DADT update: Discharged vets file lawsuit; standalone repeal bill up to 40 sponsors

Mike Almy, a highly trained communications officer who served in the Air Force for 13 years, is one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Three veterans discharged under “don’t ask don’t tell” filed a lawsuit earlier today against the government (read the filing here). The lawsuit brought by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network seeks reinstatement as well as a ruling declaring the 17-year-old policy unconstitutional and unenforceable anywhere. And needless to say, the lawsuit is aimed in large part at putting pressure on Congress to repeal the 17-year-old policy during the lame duck session. The Associated Press reports:

The legal action came four days after the U.S. Senate for the second time this year blocked a military spending bill that also would have repealed the 17-year-old ban on openly gay troops.

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., have introduced a standalone measure, but it’s uncertain if it will be brought for a vote before the Senate and House adjourn for the holidays.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network director Aubrey Sarvis said the lawsuit was meant as a warning to lawmakers that if they don’t act to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the courts could step in and order an integration timetable that is less to the Pentagon’s liking.

“If the Senate fails to act in the lame duck session, we are prepared to litigate this aggressively,” said Sarvis, whose group coordinated the lawsuit and prepared it with lawyers from a private law firm.

“From my perspective, this is the first shot over the bow,” he said.

Meanwhile, the standalone bill that would repeal DADT now has 40 Senate co-sponsors, but only one of them is a Republican, and that’s Collins. A vote on the bill could come later this week or early next week, assuming the Senate sticks around that long.

We’ve contacted the offices of Texas Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to inquire about how they plan to vote on the bill, as if we don’t know already. But as of this post, we had received no response. Hey, anyone planning a sit-in?

—  John Wright

Cece Cox named new ED at Resource Center Dallas

Equality Texas extends offer to ED candidate while YFT puts search on hold for the summer

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

NEW DIRECTOR | Cece Cox assumes her new duties as executive director of Resource Center Dallas on Saturday, July 3.

Resource Center Dallas on Thursday, July 1 announced that Cece Cox has been named as the new executive director of the organization, replacing Mike McKay, who resigned in April to take the position of chief of operations in the Volunteer Recruitment and Selection Division for the Peace Corps.

RCD board chair Reid Ainsworth sent an e-mail to staff on Thursday, announcing Cox would become the new executive director of the organization.

Cox already works at the center as associate executive director of GLBT Community Services. She assumes her new position on July 3.

“I cut my teeth as a baby activist in this building,” Cox said.

She has been active in the LGBT community since the early 1990s when she started a local chapter of GLAAD. She was later president of Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

Cox has also worked as director of development and marketing for the Turtle Creek Chorale.

Cox was instrumental in coordinating support on the Dallas city council to include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation for city employees and the inclusion of sexual orientation in 1995 in DART’s employment policy.

Cox received her law degree in 2004 and after a short period of working for a private law firm, took the position at the community center.

“I missed my community terribly,” Cox said of why she returned to community activism.

She said she always thinks about the history of the community center.

“Before John [Thomas] died, he told me, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop.’”

Thomas was a founder and original executive director of the center.

Cox sees her immediate goals as serving the increasing number of people with HIV and working locally to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community.

“And I’m going to get us into that new community center so we can serve more people,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities for us to engage and get our community the rights we deserve.”

Resource Center Dallas was one of three high-profile LGBT organizations searching for new executive directors over the past few months, along with Equality Texas and Youth First Texas.

Equality Texas may be at the end of its search process for a new executive director after the board met Thursday and decided to extend an offer to a candidate.

Paul Scott stepped down as executive director of Equality Texas in January to become executive director of AIDS Services of Austin. Scott preceded McKay as executive director of Resource Center Dallas.

Judith Dumont left Youth First Texas in June to assume a position at Eastfield College but it is unlikely the organization will begin looking for a replacement for her until fall, officials said.

On Thursday, July 1, the boards of Equality Texas and the Equality Texas Foundation met jointly by phone to approve and extend an offer to a candidate to become the organization’s new executive director.

Interim executive director Chuck Smith said an announcement should be made next week when the candidate accepts the offer.

Equality Texas began its nationwide search for a new executive director on Jan. 8. At the time of the announcement, the goal was to have a new director in place by May 15, but the interview process took longer.

Smith said he’s looking forward to going back to his position as deputy director and getting a day off.

“It certainly has been a rigorous and thorough process,” he said. “We’ve seen many strong candidates.”

Smith said he expects the new director to be in place during the summer, long before the start of the new legislative session in January 2011.

When fully staffed, Equality Texas has six full-time positions. In addition to the executive director vacancy, the position of director of development is also open.

Smith said it made sense to wait until the new director was hired and for that person to select the new development team.

He said the work of the organization has continued on schedule. The political action committee will be making endorsements in legislative races through the summer.

Political director Randall Terrell, who was recently in Dallas for the DART vote on nondiscrimination, said he is already planning for the January legislative session.

YFT board chair Cathy Gonzalez said that the organization would staff activities and programs with volunteers through the summer. She said some volunteers would be given job titles and responsibility for supervising other volunteers.

“It will get us through the summer,” Gonzalez said.

The board met this week for the first time since Dumont resigned.

“In the fall we’ll convene a search committee,” Gonzalez said. “We need someone with a counseling or social service background.”

But she said they weren’t ready to start accepting resumes.

“That wouldn’t be fair to applicants,” she said, since they wouldn’t be looking at them through the summer.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas