In case you hadn’t noticed, Texas is now down to just 3 openly gay city council members

A Victory Fund spokesman called Chris Hightower’s defeat in Arlington ‘heartbreaking.’

As we mentioned in our big election roundup from Saturday night, three gay city council candidates lost runoffs in Texas — Randi Shade in Austin, Elena Guajardo in San Antonio, and Chris Hightower in Arlington.

Shade was the only incumbent of the three, and her departure from office will leave Texas, the second-largest state in the nation, with just three openly LGBT city council members — Joel Burns in Fort Worth, Sue Lovell in Houston, and Scott Sherman in Pearland.

Openly gay Kemp City Councilman Jerry Hazelip didn’t seek re-election this year. And the two gay council candidates in Dallas, James Nowlin and Casie Pierce, lost their races May 14.

Of course, Texas still has plenty of LGBT appointed and elected officials (view the full list here), including high-profile ones like Mayor Annise Parker in Houston and Sheriff Lupe Valdez in Dallas — but nevertheless the lack of gay council members is cause for concern, according to Denis Dison, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Dison said the Victory Fund, which endorsed both Hightower and Shade, doesn’t keep a running total of the number of gay city council members in each state. But he noted that Texas is one of the few big states that lack an out legislator, and city councils are often a stepping stone to higher office.

“Chris Hightower’s loss was heartbreaking, both because he came so close and because he was subject to some pretty awful anti-gay politicking,” Dison told Instant Tea today. “My understanding is Shade’s loss had nothing to do with her sexual orientation.

“Municipal offices like those are very important because that’s often where future state legislators get their start, and Texas really needs an openly LGBT voice in the Capitol.

“We hope our progress is constant, but sometimes the challenges seem to bunch up and we’ve got to redouble our efforts,” Dison said. “We’ve seen a lot of success in Texas and I think we’ll continue to see good people decide to run from both parties.”

Really? Both parties? A gay Republican candidate in Texas? Now that would be something.

—  John Wright

LOCAL BRIEFS: HRC and LULAC hold Cinco de Mayo

The Human Rights Campaign will partner with the local LGBT chapter of LULAC — The Dallas Rainbow Council to celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

The annual Salsa Cocktails event —featuring dancers, food and high-energy music — takes place at Havana, 4006 Cedar Springs Road, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.

“We have already confirmed Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez as one of our speakers,” said Kimberly Williams, HRC event coordinator. “Our dance group will also offer free salsa dance lessons for our guests.”

HRC and LULAC will talk about recent national and local successes. The public is invited to attend. The event is free, although a $20 donation to HRC at the door will get two free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

“Both HRC and LULAC will have information about membership and ways to get active,” said Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC 4871. “We have great projects coming up this summer. We invite community members ready to get involved to come learn about opportunities to further equality.”

—  John Wright

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Oak Cliff Mardi Gras attracts a wide cross-section of the community

Despite cold temperatures and strong wind hundreds of runners participated in Dash for the Beads as Mardi Gras weekend in Oak Cliff began Saturday, March 5. Runners included groups from Oak Cliff elementary schools, “traditional” families and many members of the LGBT community.

—  David Taffet

Carnivale returns to Oak Cliff

CARNIVALE ON PARADE | Entries in the Oak Cliff Mardi Gras parade set for Sunday reflect an eclectic mix, with everything from the Oak Lawn Band to the Catholic School Dad’s Club participating.

Oak Cliff Mardi Gras celebration promises an eclectic mix of participants and sponsors, including many from LGBT community

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Oak Cliff celebrates Mardi Gras with a two-day event this weekend, beginning with the second annual “Dash for the Beads,” a 5K run, one-mile walk and costume contest.

As with many Oak Cliff events, the sponsor list and participants in the weekend include an interesting and diverse mix. Sponsors range from GayBingo, Hewitt Habgood Realty, Monica Greene’s new restaurant Bee and attorney Chad West to the Oak Cliff Lions Club and Oddfellows.

“It’s why I love it over here,” said Old Oak Cliff Conservation League President Michael Amonett. “It’s an interesting, eclectic mix.”

The walk begins in the Bishop Arts District on Saturday, March 5, at 8:30 a.m. and the “Dash for the Beads” run at 9 a.m. Runners will proceed west on Davis Street, turn north on Tyler Street then east on Colorado Boulevard, with a detour through scenic Kessler Lake Drive, and return to the starting point on Bishop Avenue.

After race participants return, race awards will be followed by costume awards. Judges for the contest include Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Councilwoman Delia Jasso.

Vendors will have booths in the Bishop Arts District throughout the morning. The Cliff Blues Band will provide live music. DJ Ish follows and Ballet Folklorico performs.

A masquerade ball begins at 8 p.m. at the newly restored Kessler Theater on Saturday night. Lil Malcolm and the House Rockers will headline the evening. Zydeco Blanco will open.

Weekend organizer Amy Cowan called OCarnivale at the Kessler a semiformal masquerade ball with people dressed in everything from jeans to black tie — with lots of masks.

The Mardi Gras celebration continues on Sunday with a crawfish boil at 3 p.m. in Bishop Arts. Tickets are $15 in advance and a limited number will be sold at the door for $20.

That will be followed at 4 p.m. with the Mardi Gras parade.

Parade entries reflect an interesting mix and include everything from the Oak Lawn Band to St. Cecilia Catholic School’s Dad’s Club. Cowan said they have 48 entries.

Following in New Orleans style, several Oak Cliff krewes have formed with names like Krewe of Winnetka Heights and Krewe du Cliff Temple. Cowan is part of the Kings Highway Krewe, which has a 24-foot float.

She said Krewe La Rive Gauche always has the best costumes and that Friends of Kidd Springs Park’s entry features a 10-foot Eiffel Tower.

Norma’s, a popular Oak Cliff diner since 1956, has a vintage fire truck in the parade. Valdez will march with a sheriff’s posse on horseback.

Cowan said most mayoral and council candidates will be participating.

The parade begins on Davis Street at Windomere Avenue. The route follows Davis Street to Madison Avenue where it returns to Bishop Arts on Seventh Street.

Among the parade sponsors is Hunky’s.

“We’re going to open at 10 a.m. on Saturday,” said Hunky’s owner Rick Barton, referring to the Bishop Arts location only. “We’ll be decorated and festive.”

Cowan said traffic and parking will be difficult.

“Take public transit or ride your bike,” Cowan said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Lupe Valdez, ‘famous modern day lesbian’

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and author Erin McHugh (via Facebook)

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez is among the “famous modern day lesbians” featured in The L Life, a new coffee-table book by Erin McHugh that contains 160 pages of portraits and interview profiles. The book, released Tuesday, is selling for $32.50. From AfterEllen.com:

The lesbian phone tree worked its magic for McHugh and photographer Jennifer May, who worked for more than a year to coordinate who and where and when they’d be meeting with to feature in the book. The L Life is 160 pages of insight into each individual woman’s life, and the women in it are from all over the country. From household names like Jane Lynch to politicians and activists like Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and Hon. Christine Quinn, the stories they tell are about realizing they were gay, coming out, living out in high-profile positions and moving through life as successful lesbians. …

The L Life may have some lesser-known lesbians on the “famous” scale, but that doesn’t mean the subjects are any less powerful or inspiring. In fact, the book is almost better because of it. Where else do we get to hear about Lupe Valdez, the out Latina Dallas County Sheriff? Or the Executive Vice President and General Manger of Logo, Lisa Sherman?

—  John Wright

Plaque in Tyler park to honor Nicholas West, murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in 1993

Nicholas West

On Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, Project TAG (Tyler Area Gays) and Tyler AIDS Services will unveil a plaque in Bergfeld Park honoring the memory of Nicholas West.

West was kidnapped from Bergfeld Park on Oct.  31, 1993. He was tortured, shot and left for dead. He was targeted because his three assailants presumed he was gay. At their trial, they confessed that they wanted to kill a homosexual.

West’s two murderers received the death penalty in the case.

The story was featured recently in the Investigation Discovery channel series Hardcover Mysteries. Dallas Voice senior editor Tammye Nash, who interviewed one of West’s killers on death row, is portrayed in the show by a svelte brunette whom we all agree is perfect for the part. The story of West’s murder was also featured in Arthur Dong’s 1997 documentary Licensed to Kill.

This summer’s production of The Laramie Project was in West’s memory.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez will attend the unveiling of the plaque for West with her Smith County counterpart, J.B. Smith. So will Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass.

Following the dedication at 6 p.m., a World AIDS Day remembrance will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 230 West Rusk St. in Tyler at 6:30 p.m. followed by a candlelight vigil.

—  David Taffet

A conversation with Houston Mayor Annise Parker

PARKER IN DALLAS | In her only interview while in Dallas as the honorary grand marshal of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she doesn’t live her life just out of the closet, but out on the front lawn. Her city is competing with Moscow for a major petroleum convention, and she plans to meet up with that city’s mayor to tell him what she thinks of his treatment of gays and lesbians in Moscow. Read the complete interview with Parker online at DallasVoice.com. (Photo courtesy Steve Krueger)
Houston Mayor Annise Parker speaks during Dallas Pride on Sunday, Sept. 19. (Photo courtesy Steve Krueger)

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said she was delighted to be asked to come to Dallas to be Honorary Grand Marshal of the Pride parade. And she was a little surprised other cities hadn’t asked her.

“It’s a little hot outside,” she said soon after arriving in Dallas. “We do our parade at night for a reason.”

Parker said she forgot to bring a hat, but she never wears hats in Houston. Her reason sounded a bit like another Texas Democrat, Ann Richards.

“My hat covers the hair,” she said. “They have to see the hair.”

Unlike many gay or lesbian politicians, she didn’t come out after successfully launching her political career. She said she started as a lesbian activist on the front lines.

“I was debating the nutballs in public,” she said.

Parker came out in high school. In college she founded Rice University’s first LGBT group and began her political career as president of the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

During each campaign, the GLBT Political Caucus and her partner, Kathy Hubbard, have always been included in her literature.

“That way I owned it,” she said. “Kathy describes our relationship as not being out of the closet but being out on the front lawn,” she said.

The election received an overwhelming amount of media coverage.

“It’s unprecedented for an election for mayor of Houston to make the front cover of the Times of India,” she said. “It was difficult to slog through. It was a distraction at the beginning.”

Parker said she doesn’t think most of Texas was as surprised by her election as the rest of the country or the world. She mentioned a number of lesbian elected officials around the state including Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

She attributed her victory to a number of factors. Houston always elects moderate Democrats, she said.

Of the seven candidates running in the general election, she started with the highest name recognition. This was her eighth election and her opponent’s first.

“He made some rookie mistakes,” she said. “He got distracted. He got in bed with the right-wing hate-mongers.”

The week before coming to Dallas, Parker had been in New York and met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

She said he joked that he was partially responsible for her win. Had he stepped aside, Christine Quinn, the lesbian who heads New York’s city council, would have probably made a bid for office.

“All the gay money across the country would have flown to New York,” she said.

Actually, most of Parker’s donations were local, and while she didn’t have the most money for her campaign, she had a greater number of donations than her six opponents combined.

Parker seems to be settling into her new position.

She strengthened the city’s non-discrimination policies by executive order. Her revisions included gender identity and expression and extended protection to all city-run facilities.

Partner benefits for city employees can only be granted by popular vote in that city. She said she expects that the LGBT community will soon begin collecting signatures to bring that proposition to a vote and said she would like to be able to include Hubbard on her insurance.

Parker said that in effect she is making less than Bill White did as mayor because she has to pay for Hubbard’s health insurance.

With 2.2 million constituents, Parker said she couldn’t be just the gay mayor, but she would continue to use her position to advance LGBT rights when possible. She helps raise money and speaks for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund around the country and said their training was extremely helpful.

And Parker said Houston has benefited from being the largest city in the world with a lesbian mayor. Her recent trade mission to China is an example.

Earlier in the year, Parker was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most powerful people in the world. She said she never would have made the list had she been “just another white guy.” One of China’s top trade officials was also on the list.

In August, Parker led a trade delegation to China. The Chinese trade official, she said, probably met with her because both were on the list and because of the curiosity factor. Men hold most government positions in China, she said, not out lesbians.

She said that while that was how her being a lesbian has benefited Houston, she can also use her position as a bully pulpit.

She may make a return trip to China where Houston and Moscow are competing to bring a convention to their cities. She said she hopes the mayor of Moscow is there and that Houston wins the convention over his city.

Parker said she plans on calling the Moscow mayor out on his terrible treatment of gays and lesbians. Among other things, he has canceled permits for Pride parades in the city and last weekend had his city’s best-known gay activist arrested.

With the November election approaching, Parker said she is remaining officially neutral in the state’s races.

“To represent my city I have to get along with everyone,” she said.

As mayor of the state’s largest city, Parker said she’s had more contact lately with Gov. Rick Perry than former Houston mayor Bill White.

“But I am absolutely livid that Rick Perry has an attack ad on Bill White that features me,” she said. “I don’t want to be used as a wedge in that campaign.”

Parker said that Perry used a quote of something she said while controller. She said it was not out of context and might have even been impolitic to say at the time. But she described her relationship with White as a good working relationship despite a disagreement on a particular issue at one time during their three terms in office together.

Parker maintains a high popularity rating in Houston and said she thinks her city is getting used to their new high-profile mayor. Among the reasons, she said, is that she is the only mayor of a major American city who hasn’t had to lay off any workers.

Parker did admit just one area where Dallas beats Houston — light rail. However, she said the two cities are working together to get a high-speed rail link built between them.

In January, Parker and Hubbard will celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Parker said one thing Hubbard did not share with her was the parenting gene. It took several years before she convinced Hubbard they should be parents.

They have raised three children together. Their foster son was an openly gay teen who they took in at age 16. Later, they adopted their two daughters at ages 12 and 7. Their younger daughter is 15 now and still at home. Her son, who is now 34, rode in the car in the parade with her.

Houston’s mayors serve two-year terms so Parker will be running for re-election next year.

—  Kevin Thomas

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

WATCH: Bill White on why he’s coming to gay Pride in Dallas — ‘I think parades are great’

We weren’t sure of the topic when we headed down to the Hyatt Regency this morning to catch a press conference featuring Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White. But we figured since Valdez is the nation’s only lesbian Latina sheriff — and since White is coming to Dallas’ gay Pride parade in a few weeks — we’d better go check it out.

As it turned out, the press conference was about White’s border security plan, which Valdez really likes. But Instant Tea also managed to sneak in a question about White’s upcoming appearance in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade — which was announced Monday night by Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. If you can forgive the shot of a pantleg at the beginning of the video, above is White’s response to our question, as well as some footage of Valdez talking about White and LGBT issues afterward. Enjoy!

—  John Wright