2014 Pride parade grand marshals named

grand marshals

The 2014 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade grand marshals are Rafael McDonnell, left, and the Rev. Carol West

With nearly 1,600 votes cast by the community, the Rev. Carol West and Rafael McDaniel have been chosen as grand marshals of the 2014 Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade.

West is the pastor of Celebration Community Church in Fort Worth. She was called in 1998 by the then 35-member congregation to lead the church which now has grown to more than 500 members. In 2010, West was named winner of the Black Tie Dinner’s Kuchling Humanitarian Award.

McDonnell is communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center. He worked 16 years in broadcast news, including seven years as an assignment editor for Fox 4 News in Dallas. In May 2008, became the first person to hold the job of communications manager for the center.

Watch for more about this year’s grand marshals in the Friday, Aug. 1 issue of Dallas Voice.

—  Tammye Nash

Marriage ruling celebrated at Legacy of Love monument

IMG_0163A small crowd gathered at the Legacy of Love monument on Wednesday to celebrate a federal judge’s ruling that declared Texas’ ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. The quickly organized gathering, energized by activist Cd Kirven, listened to short speeches by LGBT leaders that included Resource Center’s Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell and Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink.

“I own my equality, and you need to own it, too,” Fink said. “A few people can’t carry it for everybody. When we show up in numbers, we are unstoppable.”

Judge Orlando Garcia issued the preliminary injunction earlier in the day after two gay couples challenged a state constitutional amendment and a longstanding law. He said the couples are likely to win their case, and the ban should be lifted, but said he would give the state time to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” Garcia wrote. “These Texas laws deny plaintiffs access to the institution of marriage and its numerous rights, privileges, and responsibilities for the sole reason that Plaintiffs wish to be married to a person of the same sex.”

See photos here.

—  Steve Ramos

Resource Center asks LGBT community to contact DART board members

DART

Six DART board members have expressed their intention to vote in favor of domestic partner benefits for the agency’s gay and lesbian employees.

Five members voted in favor last week during an administrative committee meeting, passing the measure on to the full board. The board needs eight votes to pass the measure. It will meet Feb. 26 to discuss the issue and could vote as its next meeting March 12.

Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas said he’s encouraging the LGBT community to contact board members to tell them to vote for the DP benefits, as well as push for them to implement them immediately.

The proposed plan would extend the benefits to same- and opposite-sex couples no later than January 2014. But McDonnell said the agency is self-insured and could implement them as soon as a vote approves them.

“We’re close,” McDonnell said about the votes. “I feel really good about this, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

Former DART police officer Andrew Moss, who started a Change.org petition in July to urge the agency to add domestic partner benefits, said he’s glad the process is moving quickly. Moss’ husband still works for DART and could add him to his plan if the benefits are approved. His COBRA coverage ended in December, so he said he’d like the board to add the benefits before January.

“I would love for them to do it immediately just in the interest of fairness and equality,” he said, adding that the change would help a lot of people. “This doesn’t just benefit me.”

Contact information for DART board members can be found here.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: DART committee approves DP benefits plan

Michael Muhammad, DART’s vice president of diversity and innovative services, presents three DP benefits plans for DART employees at an administrative committee meeting on Tuesday. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Members of DART’s administrative committee approved a plan today to offer domestic partner benefits to the regional transit agency’s gay and lesbian employees.

The committee discussed three plans but approved one in a 5-2 vote that would offer healthcare to an employee’s same- or opposite-sex partner and their children. According to previously released documents, the plan could cost anywhere from $76,860 $929,758, depending on how many people enroll.

The plan is now set to go before the entire DART Board of Directors on Feb. 26.

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell and lesbian activist Cd Kirven attended the meeting and were glad the committee approved the plan.

“I’m happy that we’re seeing forward movement,” McDonnell said.

They stressed the importance of the LGBT community reaching out to DART board members so they understand the need to vote in favor of the change.

“We need their help,” Kirven said. “I’m excited.”

Michael Muhammad, DART’s vice president of diversity and innovative services, explained the three proposed plans to committee members, including one that would allow both a partner and another dependent to be covered. Muhammad said that would guard against any legal challenges and would require an employee to have a guardianship for the relative to be eligible for DP benefits. But that plan was the most expensive at $355,236 $1,625,697.

After 20 minutes in executive session, committee vice chair Claude Williams made a motion to vote on the most expensive plan, which would cover partners and another dependent. But the motion failed to get a second.

It seemed that the committee would hold off on a vote until next month, but then committee member Pamela Dunlop Gates made a motion to vote on the plan that would cover either a same- or opposite-sex partner, which received a motion and ultimately passed by two votes.

Gates, Williams, Jerry Christian, William Tsao and Richard Carrizale voted in favor of the plan. Randall Chrisman and Gary Slagel voted against it.

To be eligible, employees would have to have lived together for at least one year and sign a domestic partnership affidavit. They would also have to provide two other documents proving their shared residency.

If approved by the full board, the plan would take effect in January 2014.

Contact info for board members is available here.

—  Anna Waugh

Parkland adds trans protections

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell addresses the Parkland board about the changes Tuesday morning.

Parkland Hospital’s Board of Managers voted unanimously to add gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity and harassment policies Tuesday morning.

The vote by the full board came after the Human Resources Committee approved the wording at its Jan. 16 meeting. The wording provides protections for gender identity and expression, as well as genetic information for employees and patients.

In April, trans woman Paula Witherspoon was issued a ticket for using a women’s restroom while at the hospital with her husband who had suffered a heart attack.

Dr. Roberto De la Cruz, a gay board member, met with Witherspoon and hospital officials in May. He said he wanted a policy to protect trans patients but it would take time.

De la Cruz said that he was glad the policy changes passed to ensure that trans employees and patients will feel comfortable. After the ticket, Witherspoon would call him and he would have someone escort her to a restroom when she was visiting her husband. He said she called fairly often while her husband was being treated, adding that he hopes the changes will make her more comfortable when she returns.

“With this, I hope that she feels that she is welcome to use the facilities of the hospital at any level, as a companion to her partner or as a patient herself,” he said.

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell spoke after the vote in public remarks. He and the center had met with Parkland officials before the vote to encourage the approval of the changes.

Addressing the board, McDonnell thanked them for voting in favor of the changes, especially when a few decades ago the hospital was sued for its treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS. Parkland added sexual orientation protections a few years ago and began offering domestic partner benefits last year.

“That’s an amazing change in 25 years and each one of you deserves applause and praise for that,” McDonnell said.

—  Anna Waugh

Resource Center sends letter to Dallas company about adding LGBT policies

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas’ CEO Cece Cox sent a letter Friday to Holly Frontier Corp. requesting a meeting with them about adding LGBT protections.

The oil and gas company, based in Downtown Dallas, is one of 17 Fortune 500 companies that the Equality Forum recently listed as not having any LGBT-inclusive policies.

Holly Frontier, along with ExxonMobil and Energy Transfer Supply, are based in the Dallas area.

In the letter sent to Holly Frontier’s Human Resources Director Joe Aken, Cox mentions that the company received a score of zero on the Human Rights Campaign 2012 Corporate Equality Index and that it is one of the 17 Fortune 500 companies without any LGBT-inclusive policies.

Therefore RCD leaders want to meet with the company to discuss adding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to its nondiscrimination policy and offering comprehensive transgender healthcare coverage. RCD also wants the company to participate in LGBT sensitivity training for employees, engage in recruiting LGBT employees and become involved in the LGBT community.

With 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies including sexual orientation in their nondiscrimination policies and 50 percent including gender identity, adding LGBT protections to the company’s nondiscrimination policy “simply makes good business sense,” Cox writes in the letter, adding that the revisions would “provide clarity and consistent protections for employees while minimizing risk to shareholders.”

RCD sent a letter to ExxonMobil back in May before a shareholders meeting to vote on adding LGBT protections to its nondiscrimination policy, which later failed. RCD Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said he could not comment on whether ExxonMobil responded to the request for a meeting.

In the coming months, McDonnell said RCD plans to send a letter requesting a meeting with Energy Transfer Supply to work with them on LGBT protections and policies as well.

See RCD’s letter below.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable has died

Anable.Tom

Thomas Anable, the president of Fairness Fort Worth who became an LGBT activist after witnessing the Rainbow Lounge raid, died unexpectedly late Friday or early Saturday. He was 58.

According to a press release from the Benbrook Police Department, officers discovered Anable’s body after responding to a call in the 400 block of Lakeview Drive in Benbrook at 8:26 a.m. Saturday. Anable’s body was found in Dutch Branch Park on Benbrook Lake, and he appeared to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the press release states.

The Rev. Carol West, pastor of Celebration Community Church and vice president of Fairness Fort Worth, called Anable’s death “a horrible tragedy.”

“Thomas did so much for this community, and he leaves a wonderful legacy,” West said. “Thomas was Fairness Fort Worth, and he did so much, and he’s going to be horribly missed.”

Anable was the accountant for the Rainbow Lounge and was in the bar checking receipts in the early morning hours of June 28, 2009, when the establishment was raided by police.

In the wake of the raid, Anable helped form Fairness Fort Worth, the city’s LGBT advocacy group. He became president of Fairness Fort Worth in June 2010. Later that year Anable decided to sell his accounting practice so he could devote himself to activism full time.

“He lived it, he drank it, he slept it,” West said. “It was everything to him. Advocacy was what he breathed. He was a big believer in making a difference.”

Jon Nelson, another founding member of Fairness Fort Worth, said he’s amazed by what Anable accomplished in just a few years.

“Once he started to take action, and once he saw that what he was doing was actually making a difference, I think he was just totally energized,” Nelson said. “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard, as effectively, in such short periods of time as he did.”

Nelson said Fairness Fort Worth has a decision to make about whether to continue Anable’s legacy.

“We will move forward,” Nelson said, “and I think that one of the reasons we’ll do it is out of a sense that that’s what Tom would want. It’s very sobering, and I think that out of a respect and admiration for him, and an acknowledgment of how much he cared, I think this will further solidify our desire to continue what he started.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more on Anable’s death.

—  John Wright

Former employee petitions DART to offer domestic partner benefits

Andrew Moss

A former Dallas Area Rapid Transit employee is petitioning the company to add domestic partner benefits after health issues have forced him to stop working.

Andrew Moss worked as a DART police officer for five years until 2008. He then worked for the city of Fort Worth until his health prevented him from working. He’s now on COBRA but that will expire in December, he said.

Moss legally married his husband in California in 2008, but Texas doesn’t recognize the marriage. He said his husband still works as a police officer for DART and could add Moss to his health insurance plan as early as January if DART offered DP benefits.

“My husband goes to work and risks his life for DART and should get the same benefits that his counterparts of a different sexual orientation get,” Moss said.

Moss has started a Change.org petition called “Urge Dallas Area Rapid Transit DART to Offer Domestic Partner Benefits” to persuade DART President Gary Thomas and Deputy Executive Director Jesse Oliver to add the benefits.

As of Thursday afternoon, 36 people had signed it.

“In my discussion with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, I was advised by their Human Resources Managers that DART ‘Prefers not to get into the choices of their employees,’” Moss mentions in the petition letter. “I wasn’t aware my husband and I and countless others woke up one day and decided to be LGBT. DART appears to be less than willing to even attempt to assist their LGBT population in obtaining benefits or other effective workplace protections.”

—  Anna Waugh

Resource Center calls on MLB commissioner to pledge support for gay players who come out

In November, Major League Baseball added sexual orientation to its discrimination policies, which was thanks in part to a letter from the Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell. But the latest news to come from both the gay and baseball fronts isn’t quite so encouraging. Last week, rumors swirled that Minnesota Twins player Carl Pavano, above, was being extorted by former high school classmate Christian Bedard, who reportedly had a same-sex relationship with Pavano.

In response to the incident, McDonnell drafted and sent the following letter calling for MLB commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig to do the right thing and “to use your voice and position to unequivocally state that any player who is gay and who wishes to come out will receive the support of your office and the league.”

Read McDonnell’s entire letter after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

LGBT advocates take their fight to have mayor sign marriage pledge to the Dallas City Council

LGBT advocates who attended today's council meeting gather in the Flag Room afterward. They are, from left, Daniel Cates, Patti Fink, Dennis Coleman, Cece Cox, Omar Narvaez and Rafael McDonnell. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

It’s becoming clear that Dallas’ LGBT community doesn’t plan to let Mayor Mike Rawlings off the hook over his refusal to sign a pledge in support of same-sex marriage.

Five LGBT advocates spoke during public comments at the start of today’s regular City Council meeting, calling on Rawlings to sign the pledge — and asking the City Council to formally back pro-equality state and federal legislation.

“I’m here to ask Mayor Rawlings to do something, and I’m here to ask you as council people to support him in signing the pledge for marriage equality,” said Cece Cox, executive director and CEO of Resource Center Dallas, the first of the speakers. ”This is a matter of standing for justice. Pure and simple, that’s what it’s about. ”

Cox noted that Rawlings has argued that marriage equality doesn’t fall within the mayor’s duties.

“When one stands up for justice, it requires courage,” Cox said. “It requires going outside the regular rules and the regular lines, and that’s what I’m here to ask for today.”

—  John Wright