Is a Republican Texas lawmaker about to host a fundraiser for the VIP of the gay Pride parade?

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie

Dallas’ LGBT Pride parade, the Alan Ross Freedom Parade, is Sept. 18. The parade’s “special VIP Guest” is English rugby star Ben Cohen, whose StandUp Foundation works to raise awareness of the long-term damaging effects of bullying. Cohen, who is straight, was inspired to create the foundation after hearing from LGBT friends about the difficulties they experienced. “I am passionate about standing up against bullying and homophobia in sports,” says Cohen, “and feel compelled to take action. It is time we stand up for what is right and support people who are being harmed.”

In honor of Cohen the week leading up to the parade, Sept. 12-16, has been declared “Stand Up Against Bullying Week” in Dallas. According to this Facebook event the week will culminate in a fundraiser for the StandUp Foundation on Friday night at the Highland Park home of Jim Pitts.

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, is chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and a 20-year Republican member of the House … which begs the question of whether the Jim Pitts who is hosting Cohen’s event is the same Jim Pitts who supported efforts this last session by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, to ban LGBT resource centers from Texas college campuses.

A search of the Dallas County Central Appraisal District’s website indicates that the address given for the fundraiser is owned by Pitts 2007 Properties LTD, which is a subsidiary of Pitts Property Management LLC, which is owned by none other than Jim R. Pitts, the honorable representative from House District 10.

So it seems that Rep. Pitts is, indeed, hosting the event: for which I give him kudos. The StandUp Foundation does good work and Ben Cohen is, by all accounts, a fierce advocate for the LGBT community. Hosting the event is in keeping with Pitts’ voting record this last session, when he voted for both HB 1942 (the “super” anti-bullying bill) and HB 1386 (the teen suicide prevention bill).

I would ask, however, that Rep. Pitts consider his votes on other issues and how they affect bullying in Texas schools. It’s not enough to say that LGBT kids shouldn’t be bullied or harassed if your actions tell their tormentors that LGBT kids aren’t as deserving of respect or resources as other people. There is a direct line running through Christian’s statements on the House floor calling LGBT people disgusting and the middle school student who punches an effeminate child for being a “fag.” When Pitts fails to stand up to the former he enables the later. This inconsistency, this willful refusal to see the systemic discrimination faced by LGBT adults as the license that allows the torture of LGBT children, is, in ways both figurative and literal, killing our children — and it has to end.

Instant Tea has left a message with Pitts’ legislative office seeking to confirm that he plans to host a fundraiser for Cohen’s foundation. We’ll let you know what we find out.

—  admin

92 entries, 35,000 spectators expected for Pride parade

CLICK HERE TO READ SOME PRIDE SAFETY TIPS FROM LGBT LIAISON OFFICER LAURA MARTIN

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Dallas Pride Parade
COLORS OF PRIDE | Resource Center Dallas is one of the many community organizations that usually have a float in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

Between 30,000 and 35,000 are expected to crowd into Oak Lawn on Sunday, Sept. 19, for the 27th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Dallas’ annual LGBT Pride parade that this year celebrates the theme, “One Heart, One World, One Pride.”

Michael Doughman, executive director of Dallas Tavern Guild which presents the parade each year, said this week the parade will include about 92 entries. It will travel the traditional route, with entries lining up along Wycliff Avenue and then moving down Cedar Springs Road to Turtle Creek Boulevard before turning left to wind up at Lee Park.
The Festival in Lee Park takes place at the conclusion of the parade.

Doughman said that members of Youth First Texas, once again the parade beneficiary, will lead the way, carrying the parade banner. They will be followed by a color guard consisting of former military servicemembers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, and then a mounted color guard provided by the Texas Gay Rodeo Association.

Then comes the “VIP section,” which will include grand marshals Paul Lewis and Erin Moore, Houston Mayor Annise Parker as honorary grand marshal, and then local city and county officials, such as Police Chief David Brown, Fire Chief Eddie Burns Sr., members of the Dallas City Council and Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

“We understand that Mayor Parker’s son will be riding in the parade with her, and I think by now everybody knows that [Democratic gubernatorial candidate] Bill White will be walking with the Stonewall Democrats in the parade,” Doughman said.

“I think most of the entries will probably follow our theme this year, which is really all about unity,” he added. “This theme matches the goal of our parade and our community, which is unifying our community and our people.”

Doughman said there is “nothing really new” about the way the parade will happen this year.

“We just work to make it run as smoothly as possible and take out any hiccups or delays. We just want to keep it moving as smoothly and steadily as possible down the road so that the spectators are entertained,” he said.

There will, however, be something new for the Festival in Lee Park. Food services during the festival this year will be handled exclusively by Brinker, the parent company for restaurant chains On The Border, Chili’s and Maggiano’s.

“We really liked the idea of having these recognizable brands out there for the food. We think it is a real step up,” he said. “We think they will do very well, and on top of that, they have agreed to give us a portion of their proceeds to give back to our beneficiary.”

This means there will be a “much larger” food and beer pavilion in the upper part of the park, giving those attending the festival better and quicker service, Doughman said.
Voice of Pride top finishers Mel Arizpe, Laura Carrizales and Juliana Jeffrey will perform during the festival, as will Anton Shaw and her band.

Derek Hartley of “The Derek and Romaine Show” on Sirius XM OutQ Radio will emcee the festival.

Thanks to the economic recession and the ever-increasing costs and requirements of staging the event, finances have created some problems for the parade in recent years. This year, though, things are looking up, Doughman said.

“I think we are OK this year. We had some real struggles in 2008, and last year was still pretty tight because of the economy. But we found some extra sponsors this year, and we did well in raising money during the Voice of Pride competition this year,” Doughman said. “Our main goal each year is to be able to give our beneficiary the amount we have committed to and still be able to pay for the parade and maintain the administrative costs of the Tavern Guild through the rest of the year.”

Doughman said the Tavern Guild doesn’t really generate any revenue until the later stages of VOP and then when the entry fees for the parade start rolling in each year. “So we have to balance everything out to have enough money to cover expenses through the rest of the year,” he said.

“Actually, we are paying a lot of the bills that are due this week, and we will be able to pay the balance of the expenses — things like the cost of added security, renting barricades, cleanup and sanitation costs — right after the parade,” he said.

Doughman noted that the city has recently increased the requirements applicants must meet to get a parade permit, but still the Tavern Guild shouldn’t be looking at any red ink when it is all said and done.

“We won’t be rolling in it by any means. But we did see enough light on the horizon this year to go ahead and invest in new flags and flag holders to put up along Cedar Springs. The old flags were so beat up and faded that we didn’t even put them up last year,” he said.

“We never have an excess of money after the parade because the costs of putting it on are so significant, but we should be OK this year,” Doughman said.

One way the Tavern Guild has cut costs, he added, is by not paying to bring in celebrity guests and performers.

“I think people enjoy the day, whether there are celebrities here or not. We just want to give the people a good parade and a good festival and let them have a great time. That’s why they come out in the first place.”

The 27th Annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens