Forum addresses the economics of equality

Rebecca Solomon, left, Roger Poindexter and Rebecca Covell

Adopting inclusive policies is the trend but LGBT employees must still protect their personal finances

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Out & Equal DFW and Resource Center Dallas presented a forum on May 24 on the economics of equality.

 

Panelists included Rebecca Solomon of Bank of America, Roger Poindexter of Lambda Legal and attorney Rebecca Covell. RCD President and CEO Cece Cox moderated.
Solomon had advice for coming out at work.

“The trend of business is adopting more inclusive policies,” she said, offering suggestions on how to decide how safe it was to come out at a particular company.

“Look at the policies,” Solomon said. “Take a pulse of the workplace and speak to others.”

She said that just because policies are in place, look at how they are translated into practice. Is there diversity training for management? Do policies have any teeth?

As an example, Solomon said that at Bank of America, someone who made the workplace uncomfortable for an LGBT employee because of that person’s sexual orientation or gender identity would be escorted out the door that day.

Covell said that a company’s affinity groups are an indication of its commitment to diversity.

Poindexter addressed the issue of coming out as HIV at work.

“Unless you need accommodation, there’s no need to disclose,” he said.

Covell suggested that it was never too early for a same-sex couple to begin estate planning. Since Texas offers no protections or benefits for domestic partners that married opposite sex couples receive, she suggested reviewing all documents with an attorney. Covell said that beneficiaries should be designated for all policies because Texas courts would assign those assets to relatives.

Solomon suggested that a trust is a way for someone to designate assets when an employee is afraid to name a same-sex partner at work.

Out & Equal will host a national convention at the Anatole Hotel, Oct. 25–28. Register at OutAndEqual.org.

—  John Wright

LOCAL BRIEFS: COTL Church holding garage sale, ‘Economics of Equality’ panel set

COTL Church holding garage sale

Celebration on the Lake Church Church on Cedar Creek Lake will hold its second annual Mega-Garage Sale fundraiser Saturday, May 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sale will offer furniture, appliances, clothing, household items, decorative items and more, all donated by the congregation and community.

Under the guidance of Pastor Kathy Bowser, Celebration on the Lake Church offers outreach programs that include contributions to Toys for Tots, Mabank Nursing Home, Meals on Wheels, the Library at Cedar Creek Lake, Humane Society of Cedar Creek Lake and others.

Celebration on the Lake Church holds Sunday services at 10 a.m. each week in the sanctuary at 9120 Highway 198 in Payne Springs. For more information, go online to COTLChurch.org or call 903-451-2302.

‘Economics of Equality’ panel set

The Out & Equal DFW Regional Affiliate and Resource Center of Dallas will present a panel discussion on “The Economics of Equality” on Tuesday, May 24, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Resource Center, 2701 reagan St.

Panelists are Rebecca Solomon of Bank of America, Roger Poindexter with Lambda Legal and attorney Rebecca Covell. RCD Executive Director Cece Cox will moderate.

Topics will include tax disparities faced by same-sex couples, inheritance and retirement issues and developing inclusive workplace policies.

Admission is free, and a light breakfast will be served.

For information, call 214-528-0144.

TDWCC meeting Monday

The next general meeting of Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will be held Monday, May 23, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, in Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The speaker will be Dr. Richard Adams, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, discussing the topic of children in Texas and their health and well-being.

Adams has researched and published widely on issues related to children with special needs and has chaired the Committee on Children with Disabilities for the Texas Pediatric Society. In 2004, he was the recipient of the “Advocate of the Year” award from the Texas Chapter of the National Association for Nurse Practitioners, and he was recently selected to the executive committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities.

TDWCC meets the fourth Monday of each month at Collin College. For more information, go online to TDWCC.org.

—  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

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

Working together to make history

There is work still to be done to get DART’s policy where it needs to be, but Tuesday’s vote was a big first step toward victory

Cece Cox andRafael McDonnell Guest Columnists

The North Texas LGBT community made history Tuesday night, June 22. The Dallas Area Rapid Transit board of directors unanimously voted to expand its nondiscrimination protections to include gender identity.

Never before in our area has a governmental body unanimously voted to expand LGBT nondiscrimination protections. In fact, we believe that the nature of the vote was a first statewide.

This could not have happened without an impressive and inspiring collection of groups and people working with Resource Center Dallas, all working towards the same goal of inclusion. The list includes Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network of Texas, LULAC 4871, GEAR, Equality March Texas, Lambda Legal, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, Collin County Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Out&Equal DFW Council, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, HRC DFW Steering Committee, GET EQUAL NOW, and Dallas Transgender Advocates and Allies.

Among the people who deserve special thanks for their help are Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and the Dallas City Council, especially members Linda Koop, Dave Newman, Delia Jasso and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano.

Former council members Chris Luna and John Loza delivered impassioned remarks at Tuesday’s meeting, as did the Rev. Steve Sprinkle with Brite Divinity School and Rebecca Solomon with Bank of America.

At the heart of this story, though, there are two heroines. One is the unnamed transgender employee of the transit agency dubbed Ms. T-DART. The other is her friend, Pamela Curry. Without Ms. T-DART coming forward about her workplace treatment and DART’s intervention in her genetic marker change case, and without Pamela giving voice to the story, the nondiscrimination provisions may not have been expanded.

Admittedly, the language that the DART board adopted isn’t perfect. Work remains to be done. DART can only create an inclusive workplace if its culture matches its policies, which requires commitment, time and effort.

We will hold DART to the board’s intent, and continue to work with the agency as it drafts language for its policy manual reflecting the wishes of the board.

More than three months ago, Resource Center Dallas recognized the story of Ms. T-DART as an opportunity to offer resources to DART staff, who, in turn, worked with their board. From our experience providing cultural sensitivity training to corporations and public entities such as the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, we know learning and understanding happens when solid relationships are built between communities and when those communities truly listen to one another.

More often that not, people and organizations act out of a lack of understanding rather than malice.

Even before this week’s board vote, DART staff took an important first step toward understanding inclusion when it worked with Resource Center Dallas to provide training to some of its staff.

We applaud DART for addressing what it means to have a workplace that values all employees, including those who happen to be transgender, bisexual, lesbian and gay. Understanding its own diverse employees will aid DART in recruiting and retention, and in serving its diverse public in north Texas.

The efforts to change DART’s policies highlight two important additional issues for the LGBT community.

First, these debates would not have even happened if a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act was the law of the land. The bill is pending in Congress, but is in danger of becoming a casualty of election year politics. As a community, we need to force our lawmakers to act on our concerns.

Second, recent events point out the need for LGBT people to serve on boards, commissions and in government to effect change from the inside.

It was 15 years ago this week that DART first expanded its nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation. It took two board votes, amid opposition from at least two groups.
This time, community engagement through calls, letters and e-mails to the DART board and Dallas City Council members led to a unanimous vote.

We all should be proud of our willingness to speak out for justice and to work together. While work remains so that DART’s policy fully reflects the board’s expressed intent for protections based on gender identity and expression, we remain hopeful that the impressive collaboration of GLBT community and DART leadership will accomplish just that.

Cece Cox is associate executive director of GLBT community services for Resource Center Dallas. E-mail her at ccox@rcdallas.org. Rafael McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at RCD. E-mail him at rmcdonnell@rcdallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice