Resource Center honors volunteers

Leon Catlett receives top honor posthumously at annual dinner

LEGACY OF SERVICE | Carol Fisher accepts Resource Center Dallas’ 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award on Sunday, Jan. 29, on behalf of her son, Leon Catlett, who died last year. RCD Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox, left, and services manager Kee Holt presented Fisher with Catlett’s award during the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party at the Starlight Room in Dallas.

From Staff Reports
editor@dallasvoice.com

More than 1,090 people gave more than 49,100 hours of their time and talents valued at more than $1.05 million to Resource Center Dallas in 2011, allowing the center to make life better for thousands of North Texans.

The volunteers were honored at the center’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Party on Sunday, Jan. 29 at the Starlight Room in the Dallas West End.

Longtime volunteer Leon Catlett, who died last November, posthumously received the 2011 Martha Dealey Volunteer of the Year award.

“Leon’s vibrant presence volunteering for the center, from the front desk and nutrition center to events such as Toast To Life, was a comforting and consistent presence for our staff and clients,” said Cece Cox, RCD’s executive director and CEO. “We miss him terribly, but are comforted by and thankful for his legacy of service to the center.”

Resource Center Dallas also recognized the following:

• Michael Chau received the Randolph Terrell Community Service Award, given to a group or individual for exceptional service to the LGBT community and/or people living with HIV/AIDS;

• Miles Vinton was given the Suzanne Wilson Award, presented to the year’s most significant volunteer in Client Services;

• Jack Hancock received the John Thomas Award, in recognition as the Gay & Lesbian Community Center’s exceptional volunteer of the year;

• Dr. Jaime Vasquez was awarded the Bill Nelson Award honoring the Nelson-Tebedo Health Resource Center’s outstanding volunteer of the year; and,

• David Granger received the Bruce Long Award for outstanding development department volunteer.

The center also recognized 117 volunteers who contributed more than 100 hours during 2011. Miles Vinton, with 906 hours, was recognized for donating the most amount of time last year.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Get your kink on

This weekend, it’s time to get kinky and retro.

Glory Hole is a not-for-profit fetish event production company (which also has a kink/fetish performance troupe, called the Gloryhole Girls), with beneficiaries like the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center and other LGBT and kink charities. It was founded in part by Lillith Grey, an artist, activist, burlesque dancer and college instructor in the sex-positive community (she’s also partner to reigning Ms. Texas Leather Synn Evans).

Friday is Glory Hole’s ’70s Porno Party. “It’s going to be phenomenal,” Grey says. “We have live music, The Foxxy Love Show, community vendors, a private portrait photographer, a voyeur room, a full dungeon, hot DJs, and a catered fondue bar, as well as a no-cash raffle.” (One donated non-perishable food item gets you one raffle ticket.)

The location is sent to members the day of the party, and the parties are BYOB with a very strict no-photos policy. Security and safety are paramount at these events. Costumes are highly encouraged. “RIsque is A-OK,” is Grey’s motto.

Because it’s a members-only event, you need to join in time for the party (no applications are accepted at the door — if you can even find the door). To register by 6: p.m. Friday, visit GirlsGoneGloryhole.com.

— J.B.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Memphis LGBT center struggling

From staff and wire reports

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A nonprofit center that has provided services to gays and lesbians in Memphis for 22 years is facing possible closure.

Like other nonprofits struggling in the weak economy, the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center is seeing fewer donations and grant opportunities. It already has cut back its $125,000 budget.

Board chairwoman Christy Tweddle told The Memphis Daily News that even laying off the executive director would not save enough money to keep the center open for long.

The center was founded in 1989 by a group of citizens who wanted to make Memphis safer for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community members. They also hoped to foster an environment of acceptance and equality.

The center offers several programs including free HIV testing and sexual health counseling, referrals, education and community outreach.

Although the center is partially funded by grants, much of that money is restricted to use on specific programs, Tweddle said.

“We rely on community and individual donations to do things like pay the executive director and the basic bills, and to basically keep the center open,” she said.

Tennessee Equality Project board chairman Jonathan Cole, who is a former board member at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said the nonprofit’s youth programs are at the heart of its work.

Cole said he knows a young man who was thrown out of his home by a parent due to his sexual orientation and was rejected by several shelters.

The center can provide temporary food, shelter and clothing for youth with no place to go, he said.

“Sadly, because many in our community don’t really understand GLBT kids and turn them out into the world, they’re often left quite vulnerable at an age where, without some social support from adults, they’re not going to succeed in life,” Cole said. “You may not access these services yourself, but there are people in this community who desperately need it. It will be a travesty for the center to close for lack of funding.”

A fundraising drive seeks to raise $45,000 by the end of May.

For more on the center or to make a donation, go here.

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Leaving a lasting legacy

Although his years as leader of the largest LGBT church in the world weren’t without controversy, there’s no denying Michael Piazza has left a lasting impact on North Texas

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

It’s not often that the Rev. Michael Piazza gets caught at a loss for words. But as he walked through Cathedral of Hope’s columbarium recently, he simply touched the marble covering the ashes of the late activist John Thomas, gently caressing the name plate without saying a thing.

Then he turned to the other memorial plaques, many of which originally hung on the outside wall of the old Metropolitan Community Church, the building that is now the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

He pointed to one and asked if I knew him. We told each other stories about some of the people whose names hang there in remembrance. Most died of AIDS-related illnesses.

For Piazza — who is moving to Atlanta where he will take over as senior pastor of Virginia Highland Church on March 1 — leaving these people may be the hardest part of leaving Dallas. He worries that the memory of some of them will be lost.

Piazza knows Cathedral of Hope — the church known as Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas when he became senior pastor in 1987 — will be in good hands and he’s proud of the institution he helped to build.

But he still feels a great sadness at leaving behind the names in that memorial garden — the friends, church members, community leaders whose funerals he performed — at one point, as many as a dozen of them in a week.

Piazza served as senior pastor and then dean of Cathedral of Hope for 23 years. Currently, he is president of Hope for Peace & Justice and he co-founded and co-directs the Center for Progressive Renewal, an organization that trains leaders to build new and revitalize old churches within the United Church of Christ, the denomination Cathedral of Hope joined in 2006.

David Plunkett, Piazza’s assistant for the past nine years, was hired by Virginia Highlands Church to become director of church life. Last year, Plunkett moved from his position at Cathedral of Hope to become executive administrator for the Center for Progressive Renewal. He has served as Piazza’s principle proofreader for his last five books as well as most of his articles and sermons.

Piazza said that he couldn’t get his job done without Plunkett. But Plunkett downplayed his role and said he simply makes it appear that Piazza is in two places at the same time.

GOOD PARTNERSHIP | The Rev. Jo Hudson, left, said that the time she spent working with Piazza “has been a gift in my life.”

From Atlanta, Piazza will continue to co-direct the Center for Progressive Renewal. The Rev. Cameron Trimble, the other half of that team, is based there.

Piazza said that Trimble’s strength is creating new congregations while his is turning around declining congregations. Their goal is to spread the liberal UCC denomination, strongest in the northeast, across the south.

After a year of travel in his new position, Piazza said it became obvious that they needed a base of operations. Virginia Highlands, without a pastor for two years, provided that opportunity.

While his new church is large, its congregation has become quite small, something Piazza sees as a wonderful challenge.

Founded in 1923 as Virginia Highland Baptist Church, the congregation designated itself an inclusive congregation in 1993, withdrew its membership from the Southern Baptist Convention, affiliated with the more liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and then joined the Alliance of Baptists in 1996.

In 2002, while maintaining its Baptist affiliations, the church joined UCC.

Piazza admitted there was something quite delicious about becoming the pastor of a church that once belonged to the denomination that blocked Cathedral of Hope’s membership in the Greater Dallas Community of Churches.

While First Baptist Church of Dallas still publicly denounces homosexuality, it’s former pastor, W.A. Criswell, used to denounce Piazza personally and Cathedral of Hope in general by name from the pulpit.

That doesn’t happen anymore, Piazza said, and he counts that as part of his legacy.

Ask those outside the church about Piazza’s accomplishments and they’ll mention buildings — the original Cathedral, the John Thomas Bell Wall, the Interfaith Peace Chapel and the as-yet-unbuilt, Philip Johnson-designed, new Cathedral.

Ask those who’ve worked with him or have been longtime members and one word is repeated — vision.

NEW BEGINNING | Piazza, center, celebrates the consecration of Cathedral of Hope’s new sanctuary in 1992 with then associate pastors the Rev. Carol West, left, and the Rev. Paul Tucker.

Annette and Pat, who asked that their last names not be used, were on the board of the church when Piazza was hired and were the first couple in Dallas to meet him in person.

“We picked him up from the airport,” said Annette.

Piazza had flown in from Jacksonville where he was pastor of an MCC that he nurtured from 28 members to 270 in a short time.

“He was a visionary for the church,” Annette said. “He saw potential in us. He took worship to a different level.”

She said that as soon as Piazza got to Dallas, he demanded quite a bit from the congregation: Services would start on time; dress was more respectful, and while church was a great place to meet people, it wasn’t for cruising.

Annette said those steps led to the growth that led to the new cathedral.

“The church wouldn’t be what it is today if he wasn’t there at that time,” she said.

The Rev. Carol West, now pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth, calls Piazza her mentor. She was the first woman licensed and ordained under him.

While acknowledging their sometimes-stormy relationship, she said, “I think Mike is a visionary. My belief is he took this community to a place they were ready to go.”

She said that when he arrived in Dallas in 1987 in the middle of the AIDS crisis, the LGBT community was doing nothing but taking care of people with AIDS.

“He [Piazza] always had a vision of the community having more,” West said. “He helped our community get our voice.”

She called him a model for many pastors and thanked him for getting her to her current position.

Cathedral of Hope’s current senior pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson, called Piazza “one of the best and most creative preachers I’ve ever known.”

She, too, remarked on Piazza’s clarity of vision for the church from Day One.

“He gave them courage and direction,” she said. “He made the church a visible sign of hope.”

Piazza said he did three things when he first arrived that helped the church become what it is. The first he called “big worship.”

He said when he arrived in Dallas, the church was already doing enthusiastic, joyous services well. He helped make it bigger but also made sure it was visitor friendly.

Visitors needed to be welcomed and the service had to be easy to follow, Piazza said. That included simple things like a service bulletin that was done well.

But the congregation also needed a sense of community, a sense of intimacy, Piazza believed. To accomplish that as the church grew, small groups were formed to keep people engaged.

“That way it didn’t matter how big we became,” he said.

The third component was community service, and that, Piazza said, gained the church respect.

“This church gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.

Piazza related a story told by the Rev. Paul Tucker, who is now senior pastor at All God’s Children MCC in Minneapolis, about a conversation he overheard at a diner in Oak Lawn.

“We were in the paper for something like air conditioning Maple Lawn Elementary School’s gym. These two old codgers were sitting behind Paul reading the paper, and they were talking about the church. One said, ‘I don’t know about this queer stuff, but that church does more good than any other church in this city.’”

One of the programs Piazza started soon after he arrived was a weekend hot meals program for neighborhood children. The area around the church on Reagan Street was very poor and children who were fed in school during the week were going hungry over the weekend.

“Men in wheelchairs with AIDS would come to feed those children,” he said. “This church became respectable.”

So respectable and even admired that even Criswell had to stop denouncing Piazza and the church from the pulpit. Groups like the KKK stopped picketing them. The council of churches approached Piazza and begged the church, to join. Piazza refused because by that time, the church had nothing to gain from council membership.

Controversy

But as the church grew, so did controversy. As the congregation raised money to build the new cathedral designed by Philip Johnson, allegations of financial mismanagement arose.

The national Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (the denomination now just known as MCC] was called to audit the Dallas church’s records.
But Cathedral of Hope’s budget was larger than the denomination’s, and the denomination was unequipped to deal with the controversy, Piazza said.

One woman who didn’t like the way the church was being managed filed a complaint of financial mismanagement against Piazza. At the time the board was overseeing financial management, not Piazza.

Because the denomination didn’t have the staff to look into the allegations, MCC hired private investigators. The investigation dragged on for months, until finally, the cathedral’s board of directors had had enough. The board members called a congregational meeting, and the congregation voted by a 90 percent margin to leave MCC.

Piazza looks back now at the conflict with a philosophical eye. He said that much of it was rooted in theology, although that never got named.

For years, the cathedral had been moving away from MCC, which Piazza said is rooted in much more conservative theology.

He said that part of the 10 percent voting against leaving were simply people who had been a member of MCC for decades.

But Piazza admits missing the significance of the vote at the time.

As they voted to leave MCC, they also elected Piazza as the pastor of the newly independent church by the same 90 percent, an overwhelming vote of confidence by any standard among churches of any denomination.

“If I didn’t piss off more than 10 percent of the congregation after being here for 17 years,” he said, that was a great accomplishment in itself. “It was one of the greatest affirmations of my life — and I missed it entirely.”

When Piazza thinks now about mistakes he’s made over the years, he quotes Michael Jordan, who said, “I missed 9,000 shots and that’s why I succeeded.”

In other words, the church moved forward by always taking chances.

Piazza said that sometimes they hired someone who turned out to be a mistake, but other times they took chances and hired people like Tucker and West, who he called heroes.

“But sometimes, you just have to make mistakes and you learn from them,” Piazza said.

Plunkett called innovation part of Piazza’s legacy. He said that he started attending services at Cathedral of Hope via the Internet while he was living in Reno.

“Television was extremely expensive,” Plunkett said, so Piazza broadcast services on the Internet.

He was ahead of the curve and his worship style came through on line.

“I felt connected to a larger community,” Plunkett said, even though he lived in a smaller city with nothing comparable to Cathedral of Hope.

Family in transition

Once Piazza decided to take the position in Atlanta, several things fell into place. He and his partner, Bill Eure, put their house on the market and had an offer the next day from the first person that looked at it.

Eure works for American Airlines, but works from home and does not need to be in Dallas for his job.

LOOKING FORWARD TO A NEW CHURCH HOME | Michael Piazza said his partner Bill Eure, left, withdrew from his involvement in Cathedral of Hope when Piazza resigned from his position there, and that Eure is looking forward to beginning an active church life with Virginia Highland Church.

Piazza said that when he stepped aside at Cathedral of Hope, Eure also withdrew from the congregation. Virginia Highlands gives him a place to begin an active church life once again.
Together they raised two daughters with the girls’ mother.

Their older daughter graduates from Booker T. Washington High School in May and will be in college next year. Their younger daughter is a junior at Townview Talented and Gifted. She’ll finish the year in Dallas and the family is deciding whether she’ll transfer next year.

Eure will remain with them in Dallas for another couple of months until the house sale closes.

Hope for Peace and Justice

The future of Hope for Peace and Justice is undecided.

Piazza writes Liberating Word, the daily communication sent to 13,000 subscribers. He described the writing as a job no one else wants and one that he can continue from Atlanta.

But day-to-day management in the Dallas office will pass to someone else, he assumed.

The board is meeting this month to discuss what direction that organization will take after Piazza’s move. Its Art for Peace and Justice division also recently lost its director, Tim Seelig, who moved to San Francisco to become director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

Coincidentally, Seelig and Piazza also arrived in Dallas at the same time.

Many of the Art for Peace and Justice events take place at the Interfaith Peace House so moving the group to San Francisco with Seelig was not feasible.

“You can’t replace Tim,” Piazza said. “He has such a unique place in the community.”

Piazza said that that group would reinvent itself.

Seeing the end

Cathedral of Hope will continue to change and flourish, he said.

Someday, he said, the Johnson cathedral may be built. He said that no cathedral has ever been built by a congregation alone. It takes an entire community.

“We’ve always framed it as either it happens or it doesn’t happen,” he said. “We were always really clear that if the larger community doesn’t decide to participate in it, it just won’t happen. We just don’t have the resources ourselves.”

But he said the church continues to work at building relationships with people who do have the resources.

READY TO BUILD | The Rev. Michael Piazza speaks at the 1990 groundbreaking ceremony for the church’s current facilities.

“We’ve done a piece of it and I think that’s really important,” he said.

Piazza said that when he hired Hudson as pastor, he knew, “My time here is limited.” She became the local pastor and he knew that if things worked well, she would become his replacement.

For the first two years, she worked for him. Then they switched roles.

“While she was a great pastor,” Piazza said, Hudson had never managed a multi-million dollar budget. She agreed to become the senior pastor if he stayed to help manage the church finances.

So for the next two years, he worked for her. During that time, he phased himself out. For the past year, he has had no official affiliation with the church even though his office has remained in the Peace House, which is attached to the building.

“It’s good timing for me to not be here anymore,” Piazza said. “It’s time for this place not to be haunted by my ghost.”

Hudson said that Piazza’s life has been devoted to working for justice for the LGBT community and fighting for what’s right for all people.

“Working with Michael has been glorious, creative and exciting,” she said. “Our time together has been a great gift in my life.”

She said she hopes he’ll be remembered in Dallas for single-handedly saving people’s lives.

“The work he will be doing at Virginia Highland Church will be an incredible new chapter in his life,” Hudson said.

Piazza said he runs into people at the grocery store regularly who ask him the next time he’ll be back to preach and he thinks, “I don’t work there anymore.”

But he said the transition was so gradual, “that even this congregation doesn’t know. They just think I’m off traveling.”

Many people hoped that Piazza would give a final sermon before leaving for Atlanta, but he said they’ve already transitioned. He compared that to a Texas funeral, more popular when he first arrived in Dallas, where they reopened the coffin at the gravesite after the funeral service.

“So someday I’ll come back and preach,” not in six months, but maybe in a year or two, he said. “For me, this has been a long goodbye already. We don’t need to make it any longer.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Resource Center Dallas Honors Volunteers

It was an evening of glitz and glam as hundreds from the LGBT community packed the Starlight Lounge to honor volunteers for Resource Center Dallas on Sunday.

More than 1,000 people contributed more than 47,000 hours — valued at about $985,000 — to RCD in 2010.

On Sunday night, RCD honored them — Retro Hollywood style.

The moment volunteers and guest stepped out of their vehicles, they were met by valet and shown to the red carpet. Upon entry, they were invited to the posh open bar as well as catered hors d’oeuvres and dinner.

“This event is excellent for the community,” said James Weber, a supporter of the event. “It encourages support, involvement and gives a sense of appreciation to a whole lot of people.”

With more than 100 volunteers to recognize, RCD utilized a dual host technique and a team of (what else?) volunteers to hand out awards.

The true star of the night was longtime volunteer Barbara Foster. For her significant contributions to RCD and various other community groups over the years, Foster received the 2010 Martha Dealey Volunteer of the Year award.

“Come see what a difference — it’ll change in your life — see what you’ll get out of [volunteering],” said Foster. “Because I’ll tell you, I get more out of [volunteering] than I give.”

She added that being recognized by others she works with at RCD felt wonderful.

Cece Cox, executive director of RCD, said the power of volunteers to help an agency succeed in serving the community is what it’s all about — having fun networking but contributing back to the community.

—  admin

Anti-violence group plans ‘Phelps-a-thon’ during Westboro Baptist Church’s visit to Tucson

Phelps clan in Dallas

The Phelps clan is headed to Tucson.

In response, the Arizona Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation banning protests within 300 feet of a funeral. In some show of compassion (maybe in fear for their lives), the clan decided not to protest the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who was murdered. However, they still plan to picket the funeral of U.S. District Judge John McCarthy Roll.

When the clan visited Dallas to picket downtown at the Holocaust Museum and Congregation Beth El Binah at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, a fundraiser was held called “When Hell Freezes Over.” The goal was to replace the $3,000 ice maker at the community center. They raised move than $11,000.

The Wingspan Anti-Violence Project will be doing the same thing this week. They are holding a Phelps-a-thon.

Although we wish them luck, the circumstances are completely different. The group came to Dallas for no reason whatsoever and everyone who participated made a joke of the appearance. There was plenty of time to prepare stupid signs and costumes to welcome their afternoon of hate.

In Arizona, people are mourning. They are dealing with loss and healing. No one is in the mood for a jolly old time to mock the haters. The focus is on funerals and people in hospitals. Reaction to Phelps is a mere afterthought. But the gesture is appropriate. Let their visit to promote hatred after a violent incident raise money to decrease violence.

—  David Taffet

‘Would you come in and sign in please?’

Bud Knight

In this week’s paper we reported the death of Bud Knight. He was active in many organizations in the LGBT community. I got to know him working as a volunteer at the front desk of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

In 1959, he appeared on the TV game show What’s My Line. Bud was a maternity clothes buyer for Neiman’s at the time. For 1950s TV, the questions got a little racy but Bud handles it well.

The clip is a hoot so I asked his partner, Chet Flake, and he agreed Bud would get a kick out of sharing it with friends.

—  David Taffet

Deaths • 11.19.10

Bud Knight passed away on Monday, Nov. 15 of leukemia. In August, he and his partner Chet Flake celebrated their 45th anniversary.

Knight began his career with Neiman Marcus. After two weeks in the executive training program, he became an assistant to Edward Marcus. He became a maternity clothes buyer for Neiman’s and in 1959 appeared on the game show What’s My Line and stumped the panel with that profession. He spent two years on the West Coast working for I. Magnin before returning to Dallas. He retired as president of woman’s retailer Lester Melnick.

In 1965, he met his partner Chet Flake. They met through a friend and played bridge on their first date. They traveled often and despite his illness they were recently able to take a cruise.

Knight was a volunteer at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center where he worked at the front desk for more than 17 years and helped stage Toast to Life. The Turtle Creek Chorale awarded him a lifetime membership after he founded the A-Z Auction. He was a former board member of Bryan’s House and he and Flake walked in LifeWalk for 20 years along with a team that they helped form from their church, St. Thomas the Apostle.

He is survived by Flake and a cousin, Judy Bolen, and Flake’s nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews who all knew him as Uncle Bud. The funeral will be held on Saturday, Nov. 20 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 6525 Inwood Road at 11 a.m.

……………………………..

Breck Wall, the former Dallasite who created the long-running Bottoms Up comedy revue, died Monday, Nov. 15, in Las Vegas following a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Wall was born Billy Ray Wilson in Jacksonville, Fla., on Nov. 21, 1934, and was raised in Freeport, Texas. He spent one year at the University of Texas before moving to New York City for a time. Wall created Bottoms Up with friends in 1958.

Bottoms Up was first staged in Dallas, playing in nightclubs affiliated with Jack Ruby before moving to the Adolphus Hotel where it ran for two years.
The revue then moved to The Castaway in Las Vegas where it played late nights before becoming an afternoon show at the Thunderbird.

The show would run for several years in Las Vegas, then go on tour before returning to a new venue in Las Vegas. Wall’s longtime sidekick, David Harris, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the show originally focused on more sophisticated political humor until the Watergate scandal changed the public mood. Bottoms Up then switched to a more burlesque style, with Vaudeville-era jokes and skits framed by new generations of dancers and pop music.
The revue finally closed in 2007.

Wall also gained some fame in the early 1960s as a roommate of Jack Ruby, the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald after Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Wall’s connection with Ruby led to Wall being called to testify before the presidential commission investigating the assassination in 1964.

Wall had no survivors. The Review-Journal said he would be cremated, and that friends are organizing a memorial service for a later date.

………………………..

To Place an Obituary
We print notices of deaths of members of the LGBT community at no fee. A questionnaire is available to assist you in organizing the information. Certain information is required. The questionnaire can be e-mailed, faxed or mailed to you. You may supply photos as prints (color or B&W) or scans (min. 300 d.p.i. at 3X5). For more information or to submit a notice, e-mail nash@dallasvoice.com or call 214-754-8710 ext. 128.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Congregation Or Chadash, LGBT synagogue in Chicago, was among targets of Yemeni terror plot

Congregation Or ChadashOr Chadash, Chicago’s predominantly LGBT synagogue, was among those targeted by the Yemeni bombing plot that was uncovered this weekend.

Bombs were wrapped in packages addressed to two Chicago synagogues but were discovered before they were placed on planes headed for the U.S. Explosive material was packed inside toner cartridges.

Or Chadash is one of seven predominantly LGBT synagogues in the U.S. that are members of the Union of Reform Judaism. Dallas’ Congregation Beth El Binah is one of the others. Whenever temples are targeted, LGBT synagogues are warned that they could be “two for the price of one” targets.

Locally, Beth El Binah officials contacted staff at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center where the synagogue meets. They told them they don’t receive unexpected packages at the Center and that if a package arrives for the temple, to call police immediately.

Congregation Beth El Binah President Diane Litke joked that Beth El Binah gets its printer supplies from Office Depot, not Yemen. But she said more seriously that she can’t imagine anyone who works at any synagogue opening an unexpected package from overseas, adding that all synagogues are aware of security concerns.

—  David Taffet

Poll: Opposition to gay marriage waning in Nevada

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Most Nevadans still oppose legalizing gay marriage in the state, according to a statewide poll released Saturday, Aug. 14.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal and KLAS-TV survey found that 46 percent oppose same-sex marriage, 35 percent support it and 19 percent were undecided.

That compares with two-thirds of Nevadans who gave final approval in 2002 to a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The telephone poll of 625 registered voters was conducted Monday through Wednesday, Aug. 9 through 11, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Candice Nichols, executive director of The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, said the results show a softening of opposition to gay marriage in Nevada.

“We’re seeing the climate changing,” she said. “It’s going to take time, but there’s been a shift and it will keep going forward.”

Pollster Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon agreed: “I just don’t see the rabid opposition that existed five or 10 years ago.”

But Richard Ziser, a local conservative activist and supporter of the 2002 constitutional amendment, said the poll results more likely are just a reaction to the gay marriage issue being on the back burner for now.

“The economy and jobs are what people are concerned about right now,” he said. “If we were out there talking about it and having it out in front, our numbers would pick up again.”

The poll was conducted after a federal judge ruled California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional.

—  John Wright