keynote address and Joe Pacetti and Christian Iles will present a diamond jewelry show and auction.

Although the dinner is sold out, Lambda Legal supporters are invited to the White Party Gala following the dinner. The gala will be held in the W Hotel Ballroom at 10 p.m.

Included in the ticket price is a show by the “King of West Hollywood,” D.J. Casey.

Tickets are $30 and may be purchased in advance by contacting the Lambda Legal office at 214-219-8585 or at the door.

Lambda Legal is the nation’s oldest national organization pursuing equal rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through high-impact litigation, public education and advocacy.

Gay Pride gospel celebration

Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ and Art for Peace & Justice will host the first annual “Gay”ther Homecoming on Sept. 18 as part of Pride weekend celebration. They will host an array of talent performing familiar hymns and gospel songs from the past.

More than 40 singers, songwriters and instrumentalists from across the nation will perform solos, group performances and audience sing-alongs.

Marsha Stevens, Mark Hayes, Susie Brenner and Rob Parker as well as two LGBT gospel groups, Out 4 Joy and Voices of Hope, will be among the performers.

Amy Stevenson, Danny Ray, Lonnie Parks, Shelly-Torres West, Kim Wisdom, and Rusty Johnson are among the Dallas talent that will participate. Timothy Seelig will be the director for the evening.

“As the invitations to participate have gone out across the U.S., the response has been phenomenal,” said Seelig.  “Everyone contacted has responded with immediate enthusiasm.  We will include as many musicians as the stage will hold!  Most of these talented folks have experienced a huge amount of hurt at the hands of the religions of their youth.  This is our opportunity to stand proudly and sing the songs we thought were lost.”

The evening’s proceeds will benefit the soon- to-be-dedicated Interfaith Peace Chapel designed by noted architect Philip Johnson.
Tickets are $15 for general admission and are available at H4PJ.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas