North Texans donate more than $2K to help catch teen lesbian couple’s shooter

Kris Wong of Youth First Texas, left, and Cd Kirven of GetEQUAL Texas, right, are shown with a representative from Tri-County Crime Stoppers, center

North Texans Kris Wong, C.d. Kirven and Mark Reed traveled to Aransas Pass near Portland to deliver two checks to Tri-County Crime Stoppers totaling $2,125 to help solve the shooting of a teenage lesbian couple.

On June 22, 19-year-old Mollie Olgin was murdered and 18-year-old Kristene Chapa was shot in a park in Portland, Texas. A sketch of the shooter has been released, but there are no suspects.

“The exciting thing about yesterday was the Portland City Council approved $15,000 and two police departments committed $5,000 each,” Reed said.

That $25,000 will go toward a Crime Stoppers reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. The money donated by the trio will be used to make a video reenactment of the shooting that will be filmed in two weeks to be published online and shown on local TV news outlets.

“Funds we delivered will be used to advertise the video,” Reed said. “They are very focused on getting this crime solved.

Kirven began the fundraising effort at a vigil held for the couple on Cedar Springs Road on June 30.

Wong, 17, a member of Youth First Texas Collin County, organized a bowling tournament in Plano to raise additional funds for the reward fund. That event exceeded her $1,000 goal.

—  David Taffet

BUSINESS: Beaming with Pride

Gay couple Mark Reed and Dante Walkup fulfill their decade-old dream of installing LED lights on Reunion Tower

Wiedamark.Reed.Walkup

GLOWING NEW SHOWROOM | Dante Walkup, left, and Mark Reed recently moved Wiedamark Lighting to a new showroom and warehouse on Harry Hines Boulevard. (Patrick Hoffman/Special to the Voice)

DANIEL VILLARREAL  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

When Mark Reed and Dante Walkup became a serious couple in 2000, they agreed they wanted to have fun in their 50s. But to do that they’d want to leave their respective jobs as a furniture salesman and a psychologist and start their own business.

Having spent the last year installing LED lights around their Las Colinas home, the couple decided they’d use their sales and communications skills to start an LED lighting company — a relatively new business idea at the time.

They converted their three-car garage into a warehouse and turned their basement, bedroom and kitchen into workspaces for them and five other employees.

Since then, Wiedamark has grown into a $3.5 million dollar company with about 300 retailers internationally and a brand new showroom and warehouse on Harry Hines Boulevard. But from their very first year, Reed and Walkup knew they wanted to put their business on the map by updating one of Dallas’ most iconic buildings — they wanted to refit Reunion Tower with their LEDs.

Tower

HIGH LIGHTS OF THE JOB | A technician from Ropeworks installs one of the 259 new fixtures. (Frank Huster/Special to the Voice)

If you’ve ever been on Cedar Springs, chances are you’ve probably seen some of Wiedamark’s lights. The fiberglass chandelier hanging over the bar at Sue Ellen’s, the mood-lighting wall sconces in the Rose Room at S4, the colored lighting at the Legacy of Love Monument — that’s all Wiedamark.

Reed and Walkup don’t usually install the lights themselves. They order the fixtures from China and Taiwan, then resell them to retailers who install them for companies looking to add a splash of color to their venues.

After several years on Oak Lawn Avenue near Maple, Wiedamark recently relocated to Harry Hines. Their new digs are easy to ignore by day but lit up in turquoise, emerald and ruby at night. Inside, it seems more like an art gallery than a commercial space.

Over their reception desk hangs four large lime-green letters spelling “LOVE.” A wall-size LED screen in their conference room displays an unfurling rainbow, its bows opening up like the pages of a book. But the colorful hallway in the back contains the real wonders: sculpted walls that seem to breathe in the golden-to-violet light, dance floor tiles that change color with each step and a mirrored lounge with a glistening ceiling of twinkling LED stars.

Interiors, exteriors, landscapes, pools, bars, bathrooms — you name it, they can put lights in it.

They’ve provided resort lighting in Jamaica and highlights at the Maya Bar in New Zealand, just to name a few. A wealthy Saudi Arabian once wanted them to install high-end lights in his palace. Instead of traveling to his home country, they invited him to meet them during a trip to Vienna.

Reed and Walkup say that in their nine years of business they have never made a single cold call. As one of the first online shippers of LED equipment, the customers found them.

Their first year in, the Hyatt Hotel hired them to light its Christmas party, giving Reed and Walkup the perfect chance to share their Reunion Tower idea with Hyatt’s head of engineering, Brett Killingsworth. The idea instantly intrigued him.

In many ways LEDs were better than the tower’s older, 130-watt bulbs: LEDs use a fraction of the energy, stay cool to the touch and can last up to 10 times longer than old-fashioned bulbs. But unfortunately for Reed and Walkup, 2004 technology had not yet advanced far enough to make LED lights visible on the tower from miles away.

So immediately, Reed and Walkup’s team began working on an improved LED design that would take five years to complete.

To help make the light more visible from a greater range of view, they fitted a spherical dome onto a flat-surfaced LED, creating something resembling the Jetsons’ space car.

At 4 a.m. one day,  Walkup took the prototype and held it off the top of Reunion Tower while Reed checked whether he could see it clearly from four different locations several miles away. He could.

But the prototype had a major design flaw — it couldn’t keep out rainwater. A high-pressure water test left its circuit board drenched, something that would cause it to fail in a storm.

So over the next few years, they bolted the LED dome to a hexagonal metal base which increased the size and weight while preventing seepage. But even then, their design corroded when exposed to salty air conditions.

Frustrated with their failed attempts, Reed and Walkup turned to an engineer friend for help. He streamlined their design

Ball

SHINING DEBUT | The tower was fittingly awash in rainbow colors on New Year’s Eve.

into a lighter, less clunky model made entirely of non-corrosive stainless steel. And best of all, it kept out rainwater.
Sixteen weeks later, they had manufactured all the lights they needed.

But now that they had a workable design, they had an even bigger task ahead — installing 259 lights on the tower’s 118-foot geodesic sphere, all without endangering their workers or dropping the 20-pound fixtures onto someone 560 feet below.

Seattle’s Space Needle, Mount Rushmore and the Hoover Dam all need regular maintenance and inspection by certified professionals willing to work hundreds if not thousands of feet off the ground.

The group who does this kind of work is Ropeworks, a team of certified technicians from Reno, Nev., trained in rope access, tower climbing, rescue and fall protection. After seeing Ropeworks’ presentation, Reed thought they could best handle the high wind speeds and low temperatures atop Reunion Tower in the fall.

So from Oct. 30 through Nov. 21, from 5 a.m. till 6 p.m., seven days a week, four certified master electricians from Ropeworks rappelled from the top of the tower and hung along the dome’s 260 intersecting aluminum struts to disassemble the tower’s old fixtures and install Wiedamark’s new ones.

The Woodbine Development Co. (which owns the tower) hoped to keep the new lights secret until a surprise showing 15 minutes before New Year’s Day. But on Nov. 21 at 4:30 a.m., a Dallas photographer captured some footage of Wiedamark testing the lights.

The photographer then sent photo and video footage to WFAA-TV and the Dallas Observer.

By the next morning, everyone knew that for the first time in its 33-year history, the Reunion Tower had new lights.

“I was happy [the news] was out,” says Walkup. “We couldn’t talk about it in public, but our friends had known about the project for a long time. [Waiting for the unveiling] was like being pregnant for nine months, but then having the birth delayed to 10 months, then 11 months, then 12 months. And all this time you’re just waiting for it to finally happen.”

On New Year’s Eve, Reed and Walkup stood on the ninth floor balcony of their friend’s downtown condominium, the unlit dome of Reunion Tower clearly in view. Then the dome lit up at a quarter till midnight, a digital countdown on the ball ticking off each second.

Then, at midnight sharp, the Reunion Tower dome sparkled in a ecstatic wash of reds, greens, blues, and purples while Reed, Walkup and the rest of Dallas rang in the New Year.

After a 10-minute light show, the numbers 2012 encircled the dome in bright yellow until 5 o’ clock that morning.

Mentioning the new Omni Hotel and the other colorful LED-lit projects that have joined the Dallas landscape in the last few years, Walkup notes: “Dallas is a colorful city. We want to make it an exciting place to live and colored light helps people recognize that. Light is modern and fresh. It conveys youth. Dallas, a city of young ideas.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: DMN prints 1st gay weddings; active-duty troops march at San Diego Pride

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Dallas Morning News published its first-ever same-sex wedding announcements on Sunday. Two gay couples — Mark Reed and Dante Walkup (right), and James Kreidel and Mark Pierson — had announcements appear under Weddings in Sunday’s Celebrations section of The DMN (Page 11E). Reed and Walkup, who convinced the newspaper to publish same-sex weddings after filing a discrimination complaint with the city, were married in Washington, D.C., last year. Kreidel and Pierson were married in Massachusetts last year. Congrats to both couples.

2. In another head-spinning twist over “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a federal appeals court late Friday temporarily reinstated the policy but ordered the government not to use it to investigate, penalize or discharge anyone. On July 6, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted its stay of a district judge’s ruling halting enforcement of DADT. But last week the Department of Justice asked the court to reimpose the stay, saying its removal could interfere with the orderly legislative repeal of the ban on open service. The appeals court on Friday agreed to reimpose the stay but blocked the Pentagon from discharging anyone under the policy. The military can, however, refuse to accept applications from openly gay recruits. The court gave the DOJ until today to submit additional arguments as to why the stay should remain in place.

3. As the legal maneuvering over DADT repeal continues, a contingent of active-duty military servicemembers marched in a gay Pride parade Saturday for what is believed to be the first time in U.S. history. About 200 active-duty troops, wearing T-shirts representing every service branch, marched in San Diego’s Pride parade. Watch video below.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Marathon of LGBT speakers call on Commissioners Court to add trans protections

Here’s video of the first six LGBT advocates who spoke at Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, with video of the remaining six to come later. As we noted earlier, the unprecedented marathon of speakers exceeded the maximum 30 minutes for public comment on the issue — a proposal to add transgender protections to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. It was the fourth straight week in which LGBT advocates addressed the Commissioners Court, and the community’s advocacy led to the court ultimately approving trans protections in a 3-2 party-line vote. The speakers in Part I (above) are Rebecca Solomon, Jesse Garcia and Louise Young; and the speakers in Part II (below) are Cd Kirven, Jeffrey Barnett and Mark Reed. As the old saying goes,  “This is what Democracy looks like!”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: LGBT advocates to address commissioners; hearings on 4 pro-equality bills

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Several members of the LGBT communiity are expected to call on the Dallas County Commissioners Court to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy during public comments at the court’s regular meeting this morning. The Commissioners Court added sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy two weeks ago. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. at the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St. Watch for coverage later today on Instant Tea.

2. Four pro-equality bills are scheduled for hearings in Texas House committees today. HB 604 and HB 2156 are identical measures to repeal the state’s “homosexual conduct” law. HB 2227 would add gender identity and expression to Texas’ hate crimes law, and HB 1909 would remove discriminatory provisions from the state’s age of consent (Romeo and Juliet) laws. Representatives from Equality Texas will testify in favor of all four bills. For more, visit Equality Texas’ Legislative Information Center. You can also watch the proceedings live on the Legislature’s website.

3. Local activist Mark Reed-Walkup, who filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish his same-sex wedding announcement, provided this update about the case on Facebook on Monday: “We received a registered letter today from the Fair Housing Office of the City of Dallas. Our discrimination case against the Dallas Morning News is now officially under review which means they believe our complaint has merit and they will be setting up interviews with us soon.”

—  John Wright

WATCH: Fox 4 on Dallas’ failure to enforce ordinance prohibiting anti-gay discrimination

 

I’m on vacation this week but I couldn’t resist putting this up. Before I left on Friday for an undisclosed location, I got a call from Peter Daut at Fox 4. He wanted me to put him in touch with Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup, the local gay couple that filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement. Peter had seen our post on Friday saying that despite 53 complaints file in nine years, the city has never prosecuted a single case under its ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. So I connected Peter with Mark, and above is the result. It’s a good story that brings needed attention to the issue, but I should note that there is a fact error: The report says the case isn’t going anywhere because sexual orientation isn’t a protected class. Not true. Sexual orientation is a protected class in the city of Dallas, and that’s the whole point. There’s an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and people have been filing complaints under it, but the City Attorney’s Office isn’t doing anything with them. Peter is right when he says the complaint isn’t going anywhere. But he’s wrong about the reason why. Also, he should have given us credit.

—  John Wright

Gay couple complains about city’s handling of discrimination complaint against Morning News

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

A few weeks ago we reported that two Dallas council members are reviewing the city’s handling of complaints filed under an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

We’re still awaiting the results of that review, as well as the city’s response to an open records request filed by Dallas Voice for statistics related to complaints filed under the ordinance.

In the meantime, a gay couple who recently filed a complaint under the ordinance is complaining about the city’s handling of the matter. Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup filed a complaint against The Dallas Morning News, which refuses to publish same-sex marriage announcements in its Weddings section. The couple claims the DMN policy is a violation of the ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

In a letter to Beverly Davis, director of the city’s Fair Housing Office, the Walkups said it’s been more than 60 days since they filed their complaint, and they haven’t heard anything from the city. The Fair Housing Office is charged with investigating complaints under the ordinance. Below is a copy of the couple’s e-mail, which they forwarded to Dallas Voice as well as City Councilwomen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano:

Hi Beverly,

It has been over 60 days since we formally filed a complaint against the DMN for discrimination based on our sexual orientation. As you recall, my husband and I had a legal wedding on 12/10/2010 and tried to submit our paid wedding announcement to the Dallas Morning News and we were denied equal access to this public accommodation. Our ad was refused and money refunded based on the Texas ban on SSM.

We reached out to you 30 days ago to seek a status on our case and you told us to “be patient” and we have been. After 60 days, we must say that the lack of any follow-up to our case has been an extreme disappointment. We are a customer of the City of Dallas and your department has not done anything to reach out to us to advise us of any updates about our case.

We expect better service from the people we pay to enforce our laws and there should be no excuse to the lack of follow-up on our discrimination complaint. Please advise when we can expect an update from your department.

Mark & Dante Walkup

—  John Wright

Dallas Morning News bills gay couple $1,034 for wedding announcement it refused to publish

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup

After filing a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their marriage announcement under “Weddings,” a local gay couple reports that they received a $1,034 bill in the mail for the unpublished ad.

Mark Reed-Walkup, who filed the discrimination complaint against The DMN after marrying his partner Dante Walkup in Washington, D.C., says he wrote the following to James Moroney III, publisher and CEO of the newspaper:

“Does the DMN always send out invoices to ‘customers’ who placed an ad online but it was never published due to the paper’s discriminatory policies? We just received an invoice today for our December ad that you banned from your paper because our wedding wasn’t ‘really’ a wedding in your eyes. Unbelievable.”

Reed-Walkup says Moroney responded as follows:

“Not a good practice. I’ll take up with sales. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

Reed-Walkup also notes that more than 8,000 people have signed a petition launched by Change.org calling on The DMN to publish same-sex marriage announcements under Weddings. He’s hoping to get the petition up to 10,000 signatures.

As for the complaint filed against The DMN, the director of the Fair Housing Office told Instant Tea recently that the city was still in the process of reviewing it. The Fair Housing Office investigates discrimination complaints filed under a 2002 ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. Reed-Walkup maintains that Wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

—  John Wright

It’s finally official

Reed, Walkup travel to D.C. for 2nd wedding after officials invalidate October Skype ceremony

John Wright  |  wright@dallasvoice.com

Thomas-Mark-Reed-and-Dante-Karl-Walkup
NEWLYWEDS AGAIN | Mark Reed-Walkup, right, and his husband, Dante Walkup, were married a second time in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10. (Photo courtesy Mark Reed-Walkup)

A gay Dallas couple who made headlines last year with a Skype wedding — only to have it later declared invalid — have since remarried and refiled a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup said Thursday, Jan. 6, that he and his partner, Dante Walkup, traveled to Washington, D.C., and were married in a ceremony inside the Jefferson Memorial on Dec. 10. (Watch video from the ceremony at DallasVoice.com).

The couple had been married Oct. 10 at the W Dallas hotel, in a ceremony officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal. However, after their “e-marriage” made international news, D.C. court officials notified the couple that the marriage was invalid because they hadn’t been physically present in the district for the ceremony.

“We’re officially, legally married in D.C. and recognized in five states and several countries,” Reed-Walkup said Thursday, adding the couple chose not to challenge D.C. officials’ decision to declare the Skype marriage invalid.

“We had sought legal counsel, and they felt like we didn’t have a real strong case because the intent of the law was physical presence,” Reed-Walkup said. “Unless we felt like we had a strong case, we weren’t going to waste any time or resources on it.

“We think one of the objects of the Skype wedding was to help educate and hopefully change minds and hearts across the country, as they saw the effort that two men would go through to try to have a legal wedding in their hometown in front of friends and family,”

Reed-Walkup said. “In our hearts and minds, we believe that we were legally married during our [Oct. 10] ceremony, and it was a beautiful wedding. Having to go back and have the vows on D.C. soil was pretty much taking care of a technicality.”

After the Skype wedding, the couple also filed a discrimination complaint with the city of Dallas against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement, but they withdrew the complaint after the marriage was declared invalid.

They’ve since re-filed the discrimination complaint and are waiting to hear back from the city.

A representative from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

A Dallas ordinance passed in 2002 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The couple maintains that wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

The Dallas Morning News publishes same-sex announcements under “Commitments” instead of “Weddings.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, has said the newspaper’s policy is based on Texas law banning same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Gay Dallas couple re-marries at Jefferson Memorial after Skype wedding declared invalid

Mark Reed-Walkup and Dante Walkup
Mark Reed-Walkup, left, and Dante Walkup.

A gay Dallas couple who made headlines last year with a Skype wedding — only to have it later declared invalid — have since re-married and re-filed a discrimination complaint against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement.

Mark Reed-Walkup said today that he and his partner, Dante Walkup, traveled to Washington, D.C., and were married in a ceremony inside the Jefferson Memorial on Dec. 10. (Watch video from the ceremony below).

The couple had been married Oct. 10 at the W-Dallas hotel, in a ceremony officiated via Skype from the nation’s capital, where same-sex marriage is legal. However, after their “e-marriage” went viral, D.C. court officials notified the couple that the marriage was invalid because they hadn’t been physically present in the district for the ceremony.

“We’re officially, legally married in D.C. and recognized in five states and several countries,” Reed-Walkup said today, adding the couple chose not to challenge D.C. officials’ decision to declare the Skype wedding invalid.

“We had sought legal counsel, and they felt like we didn’t have a real strong case because the intent of the law was physical presence,” Reed-Walkup said. “Unless we felt like we had a strong case, we weren’t going to waste any time or resources on it. We think one of the objects of the Skype wedding was to help educate and hopefully change minds and hearts across the country, as they saw the effort that two men would go through to try to have a legal wedding in their hometown in front of friends and family. In our hearts and minds, we believe that we were legally married during our [Oct. 10] ceremony, and it was a beautiful wedding. Having to go back and have the vows on D.C. soil was pretty much taking care of a technicality.”

After the Skype wedding, the couple also filed a discrimination complaint with the city of Dallas against The Dallas Morning News for refusing to publish their wedding announcement, but they withdrew the complaint after the marriage was declared invalid. They’ve since re-filed the discrimination complaint and are waiting to hear back from the city, Reed-Walkup said.

A representative from the city’s Fair Housing Office, which handles discrimination complaints, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

A 2002 Dallas ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations. The couple maintains that wedding announcements are a public accommodation.

The Dallas Morning News publishes same-sex announcements under “Commitments” but not “Weddings.”

James M. Moroney III, publisher and CEO of The Dallas Morning News, has said the newspaper’s policy is based on Texas law banning both same-sex marriage and the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

—  John Wright