GEAR holds annual awards ceremony

National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling spoke at the annual GEAR awards on Saturday, May 2.

Awards given during the evening were:

Blair High: Lifetime Achievement Award

High recently stepped down from a leadership position. Four people are now covering her work. The award now has been renamed for High.

Nell Gaither: Katherine Walton Service Award

Gaither created and runs Trans Pride Initiative.

Rebecca Orr: Ally Award

Orr is a clinical social worker who donates quite a bit of her time and services to GEAR members.

Terry Allen: Trailblazer Award

This first-time award was given to Allen for his work starting the GEAR men’s group.

—  David Taffet

VIDEO: Resource Center breaks ground

In case you missed the Resource Center groundbreaking ceremony, Lambda Weekly video guru William “Doc” Dockery caught it on video. The new building will be at 5714 Cedar Springs Road, adjacent to Cathedral of Hope.

—  David Taffet

LGBT advocates gather following SCOTUS marriage hearing

Local LGBT advocates and allies held a press conference outside of the Dallas County Records Building this afternoon (Tuesday, April 28, to show their support for marriage equality following a historic Supreme Court hearing held earlier today that could result in the legalization of marriage equality nationwide.

The combined cases, Obergefell v. Hodges and DeBoer et al v. Snyder, were heard over two-and-a-half hours.

Among the speakers outside the Records Building in Dallas were a broad coalition of faith and policy leaders and advocates, including Resource Center’s CEO Cece Cox, Omar Narvaez, community educator for Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office and Dallas County Schools board member, the Rev. Colleen Darraugh of MCC Greater Dallas and the Rev. Eric Folkerth, Northaven United Methodist Church. Two couples — Northaven congregants Jack Evans and George Harris of Dallas and Isabel Marquez and Victoria Estrada of Lewisville — also participated.

Each laid out the legal and theological justifications for marriage equality and shared personal experiences.

Darraugh said a ruling for marriage equality would “mean liberty and justice for all.” She added she married her partner in Canada and has recently wed couples in Oklahoma, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Narvaez said the fight for LGBT equality does not end with marriage.

“Same-sex marriage doesn’t end discrimination,” he said. “There is a lot of work to do.”

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell, who introduced the speakers, said the location of the conference was symbolic because the district clerk’s office, which is on the second floor of the building, is responsible for issuing marriage licenses.

“When the Supreme Court ruling comes in favor of marriage equality, LGBT couples will come to this office,” he said.

—  James Russell

Resource Center breaks ground for new building

County Judge Clay Jenkins, Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas City Council members Adam Medrano and Jennifer Gates helped Resource Center officials break ground for the new Resource Center facility at 5714 Cedar Springs Road at 10:30 a.m. this morning (Thursday, April 23). Current and past board members gathered along with representatives of many of the groups that meet at Resource Center. Among the early board members who attended were Bruce Monroe, Deb Elder and Ron Allen. Omar Narvaez was representing Dallas County Schools as a Trustee.

Resource Center CEO announced the capital campaign is 28 percent away from its goal with about $2.5 million left to raise over the next year.

Rain threatened but mostly held out through the ceremony that included leaders of more than half a dozen groups that have used Resource Center through the years for meetings, religious services, support groups and as a source of legal information.

Once the new building is completed, the old buildings at 2701 Reagan St. will be renovated as offices.

The new building is adjacent to Cathedral of Hope.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center to break ground on Thursday

Resource CenterResource Center breaks ground on its new building at 5714 Cedar Springs Road at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 23. Everyone is invited. The new building will be adjacent to Cathedral of Hope. Parking is available at the church’s property.

—  David Taffet

The WWE smack down you may have missed: Rafael McDonnell v. Matt Krause

—  James Russell

Join the discussion, join the battle to end discrimination

Marriage equality efforts are getting the lion’s share of the headlines these days: Texans wait on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on marriage equality in The Lone Star State (and Louisiana and Mississippi), and the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the question once and for all.

But as the LGBT community makes great strides toward marriage equality, hundreds of thousands of LGBT people in the U.S. daily face the very real threat of discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and more.

Today (Monday, Jan. 26), LGBT equality groups nationwide began holding public awareness events, including launching an online discussion using #discriminationexists, to shine a light on the fact that so many hardworking people still do not have basic legal protections from discrimination.

(You can follow the discussion at DiscriminationExists.org.)

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Here in North Texas, and across the state, community leaders took the chance today to speak out against discrimination, issuing a call to action to LGBTs and their supporters in all areas and in all walks of life to join the fight for real equality,

Chuck Smith, executive director of Equality Texas: “The Texas I believe in is a land of opportunity and freedom, where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have a chance to get ahead. Clear protections from discrimination would help ensure that all Texans, including those who are gay or transgender, have a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet their obligations, provide for themselves and their families and build a better life. Changing the law won’t end all unfair treatment overnight. But it provides one more tool to ensure that all Texans are treated fairly and equally.”

Cece Cox, chief executive officer at Resource Center: “Discrimination exists against LGBTQ people at many levels. We have no statewide protections in areas like employment and public accommodations, and even in those few cities where protections exist, some state lawmakers want to see those protections removed. Texans overwhelmingly support fairness and equal opportunity for all people.”

Lou Weaver, trans outreach specialist for Texas Wins: “We have been talking about same-sex marriage for a long time in the U.S. We need to also think about basic rights for everyone: ‘Can I get a job? Can I find a place to live?’ Transgender people are still facing discrimination at high rates, and we need to take an honest look at our policies. We need access to basic fairness and equality in order to survive. That is what this is about, living our lives and having access to the same opportunities as everyone else.”

The Rev. Steve Sprinkle, professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School: “Faith leaders of every background believe that everyone is created with God-given dignity. Our faith calls upon us to speak out for everyone’s dignity and security in the work they do, and for full access to housing. No one in our country should live in fear of losing their job or being denied fair housing just because of who they are.”

Todd Whitley, board chair for Hope for Peace & Justice: “It is hard to imagine any person being able to enjoy a sense of peace on their job or entering a public accommodation if that person has no assurance they won’t legally be discriminated against because of who they are. Sadly, this is exactly the reality for gay and transgender people in our state, -a grave injustice that must be resolved so that we can all enjoy the same opportunities without fear of legalized discrimination.”

A recent poll found that 9 of out 10 voters think that a federal law is already in place protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination. Unfortunate, that is not true. There is no federal nondiscrimination law, and here in Texas, there is no state law either. We remain vulnerable in so many areas.

But Equality Texas officials say their organization is working to change that, partnering with business leaders, faith leaders and community members to put the necessary protections in place.

Toward that end, Equality Texas is holding three advocacy days, beginning Feb. 17 with Faith Advocacy Day in Austin. More than 225 faith leaders and members of clergy and 65 first responders in Texas have signed on to publicly demonstrate their support for nondiscrimination already.

Visit EqualityTexas.org to find out what you can do to help.

—  Tammye Nash

UPDATE: Defined benefit retirement plans must also recognize same-sex marriages

David-Henderson

David Mack Henderson

In the Dec. 5 issue of Dallas Voice, we reported on the discovery by Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell and Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson that the Internal Revenue Service requires that defined contribution retirement plans — such as 401(a), 401(k) and 125 cafeteria plans —  recognize same-sex spouses of plan members if the couple were married in a jurisdiction that legally recognizes such marriages — even if the couple lives in a state that bans marriage equality.

Henderson has since discovered that defined benefit plans must also recognize same-sex spouses:

“From Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law:
Q17. What are some examples of the consequences of these rules for qualified retirement plans?
A17. The following are some examples of the consequences of these rules:
Plan A, a qualified defined benefit plan, is maintained by Employer X, which operates only in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages. Nonetheless, Plan A must treat a participant who is married to a spouse of the same sex under the laws of a different jurisdiction as married for purposes of applying the qualification requirements that relate to spouses.”

A defined benefit pension plan is a type of pension plan in which an employer/sponsor promises a specified monthly benefit on retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee’s earnings history, tenure of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns. A defined contribution plan, on the other hand, does not promise a specific amount of benefits at retirement. In these plans, the employee or the employer (or both) contribute to the employee’s individual account under the plan, sometimes at a set rate.

You can also find information on the Equality Texas website.

—  Tammye Nash

2014 Black Tie Dinner: The Night in Photos

The Sheraton Dallas hotel was wall-to-wall Saturday night for the 33rd annual Black Tie Dinner, which raised funds for local beneficiaries and the Human Rights Campaign.

The event featured the presentation of the Kuchling Humanitarian Award to Mike Anglin, the Black Tie Media Award to Dale Hansen and the Elizabeth Birch Equality Award to attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies, along with special appearances by NBA star Jason Collins and the Prop 8 plaintiffs.

Comedienne Dana Goldberg emcees the evening, which also featured entertainment by Alex Newell and Steve Grand.

Dallas Voice photographer Cassie Quinn captured the evening in photos:

—  Tammye Nash

DIFFA/Dallas awards funds to Resource Center nutrition programs

Resource Center officials announced Wednesday, Oct. 8, that their agency has received a $22,500 award from the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Dallas (DIFFA/Dallas) for the center’s nutrition programs. The money was awarded at an event held Sept. 12 at Roche Bobois.

Resource Center offers nutritional services through its food pantry as well through its hot lunch program.

The pantry, which began in 1985 out of a cardboard box at the intersection of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton, is presently located 5450 Denton Drive Cutoff and serves around 1900 clients every month.

The center began a hot lunch programs for its clients in the early 1990s. It is one of two agencies in Dallas County providing hot meals in a nonresidential setting to those living with HIV/AIDS, making the critical link between nutrition and treatment adherence. More than 100 clients a day eat lunch at the center Monday through Friday.

DIFFA is the oldest and one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the United States. Founded in 1984, DIFFA has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities to provide over $38 million to hundreds of AIDS organizations nationwide.

With events including the House of DIFFA each spring, DIFFA/Dallas has granted nearly $7 million to organizations across North Texas, including Resource Center. March 2015 will mark the 25th anniversary of the House of DIFFA.

—  Tammye Nash