Councilmembers line up to ride in Pride parade

Jones Hill again fails to RSVP, has said religious beliefs prevent her participation; Greyson cites scheduling conflict

RIDE IN PRIDE | Members of the Dallas City Council ride together on a float in the 2009 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade as then-Mayor Tom Leppert walks alongside. This year all but two of the 15 councilmembers have said they will participate in the Pride parade.

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Thirteen of the 15 Dallas City Council members, including Mayor Mike Rawlings, are expected to ride on the city’s float at gay Pride later this month, according to Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild.

Doughman, chief organizer of the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade, said this week that Vonciel Jones Hill and Sandy Greyson are the only councilmembers who didn’t RSVP affirmatively for the 28th annual event set for Sept. 18.

Jones Hill, in her third two-year term representing District 5, has indicated in the past that she won’t attend gay Pride because of her religious beliefs.
Greyson, elected to represent District 12 earlier this year, reportedly has a scheduling conflict.

Rawlings, who also took office this year, will become only the third mayor in Dallas history to appear at gay Pride, after Tom Leppert and Laura Miller.

“The mayor looks forward to being in the gay Pride parade and being part of the festivities,” Rawlings’ chief of staff, Paula Blackmon, said this week.

Greyson, meanwhile, hadn’t responded to a phone message from Dallas Voice by press time.

“It’s a scheduling conflict,” Greyson’s assistant, Lorri Ellis, said when asked why the councilwoman won’t be attending Pride.

Michael Doughman and Sandy Greyson

Greyson, who served on the council from 1997-2005, voted in favor of a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2002. And in 1995, as a DART board member, she voted to add sexual orientation to the transit agency’s nondiscrimination policy.

Greyson also signed a letter from the council that appears in this year’s Pride Guide — distributed inside today’s Dallas Voice — congratulating organizers on the event.
The only councilmember who didn’t sign the letter was Jones Hill.

“I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future,” Jones Hill told Dallas Voice in 2008, when she was the lone councilmember who didn’t RSVP affirmatively for the parade. “There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

Asked what those beliefs are that stop her from attending Pride, Hill said: “I believe that all people are loved by God, all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless.

“It does not mean the person is any less God’s child. I’m entitled to stand for what I believe, and I don’t appreciate anyone castigating me for standing for what I believe,” she said.

For the last several years, Jones Hill’s absence has thwarted a longtime goal of openly gay former Councilman Ed Oakley, who’s sought to have all 15 councilmembers attend the parade. Before that, former Councilman Mitchell Rasansky was often the lone holdout.

Doughman said he thinks having 13 of 15 councilmembers attend Pride is “exceptional for a city of this size.”

But he added that the Tavern Guild doesn’t pay much attention to the subject.

“I’m trying very hard to keep the politics out of this parade,” he said. “People want a celebration.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Maurine ‘Trans Fat’ Dickey to visit Log Cabin

Fresh off her vote against transgender protections for Dallas County employees, Commissioner Maurine Dickey is slated to visit the LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans Dallas this coming Monday. Above is an online invite from the group, which doesn’t mention Dickey’s vote against trans protections, or her previous statements comparing being transgender to being overweight (thus the headline). Dickey has said she feels the addition of “sexual orientation” to the county’s nondiscrimination policy was “overdue” — despite the fact that she was absent for a vote on that amendment in March. But she opposed the transgender protections in April because she didn’t want to add any more “special protected classes.” In the wake of her vote, 53 percent of respondents in a Dallas Voice online poll said they think the LGBT community should boycott Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, the restaurant chain she owns with her husband. We’ve been trying to determine whether Dickey’s — which bills itself as the largest barbecue chain in the U.S. — includes LGBT employees in the company’s nondiscrimination policy, but thus far we haven’t had any luck. The Log Cabin meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at Mattito’s Mexican Cafe 3011 Routh St. in Dallas.

—  John Wright

Commissioners to vote on trans protections Tuesday; LGBT community urged to attend

Clay Jenkins

In an unexpected but welcome development for LGBT advocates, the Dallas County Commissioners Court is slated to vote next week on whether to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Item 23 on the Commissioners Court’s formal agenda for its regular meeting Tuesday is a Court Order that would add “transgender, gender identity and gender expression” to the nondiscrimination policy.

In March, the Commissioners Court voted unanimously to add sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy, but left out transgender protections for the county’s 7,000 workers. Since then, LGBT advocates have called on commissioners to go back and make the policy fully inclusive — speaking at the court’s meetings and flooding them with emails and letters.

In response, County Judge Clay Jenkins, who chairs the Commissioners Court, requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s Office about the impact of adding transgender protections to the policy. Jenkins said Friday afternoon he’s “confident” the amendment will pass on Tuesday.

“I got a verbal back from the DA today that they could sign off that this was not going to be unduly burdensome on the taxpayers or anything, so we’re taking a swing at it,” Jenkins said. “I feel good that it’s the right thing to do and that the majority of the court will support it. “

Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, who spearheaded the addition of sexual orientation to the policy, both support adding transgender protections. However, they’ve been struggling to find the third vote needed to get the amendment passed.

—  John Wright

DA says commissioners don’t have to operate ‘in a fish bowl’ — even if what they say sounds fishy

County Judge Clay Jenkins says he was not aware that sexual orientation didn’t include transgender people.

A while back we filed a request, under the Texas Public Information Act, seeking any and all records related to the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s decision to add sexual orientation — but not gender identity/expression — to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, who spearheaded the amendment, have said they thought sexual orientation included gender identity/expression, based on advice they received from the county’s Human Resources department. But frankly we’re a little skeptical of this claim. Since Jenkins and Garcia told us this, one critical fact has emerged: They are one vote short of the majority needed to add gender identity/expression to the policy, which leads us to wonder whether that’s why it was left out in the first place.

After all, gay District Clerk Gary Fitzsimmons has said he shared his department’s nondiscrimination policy, which includes transgender employees, with Jenkins prior to the court’s vote to add sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression to the countywide policy. And during Jenkins’ campaign last year, he told us how as a civil rights attorney in private practice, he once represented a transgender person who won a lawsuit against a popular restaurant chain. As the plaintiff’s attorney in that case, wouldn’t Jenkins have become familiar with the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity/expression? And as for Garcia, she was on the Dallas City Council in 2002 when the council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes “gender identity” — albeit under the definition of sexual orientation.

To be sure, this can be a confusing distinction, especially to those who aren’t members of the LGBT community, and even to many who are. So if Jenkins and Garcia truly thought sexual orientation included gender identity/expression, it would be forgivable. What would be less forgivable, in that case, is their failure to consult with stakeholders, and namely people in the LGBT community, prior to voting on the sexual orientation-only amendment.

In light of all this, we filed our records request, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting answers anytime soon, if ever. In a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office dated today, Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Michele Tapia maintains that the county shouldn’t be required to release the records we requested. Tapia argues that the county can legally withhold the records because they “constitute inter- or intra-agency communications that consist of advice, recommendations, and opinions reflecting the policymaking processes of a governmental body” that “would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency.” To download a copy of Tapia’s letter, click here.

“The disclosure of these documents would chill and discourage candid discussion on improvements from staff at all levels. Further, disclosure would serve to dampen open discussion and actions to improve processes and necessary corrective actions or improvement measures,” Tapia writes. “It would be impossible to have any frank discussion of legal or policy matters in writing if all such writings were to be subjected to public scrutiny. … It has been argued, and with merit, that the efficiency of a government agency would be greatly hampered if, with respect to legal and policy matters, all government agencies were forced to operate in a fish bowl.”

Abbott’s office now has 45 days to render a decision on the county’s request about whether it can withhold the records. Of course, in the meantime, this whole thing would probably just go away if the Commissioners Court simply went back and added “gender identity/expression” to the policy.

—  John Wright

Maurine Dickey compares being transgender to being fat, says she opposes protections

Maurine Dickey

In a setback for LGBT advocates, Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey said today that she opposes adding transgender protections to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Dickey, a Republican who represents part of Oak Lawn, was considered a possible third vote in favor of adding gender identity/expression to the policy, which covers the county’s 7,000 employees. However, Dickey appeared to erase those hopes this morning, when she came out against the proposal in an interview after the Commissioners Court’s regular meeting.

Dickey told Instant Tea she believes the Commissioners Court’s recent decision to add “sexual orientation” to the policy was “overdue.” However, she said she thinks adding gender identity/expression to the policy could lead to adding “overweight people” or “people with diabetes.”

“I won’t be voting for a special protected class,” Dickey said. “You’ve got to stop somewhere. … It becomes a legal nightmare.”

In response to follow-up questions, Dickey said, “I’m not going to argue with you about it.”

—  John Wright

Sooner or later, county commissioners will get tired of hearing about transgender protections

Rafael_McDonnell
Rafael McDonnell

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell sends along word that three people from the LGBT community are tentatively scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

This will be the fourth consecutive week in which LGBT activists have spoken during public comments, calling on the Commissioners Court to add gender identity to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. And McDonnell said based on his conversations with commissioners, the advocacy is helping.

McDonnell said he ran into County Judge Clay Jenkins at an event last week, and Jenkins told him that public comments from the LGBT community are influencing the conversation. On Friday, McDonnell met with Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, who told him she’s received 60 letters in support of adding transgender protections.

“She urged us to keep up contacting Commissioners [Maurine] Dickey and [John Wiley] Price and share our stories and explain why it’s important,” McDonnell said. “She [Garcia] clearly supports it.”

Jenkins also supports adding gender identity to the policy, but three votes are needed for passage.

Price told Instant Tea last week that he remains undecided on the issue but said public comments from transgender woman Maeve O’Connor had done more to possibly sway him than anything else. Dickey, meanwhile, hasn’t returned a phone call seeking comment.

Dickey announced last week that she won’t seek re-election in 2012, which could make her more comfortable voting in favor of transgender protections. Two years ago, when Republicans still held a majority on the Commissioners Court, Dickey broke ranks and provided the decisive vote in support of ending a ban on condom distribution.

McDonnell said those slated to speak this week are Omar Narvaez of Stonewall Democrats and Lambda Legal, Travis Gasper of Stonewall Young Democrats; and Rebecca Solomon of Bank of America.

It’s too late to sign up to speak at this Tuesday’s meeting, but below is contact info for all five commissioners:

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Maryland Senate kills gender identity bill; anti-gay hate crime at UNC

Quinn Matney was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime at the University of North Carolina.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. For a third straight week, LGBT advocates plan to speak during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s meeting today and call on commissioners to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy. Last month, commissioners voted to add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the policy. The Commissioners Court meets at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building, 411 Elm St.

2. The Maryland Senate on Monday voted to kill a measure that would have protected transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and credit — but not public accommodations. The vote marks the second major disappointment this year for LGBT advocates in Maryland, where the House thwarted a marriage equality bill last month.

3. A University of North Carolina freshman says he was attacked and severely burned in an anti-gay hate crime on the school’s campus last week. The UNC administration, which failed to notify students until a week after the attack occurred, now says it plans to report the incident as an anti-gay hate crime to the federal government.

—  John Wright

Trans activists speak at Commissioners Court

NOT THE SAME | Transgender activist Kelli Ann Busey addresses the Dallas County Commissioners Court, asking that specific protections for trans employees be added to the county’s policy. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

LGBT advocates urge Commissioners Court to add protections for transgender Dallas County employees to nondiscrimination ordinance

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Three members of the LGBT community spoke Tuesday morning, April 5, during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s regular meeting, calling on the court to add protections for transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Transgender activist Kelli Ann Busey commended the court for adding sexual orientation to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 employees a few weeks ago. But she said the court did not go far enough with that effort.

“Transgender people are not the same as gay people,” Busey said. “We need to be protected differently.”

Busey said many transgender people are homeless after transitioning, often because of discrimination against them in the workplace.

“Without workplace protections, we cannot live up to our potential,” she said.

Dave Guy-Gainer spoke on behalf of Equality Texas. He told the commissioners about a poll conducted by Glengariff Group that sampled registered voters in Texas on 12 rights as they pertain to the LGBT community.

“According to the poll, 70 percent of all Texas voters support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination for transgender citizens,” he said.

Gainer said that over the past three election cycles, Dallas County has voted for progressive government. He called Dallas County a leader for other jurisdictions across the area as well as nationally.

Pam Curry, who is transgender, told the court she is a former part-time Dallas County employee.

“I was bothered when the non-discrimination policy was passed and I was not included,” Curry said, going on to explain the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I urge the court to move quickly to correct the oversight,” she said.

Rafael McDonnell, strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas, spoke at the Commissioners Court meeting the previous week and by the court’s rules is barred from speaking again for a month. But McDonnell promised to keep the issue before the court by lining up speakers for each weekly meeting.

McDonnell also forwarded to Dallas Voice a copy of an email he received from County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“I believe in equality for all,” Jenkins wrote to McDonnell. “The new non-discrimination language was formulated by the county’s human resources department at my request and was intended to prohibit discrimination against anyone. Our HR director informs me that her interpretation of sexual orientation includes gender identity and gender expression.  Therefore, under our current policy, discrimination will not be tolerated.

“Many people share your concern that the policy needs to be changed to specifically state that gender identity and expression are included. I have requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s office about adding identity language to the county code and its overall impact; the first step in a proposed change,” Jenkins wrote.

“The vote that passed last month is a positive step, which I consider a victory, and I am asking for your faith and patience as the process moves forward,” Jenkins added.

On Monday, April 4, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Commissioners Court to add transgender protections, according to President Omar Narvaez.

The resolution pointed out that “comprehensive nondiscrimination policies, including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression, decrease costs for employers, decrease regrettable loss, raise productivity, and increase recruiting efficiency,” and “will serve to further the goals of economic development, marketplace competition, and improved quality of life.”

Staff writer John Wright contributed to this report.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 8, 2011.

—  John Wright

Out & Equal to Dallas County: You mind adding transgender protections before our convention?

Selise Berry

Fresh to the Inbox tonight is a copy of a letter from Selise Berry, founding executive director of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, to members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

Berry, a former Dallas resident, writes to thank the commissioners for adding sexual orientation to the county’s nondiscrimination policy a few weeks back — and to strongly encourage them to add gender identity.

Out and Equal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving full equality in the the workplace, will bring more than 2,500 business leaders to Dallas in October for its annual Summit, one of the largest LGBT conventions in the world.

“We selected Dallas for our conference in part because of its combination of a strong LGBT community and its positive corporate environment,” Berry writes. “The Summit brings together executives, human resources and diversity professionals, and openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from the nation’s largest corporations to strategize, network and engage new ways to bring full equality to the workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. When they arrive, we hope they’ll see Dallas County as a model for fairness, with fully inclusive protections that include both gender identity and sexual orientation.”

To read Berry’s full letter, go here.

—  John Wright

LGBT advocates call on Commissioners Court to protect transgender Dallas County employees

Pam Curry, left, and Kelli Ann Busey

Three members of the LGBT community spoke today during the Dallas County Commissioners Court’s regular meeting, calling on the court to add transgender employees to the county’s nondiscrimination policy.

Kelli Ann Busey, who is transgender, commended the court for adding sexual orientation to the policy covering the county’s 7,000 employees a few weeks ago.

“But transgender people are not the same as gay people,” Busey said. “We need to be protected differently.”

Busey said many transgender people are homeless after transitioning.

“Without workplace protections, we cannot live up to our potential,” she said.

Dave Guy-Gainer spoke on behalf of Equality Texas. He told the commissioners about a poll conducted by Glengariff Group that sampled registered voters in Texas on 12 rights as they pertain to the LGBT community.

“According to the poll, 70 percent of all Texas voters support prohibiting employment and housing discrimination for transgender citizens,” he said.

Gainer said that over the past three election cycles, Dallas County has voted for progressive government. He called Dallas County a leader for other jurisdictions across the area as well as nationally.

Pam Curry, who is transgender, told the court she is a former part-time Dallas County employee.

“I was bothered when the non-discrimination policy was passed and I was not included,” Curry told the Commissioners Court.

Curry explained to the court the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I urge the court to move quickly to correct the oversight,” she said.

Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas spoke at the Commissioners Court meeting last week. He is barred from speaking again for a month but promised to keep the issue before the court by lining up speakers for each meeting.

McDonnell also forwarded to Dallas Voice a copy of an email he received from County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“I believe in equality for all,” Jenkins wrote to McDonnell. “The new non-discrimination language was formulated by the county’s Human Resources department at my request and was intended to prohibit discrimination against anyone. Our HR director informs me that her interpretation of sexual orientation includes gender identity and gender expression.  Therefore, under our current policy, discrimination will not be tolerated.

“Many people share your concern that the policy needs to be changed to specifically state that gender identity and expression are included. I have requested an opinion from the District Attorney’s office about adding identity language to the County Code and its overall impact; the first step in a proposed change,” Jenkins wrote.

“The vote that passed last month is a positive step, which I consider a victory, and I am asking for your faith and patience as the process moves forward.”

On Monday, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Commissioners Court to add transgender protections, according to President Omar Narvaez. A copy of the resolution is after the jump.

For more information about contacting commissioners directly, go here.

—  David Taffet