With the 2011 legislative session approaching and a huge Republican majority looming, the LGBT community’s lobbying organization in Austin has been forced to eliminate three of its six staff positions due to declining donations.
Dennis Coleman, who took over as executive director at Equality Texas earlier this year, confirmed Thursday that the organization eliminated the positions of political director, field director and development director in August. Equality Texas’ former political director, Randall Terrell, had served as its chief lobbyist for the last two biennial sessions, when for the first time in recent memory no anti-gay legislation was filed.
“Like most organizations, we were suffering financially — donors pulling back on their giving or reducing their giving — and unfortunately a decision had to be made pretty quickly,” Coleman said. “It was a very difficult decision to make.”
Coleman said he doesn’t believe the cutbacks will limit the organization’s effectiveness in the upcoming session, which begins in January. Coleman said Equality Texas likely will contract with a lobbyist, while he and Deputy Director Chuck Smith, along with volunteer board members, pick up any remaining slack.
“We have 18 board members around the state who have rolled up their sleeves and are doing everything they can so that we’re successful,” Coleman said. “We are not closing. We will continue the work, and we will find more inventive ways to do it.”
Coleman noted that Equality Texas added the political director position only about five years ago. Prior to that, the executive director functioned as both chief fundraiser and chief lobbyist.
“In some ways we’re kind of going back to basics — that’s kind of how I look at it — and we’ll build from there,” Coleman said.
Coleman noted that the group has about 20,000 people on its e-mail list, and while many of them respond to action alerts, only a few thousand contribute money. He said he thinks some may forget that Equality Texas is active every month of every year, not just during the six-month session.
“If everyone who receives an e-mail from us just committed $40 a year, that would mean a lot to the organization,” he said.
For more info on Equality Texas or to donate, visit the website.