Judge continues Hideaway hearing

A state administrative law judge on Friday continued a hearing on nearby residents’ challenge to an alcohol permit for Marty’s Hideaway, a court clerk told Instant Tea on Monday.

The Hershner family is trying to reopen the iconic gay bar on Buena Vista Street, which closed in 2009 after 26 years. The Hershners, who also own the Tin Room and the Drama Room, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

A neighborhood group has challenged the alcohol permit for Marty’s Hideaway due to the additional noise and traffic they say the bar would bring to the area.

The hearing was continued at the request of attorneys, the court clerk said. According to the court, the two sides have until next week to submit additional papers, but that court is now setting new dates from October through January. The court clerk said it’s more likely the case will be heard later rather than sooner.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is not challenging the license. The new operators have a clean record with TABC. The property has no violations that relate to the location. And a study by the agency found that while the neighborhood is quiet during the day, the area is already noisy with traffic and parking problems at night.

—  David Taffet

Rainbow Lounge panel to feature FW police chief, TABC captain, Queer LiberAction founder

An “unprecedented” panel discussion focused on the Rainbow Lounge raid and its aftermath will follow a third-anniversary screening of Robert Camina’s documentary film about the raid on Thursday in Dallas.

The panel discussion will feature Fort Worth police Chief Jeffrey Halstead, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Maj. Charlie Cloud, TABC agent and LGBT liaison Leigh Ann Wiggins, Queer LiberAction founder Blake Wilkinson, Fairness Fort Worth spokesman Jon Nelson and Camina himself. The 30-minute panel discussion will be moderated by yours truly.

“I really do think that the panel discussion is unprecedented, where all these people are getting together in one room to talk about it,” Camina said.

Tickets are still available for Thursday’s screening of Camina’s Raid of the Rainbow Lounge at the Magnolia Theater, which will precede the panel discussion. The screening is the third and last scheduled for the award-winning film in Dallas.

Doors open at 7 p.m., and the screening begins at 7:30. Those who’ve seen the film but want to attend the panel discussion should arrive by 9 p.m.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased here. Use Coupon Code ETT87D to get a $3 discount. For more on the film, go here.

—  John Wright

Alan Steen, who guided TABC through Rainbow Lounge aftermath, to retire from agency in June

Alan Steen

Administrator Alan Steen, who guided the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission through the aftermath of the Rainbow Lounge raid, is retiring from TABC effective June 1, according to a press release.

Steen famously apologized to the LGBT community after the raid, which TABC conducted with the Fort Worth Police Department. Three TABC officers involved in the raid were later fired, and the agency settled with Rainbow Lounge patrons who were injured. TABC also became the first state agency to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for all employees, and assigned a liaison to the LGBT community.

“I wanted to leave the agency when it was right for me personally and when I felt the agency was in the best shape of its existence,” Steen said in the release. “I believe that time is now. I know the dedicated employees of TABC will continue to progress and move forward. … I’d like to acknowledge the board that hired me. They wanted change for the agency and took a chance on someone who had no alcoholic beverage industry experience and who wasn’t a peace officer. I also want to thank the current board. During tough times, they stood by me, pushing the agency to cultivate a professional image, business-friendly practices, and a common sense approach.”

According to the press release, Steen has accepted the position of executive director of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA), which is based in Fort Worth and has more than 20,000 members around the world. Steen is a native of Granbury. An interim head for TABC has not been named.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Robert Camina’s long-awaited “Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” to premiere March 15

Meredith Baxter and Robert Camina

Robert Camina announced that the premiere of his documentary film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge will be held on March 15 at the AMC Palace 9 in Sundance Square in Downtown Fort Worth.

Meredith Baxter, who narrates the film, and Camina will be in attendance.

The film documents the events that happened at the newly opened Rainbow Lounge when Fort Worth police and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the bar on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Camina uploaded a new trailer for the film. Watch it below.

—  David Taffet

Anable applying for top spot at HRC

Fairness Fort Worth president knows he is new to the activism game, but says there is no denying his passion for the work

Anable-vertical-1-col

Tom Anable

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH  — As 2010 came to an end a year ago, longtime CPA and newly minted gay rights activist Tom Anable came to a momentous decision: He decided to sell his accounting business and spend the next year focusing on activism full time.

Now that year is over, and Anable has made another decision that could change his life again: He is applying for the top position at the Human Rights Campaign.

When HRC President Joe Solmonese announced that he was resigning, effective March 2012, Anable said, “My first thought was, ‘I pity the fool who has to try and fill those shoes.’ Now, three months later, I have started the process to apply myself.”

Anable said Thursday afternoon, Jan. 5, that he had sent his resume to the executive recruiting firm hired by HRC to help in the hiring process. Within 30 minutes, he said, he had been called for an in-depth phone interview, after which he was told his resume is being forwarded to the HRC search committee for review.

“I passed step one. Next step will be early February,” Anable said.
For most of his adult life, Anable said, he had focused his attention on his work. He knew he was gay, but he avoided the political and activist side of the LGBT community completely. Then came June 29, 2009, the night that agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and officers with Fort Worth Police Department raided the Rainbow Lounge on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

As the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, Anable was in the bar the night of the raid, checking receipts. What he saw that night left him shaken and scared — and angry. Within days, Anable had stepped across the line into activism and was helping create a new organization, Fairness Fort Worth, that has since helped revitalize the LGBT community in Tarrant County. And Anable spent the last year as Fairness Fort Worth president.

“It’s been a wild 2 ½ years,” Anable said this week.

Anable said that he first began considering applying for the position of HRC president in mid-December after discussions with some HRC board members while he was in Washington, D.C. for meetings.

“They told me I should apply. At first, I thought, no way. But when I read the job description, I realized, hey, I actually am qualified for this job. I actually do meet the qualifications in this job description,” he said.

When he came back home to Fort Worth and discussed the possibility with friends here, Anable said, he got nothing but encouragement in return: “Carol West, Jon Nelson, [Fort Worth Police] Chief Halstead — they all said I should apply.”

Still, Anable said, “It took me at least a week to wrap my head around the idea, to decide whether this is something I really want to do,” he said. “I did a lot of soul-searching about this. It was a very sobering moment for me, an unbelievable moment for me personally, to realize that in just 2 ½ years I have gone from being just a CPA to being an activist and president of Fairness Fort Worth, to the point where I actually feel qualified enough to even think about applying to HRC.”

Anable readily acknowledges that he is very new to the world of activism and nonprofit management, and he acknowledges that he “may not be what they are looking for” when it comes to the HRC presidency.

“But I do believe that I can apply and be seriously considered. I may be new to this, but no one can deny my passion, and this is a passion I have never had for anything in my life before,” Anable said. “Accounting is not something you get passionate about. Doing tax returns is not a passionate calling. But this, activism, this is about passion.”

Anable said that he knows the HRC board has recently completed a strategic assessment to
decide “what kind of leader they want” to bring in to replace Solmonese. “I don’t know what they’ve decided, and I know I may not be it. What are my odds of getting the job? Probably not that good because I haven’t been doing this very long. But I am going to try.

“All I know is that I am going to apply. If I make the first cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ If I make the second cut, I’ll say, ‘Thank God.’ And if I get the job, I’ll say, ‘Oh, God!’” he laughed. “But if I do get it, I know I will love every minute of it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

A beer by any other name…

On the long list of ridiculous Texas laws the alcoholic beverage code would have to take up about half the space (although that whole “no marriage equality” thing is pretty far up there), but it seems like at least a part of our antiquated system of booze laws is getting an update. Under current state law “beer” can contain no more than 4% alcohol by volume, anything greater and it must be labeled as “ale” or “malt liquor.” If a recent ruling by US District Court Judge Sam Sparks holds that’s about to change.

A group of brewers sued the state arguing that the current restrictions violated their free speech. The judge agreed, and in a hilarious ruling poked fun at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for thinking they can redefine words by legislative fiat, and gave a shout-out to Austin’s annual bat festival.  From Austin360.com:

“TABC’s argument, combined with artful legislative drafting, could be used to justify any restrictions on commercial speech. For instance, Texas would likely face no (legal) obstacle if it wished to pass a law defining the word ‘milk’ to mean ‘a nocturnal flying mammal that eats insects and employs echolocation.’ Under TABC’s logic, Texas would then be authorized to prohibit use of the word ‘milk’ by producers of a certain liquid dairy product, but also to require Austin promoters to advertise the famous annual ‘Milk Festival’ on the Congress Avenue Bridge.”

 

—  admin

City regulations can stymie new, expanding businesses in Oak Lawn

Lack of parking, ‘surprise’ new requirements for liquor licensing delayed opening of Thai restaurant, forced other shops to close before they could ever open

Danny-S

Danny Sikora

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

The number of seats in a restaurant is usually limited by the fire marshal. But in Oak Lawn, that limit is set by parking regulations, according to Thairrific owner Danny Sikora.

Although he acquired the space formerly occupied by Hungdingers about five months ago, Sikora did not receive his final certificate of occupancy until this week. Most of the delays, he said, were city-related.

But Sikora’s schedule isn’t the only casualty. City regulations requiring restaurants and bars to provide more parking spaces than retail stores has resulted in at least two other problems for businesses on Cedar Springs Road.

When Zen Clipz closed, Buli owner Scott Whittall tried to rent the space and turn it into a nighttime cabaret-style venue. Parking issues forced him to scuttle those plans.

And building had already begun on a coffee shop on Throckmorton Street between Macho Nacho and Thairrific when lack of parking put the kibosh on those plans as well.

Sikora said he was approved for a restaurant with 78 seats, even though the space could comfortably seat more.

“The city is not taking into account how pedestrian-heavy this neighborhood is,” he said.

Parking, however, was not the only delay in opening his new business.

“The city has a surprise new requirement before they’ll complete their portion of the TABC packet,” he said.

Sikora said he had to submit to the city a new architectural rendering of his space and a map of all property within 300 feet of his business. But Sikora said that since this regulation is new, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission didn’t know about it — and neither did Dallas City Councilwoman Angela Hunt.

And in the office charged with enforcing this new regulation, no one agreed on what was required.

One city worker told him that it meant 300 feet from the edge of the property. Another said it was 300 feet from his space and a third told him to measure 300 feet from his front door.

The renderings have to be completed within 10 days of submission. After a week’s delay in the city office and being turned down once because of a disagreement of what the regulation meant, one city employee approved the plans and sent the city’s portion of the packet off to TABC, without a day to spare in the 10-day rule.

In addition, the new regulation cost Sikora $1,200, plus a $100 fee to the city to certify that the plans were correct. Another day’s delay would have cost him another $1,200 for a new set of plans.

And by delaying his application until Sept. 3, the city cost him more money, because TABC licenses increased in price on
Sikora said that he thought it was foolish, especially since alcohol has been approved for this location numerous times over the last 15 years.

Once the certificate of occupancy was issued, Sikora said, he could then order the things he wanted for the restaurant that he didn’t need for the inspections.

“We weren’t doing what next-door did,” he said, referring to the coffee shop. He said they sunk $30,000 into the space before learning that the city was not going to approve an operating permit.

For the restaurant’s sign, Sikora said he had hoped his partner’s sister, an artist, could paint it directly on the building. But that didn’t work because the non-retractable awning was in the way.

Sikora said he considered taking down the awning to paint the sign, but then he learned that a city ordinance required a hefty fee for putting an awning back up.

So instead, the artist ended up having to paint the sign on a sheet of plastic. Then hanging the sign required a permitting process that included submitting drawings, a list of items used to construct the sign and an explanation of how the sign would be hung. A professional sign company with a cherry-picker to reach over the awning had to be hired to hang it.

Other delays included a roof leak that Sikora said was not obvious through the exceptionally dry summer and other problems with some of the equipment that was purchased from the previous owner that have been fixed.

Sikora invested in the restaurant earlier this year. Family-run Thairrific has been in business for about 11 years in an old shopping center on Forest Lane at Webb Chapel Road. Sikora said he’d been a regular customer for most of that time. Then the restaurant’s owner/chef said he wanted to cook and wasn’t interested in the business aspect of the restaurant anymore, and he asked Sikora if he wanted to become a business partner.

The two then discovered that much of their business at the North Dallas location was actually coming from Oak Lawn, so they decided to move to the new location, closer to their customers.

Sikora also has a small investment in Aston’s Bakery, another family-run business, located on Lover’s Lane near the Tollway.

Next to the cash register in the new Thairrific location, he installed a bakery counter and plans to offer a limited number of items from the Aston’s.

Sikora said that what sets his restaurant apart from other Thai places is that there are no steam tables.

“Everything’s made-to-order,” he said. “Soup? It’s not coming out of a soup tureen.”

The soup stock is made, but everything in the soup will be added when ordered.

“It’s healthy cooking,” he said. “Few fried items.”

And after five months, Thairrific may be open soon. When? Well, things are on order. But Sikora’s still just not sure on the date.

…………………….

Two Corks ribbon cutting set
North Texas LGBT Chamber of Commerce members John Ley and Elwyn Hull will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new winery, Two Corks and a Bottle, on Tuesday, Nov. 1 from 5:30 p.m.
to 7 p.m. The store is located on the north side of The Quadrangle on Routh at Lacliede streets.
There will be door prizes and happy hour pricing.

American Airlines expanding Curbside Check-In
FORT WORTH — Officials with American Airlines recently announced that the airline is expanding its Curbside Check-In service to give customers traveling internationally the opportunity to check their bags with the skycap — making their trip through the airport as smooth as possible.
For more information about the expanded Curbside Check-in service, go online to
aa.com/curbside.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

TABC settlements bring ‘closure’

Tom Anable

Fairness Fort Worth president says payments to Gibson, Armstrong fair; TABC spokeswoman says agency is happy with mediated settlements

JOHN WRIGHT | Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Two years and one month after the Rainbow Lounge raid, Fort Worth’s LGBT community finally has some closure, according to the president of an advocacy group formed in response to the incident.

Last week it was reported that the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission had reached monetary settlements with two patrons injured in the June 2009 raid of the gay bar, which occurred on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion.

Chad Gibson, who suffered a serious head injury in the raid, will receive $210,000 from TABC. George Armstrong, who suffered a torn rotator cuff, will receive $15,000.

The city of Fort Worth, whose police officers conducted the raid along with TABC agents, previously settled with Gibson for $400,000 and with Armstrong for $40,000.

“It closes all the legal issues, and the damage issues,” Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable said this week of the TABC settlement. “It’s closure in regards to the Rainbow Lounge incident.

“It’s all done and closed,” Anable added. “We have closure and we’re moving forward with other issues.”

TABC fired two agents and a supervisor after the raid, and FWPD suspended three officers.

“Fort Worth ran the operation. Fort Worth was in charge of the operation,” Anable said. “TABC fired employees, and Fort Worth gave some wrist slaps, so I think it was appropriate they [Fort Worth] paid more money.”

Carolyn Beck

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said her agency’s settlements with Gibson and Armstrong were agreed to during mediation in March, but had to be signed off on by the offices of the attorney general and the governor.

“Those approvals came through in June, and so here we are now,” said Beck, who was named the agency’s liaison to the LGBT community following the raid. “We are happy that we were able to come to an agreement with mediation, and I personally feel like our relationship with the LGBT community is a lot different than it was two years ago. And I hope that it continues to stay positive.”

After the raid, TABC became the first state agency in Texas to conduct comprehensive LGBT diversity training for its employees.

Don Tittle, the Dallas attorney who represented both Armstrong and Gibson, didn’t respond to a phone message from Dallas Voice this week.

But Tittle told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “It is done. They are very relieved. I think they feel that they received a level of justice, although it was slow. The monetary compensation was fair, but I think it was important to both of them that there be change within both organizations. As a result of the incident, both Fort Worth and TABC have taken affirmative steps to improve relations and to be more sensitive to diversity.”

—  John Wright

TABC settles with Rainbow Lounge patrons

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has settled with two patrons injured in the June 2009 raid of the Rainbow Lounge.

Chad Gibson, who suffered a serious head injury in the raid, will receive $210,000 from TABC, the Star-Telegram reports. George Armstrong, who suffered a torn rotator cuff, will receive $15,000.

The city of Fort Worth, whose officers conducted the raid along with TABC agents, previously settled with Gibson for $400,000 and Armstrong for $40,000.

“It is done. They are very relieved,” Don Tittle, attorney for both men, told the Star-Telegram. “I think they feel that they received a level of justice, although it was slow. The monetary compensation was fair but I think it was important to both of them that there be change within both organizations. As a result of the incident, both Fort Worth and TABC have taken affirmative steps to improve relations and to be more sensitive to diversity.”

TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck told Instant Tea that the settlements were actually agreed to during mediation in March, but had to be signed off on by the offices of the attorney general and the governor.

“Those approvals came thorugh in June, and so here we are now,” Beck said. “We are happy that we were able to come to an agreement with mediation, and I personally feel like our relationship with the LGBT community is a lot different than it was two years ago, and I hope that it continues to stay postiive.”

—  John Wright

Doing things the Fort Worth way

THE DIFFERENCE 18 MONTHS CAN MAKE | Fairness Fort Worth President Tom Anable says that with the initial issues of the Rainbow Lounge raid addressed, FFW can move forward toward its goal of being an LGBT clearinghouse that works to match those with needs with those who have the resources to meet those needs. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Formed to meet the immediate needs of Tarrant County’s LGBT community in the wake of the Rainbow Lounge raid, Fairness Fort Worth is evolving into a cornerstone in building a stronger community

TAMMYE NASH | Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

FORT WORTH — Even though Fort Worth in 2001 became one of the first Texas cities to include sexual orientation in its citywide nondiscrimination ordinance, the city known as “Cowtown” and the place “where the West begins” was never known for having an especially active LGBT community.

There were gay bars here, sure, and plenty of LGBT citizens in Cowtown. But there was no recognizable “gayborhood,” no active LGBT organizations. Fort Worth’s LGBT churches got lost in the shadow of Cathedral of Hope, “the largest LGBT congregation in the world” located just east in Dallas. And the city’s annual gay Pride parade, while older than Dallas’, had in recent years dwindled away to nearly nothing.

But then came June 29, 2009 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York and the night that Fort Worth police and agents with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided a newly-opened gay bar called the Rainbow Lounge.

In the tumultuous days and weeks after the raid made headlines across the country, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief insisted the city would handle the uproar in “the Fort Worth way.”

Some angry activists, many of them younger and more radical folks who didn’t actually live in Fort Worth, responded with jeers. To them, “the Fort Worth way” was just code for ignoring the problem and looking for some way to sweep it all under the rug.

But a group of stalwart Fort Worth LGBTs took a different tack. They decided to take Moncrief and other city leaders at their word and opted for a more low-key, although no less insistent, approach.

Moncrief said “the Fort Worth way” was to talk things out and work together to find ways to solve problems, and these Fort Worth LGBT leaders stepped up and said, “OK. Let’s talk. But you’d better be ready to do more than just talk. We want solutions.”

And that was the birth of a new day in Fort Worth.

Fairness Fort Worth is formed

ANNOUNCING A NEW DAY | On July 8, 2009, Fort Worth attorney Jon Nelson announced at a press conference the formation of Fairness Fort Worth, a new organization that would initially focus on helping coordinate between law enforcement agencies to gather the testimony of witnesses to the Rainbow Lounge raid. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Less than two weeks after the raid, a group of LGBT business, civic and religious leaders held a press conference to announce the formation of a new organization called Fairness Fort Worth. Attorney Jon Nelson explained that the group’s initial priority was to help locate witnesses to the Rainbow Lounge raid, providing those individuals with legal advice while also coordinating with TABC and Fort Worth police to get their testimony recorded as part of the several investigations into what actually happened that night.

But even then, FFW founders knew they wanted to do more.

“Even though our city strives to be open, equal and caring, we have much more work to do,” Nelson said at the time.

Over the next several months, FFW continued to coordinate the LGBT community’s response to the raid. The organization marshaled hundreds of citizens to turn out in support of a new ordinance protecting transgenders from discrimination, offering measured, reasonable responses to the bigoted rants of those who opposed the change.

FFW members volunteered for the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force that created a list of policy changes and new initiatives to make Cowtown a more LGBT-friendly place to live and work. And they met frequently with Police Chief Jeff Halstead and other city officials, making sure that those officials followed through on promises they made.

On Sept. 15 that year, FFW incorporated. The organization’s first board meeting followed in January 2010. Lee Zolinger was elected as the first FFW president, but he soon realized that his job was keeping him from being as active in FFW as he wanted.

That’s when Thomas Anable stepped up and offered to run for the office, and in June that year, he was elected as FFW’s new leader.

Anable, a CPA, was new to the world of LGBT activism. He readily admits now that he had always relied on his status in the business world and his ability to “pass,” and had never felt the need to be active in the LGBT community.

But Anable was the accountant for Rainbow Lounge, and he was in the bar the night of the raid. What he saw then made him realize that no one is immune to anti-LGBT bigotry. And he was determined that FFW and its opportunity to be a force for change would not fade away.

A new focus

Under Anable’s leadership, FFW members decided to focus on two specific areas where they felt they could help enact that change: bullying in schools and LGBT issues within Fort Worth’s hospitals.

Anable said that the hospitals in the area had never participated in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual report on policies regarding LGBT issues “because they knew they wouldn’t meet the criteria to get good scores. So we decided to take a new approach. We decided we would encourage them to take the HRC survey, but instead of submitting it, they could use that as a guideline on how to improve.”

Anable said shortly afterward, the federal Health and Human Services department came out with new guidelines on how hospitals should deal with LGBT people and access to health care services. And with approval from the FFW board, Anable talked with Resource Center Dallas’ executive director and associate director of community programs, Cece Cox and Lee Taft, about working together to approach the hospitals.

According to FFW treasurer David Mack Henderson, that partnership is in full swing now as the two organizations develop a strategy in approaching the hospitals on those issues.

On the issue of bullying in the schools, FFW has worked behind the scenes to provide the Fort Worth Independent School District with the information and resources it needed to enact comprehensive anti-bullying policies.

The district has already adopted such a policy for faculty and administrators, and Nelson said this week he is “fully confident you will see a comprehensive anti-bullying policy [pertaining to students] in place by the beginning of the next school year, as well as a mindset that will exist on cooperation and treating people fairly with respect, and not just in the LGBT community.”

Plus, Anable noted, FFW was instrumental in helping secure the assistance of the Human Rights Campaign, which created a new staff position for someone to work with school districts to implement anti-bullying policies and programs. The first person hired, Rhonda Thomasson, is already working with schools in Dallas and Fort Worth, Anable said.

The Tarrant County College system also recently adopted anti-bullying policies specifically including protections based on sexual orientation. And Anable has spoken to the system’s board members on including protections based on gender and gender identity, as well.

Collaboration

A YEAR LATER | Fairness Fort Worth board members Carol West, left, and David Mack Henderson, right, talk with Police Chief Jeff Halstead at a 2010 Gay Pride Month event at Rainbow Lounge marking a year since the raid and celebrating improvements in the relationship between the city’s police force and the LGBT community. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Anable said that as FFW president, another of his priorities was to make sure FFW worked with other LGBT organizations in North Texas and at the state and national levels. With that in mind, he said, he asked all FFW board members to get involved with those organizations as volunteers and board members.

The reason, Anable said, is that FFW can be most beneficial by acting as a kind of “clearinghouse” for LGBT issues in Tarrant County, helping to identify needs and then matching those needs to the resources that already exist.

“We want to be a coordinator,” Anable said. “We won’t really do programs ourselves. We will identify the needs that are out there, and then match them with the providers who have the resources already to meet those needs.”

So far, the strategy seems to be working. In just 20 months, Anable said, FFW has played a role in making changes that in other cities have taken years to accomplish.

Carol West agreed.

“This organization has had a tremendously positive impact,” West said. “In those early days after the raid, things could have gone either way. I think it was absolutely necessary to have Fairness Fort Worth there doing what we did, and doing it in a very positive way.

“Now, more and more people are getting involved and becoming aware,” she said, adding that diversity training for all city employees is a “direct result of the work of Fairness Fort Worth. … We’ve got a lot of good things happening here.”

West, who is herself on Chief Halstead’s citizens advisory board, said those good things include a focus on improving services for LGBT youth in Tarrant County, developing an LGBT archive for the county that will be housed at Celebration Community Church, and establishing an LGBT hotline that will also be housed at the church.

“Fairness Fort Worth has become a really tremendous organization that really is the face of LGBT politics in Fort Worth, the face of justice in Fort Worth. I think we have really made a difference for the better,” West said.

Nelson said that impact dates back to the first city council meeting after the Rainbow Lounge raid.

“I think it really had quite a sobering effect on the city council and the mayor and the city manager to sit there at that table and look out into the crowd and see hundreds of people there wearing our yellow Fairness Fort Worth buttons,” Nelson said.

“Even then, in its infancy, Fairness Fort Worth was able to do something few had been able to do before: marshal enough people to come to City Hall and really have an impact. When those elected officials saw more than 450 people wearing those yellow buttons that said Fairness Fort Worth, something was different, and they knew it. That perception could easily have dissipated, but because of Fairness Fort Worth, we didn’t let that happen,” Nelson said.

With FFW, Nelson said, LGBT people in Tarrant County now know “they have somewhere to turn if they have questions or concerns.

“They know we aren’t just focused on one issue. We are broad based and we can be that clearinghouse they need.
“And those in the straight community know we exist and that we have the ability to take their concerns out into our community. That has never existed before,” he said.

The existence of FFW, Nelson said, gives the LGBT community and the individuals within that community a tangible presence to the community at large, “both the perception and the reality of an organization and a community that can make a difference. That has never existed before in Fort Worth,” Nelson said.

The Fort Worth way

Some in Fort Worth reacted angrily to activists who converged on Fort Worth after the Rainbow Lounge raid, taking to the streets with chants and placards and bullhorns, and standing up in council meetings to make demands until the mayor had them removed.

But both Nelson and Anable were quick to point out those protesters played a necessary role in the progress that’s been made in Fort Worth.

“I don’t think any right we have today was garnered without protests like that,” Nelson said. “But protests alone get nothing done. At some point you have to sit down with both sides and discuss things. Both sides have to be able to understand each other and trust each other. You can’t do that with placards and bullhorns. And that’s what Fairness Fort Worth has brought to the table.”

That, Anable said, “is what we mean when we say ‘the Fort Worth way.’ It means, let’s sit down and talk about it. Let’s be reasonable and act like adults and have a real conversation that can come up with real solutions. That’s what happened here.”

Anable, who said that before the Rainbow Lounge raid never felt the need to be involved in LGBT political issues or to even make a point about being openly gay, decided at the beginning of this year that he has a new calling in his life.

So he sold his CPA practice to his business partner and now plans to devote himself fulltime to LGBT activism.

He said, “It’s been a really strange 20 months. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I would be where I am today, I never would have believed you. My whole life has changed.

“In one night, my life changed. This city changed. And it’s still changing. And Fairness Fort Worth is going to help make it happen.”

————————————————————————–

Fairness Fort Worth Timeline

• June 28, 2009: Rainbow Lounge Raid (TABC report says 1:28am).
• June 28, 2009: Protest Rally on Tarrant County Courthouse steps.
• June 28, 2009: Press release from FWPD (mentioning 3 sexual advances).
• July 1, 2009: Candlelight vigil for Chad Gibson.
• July 2, 2009: Chief Halstead announces suspension of joint operations with TABC.
• July 2, 2009: First gathering at Celebration Community Church to form Fairness Fort Worth.
• July 8, 2009: Press conference announcing FFW.
• July 8, 2009: FFW begins coordinating Rainbow Lounge witness interviews.
• July 14, 2009: Officer Sara Straten appointed as interim liaison to the LGBT community.
• July 14, 2009: City Council meeting, more than 450 LGBT citizens and allies attend.
• July 21, 2009: City Council votes on resolution calling for independent federal investigation.
• July 21, 2009: Council votes to establish the City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.
• July 23, 2009: First meeting of City Manager’s Diversity Task Force.
• July 28, 2009: The FW Human Relations Commission votes for resolution trans protections.
• Aug. 6, 2009: Press release of Phase 1 of TABC report.
• Aug. 6, 2009: FWST reports that U.S. Attorney won’t investigate Rainbow Lounge raid.
• Aug. 17, 2009: FFW leaders meet privately with Halstead to hammer out differences.
• Aug. 18. 2009: Halstead tells city council that investigation will require more time.
• Aug 28, 2009: TABC announces it has fired three agents involved in Rainbow Lounge raid.
• Oct 11, 2009: Chief Halstead attends the Tarrant County Gay Pride Picnic.
• Nov 3, 2009: Crime Control Prevention District measure passes with support of FFW.
• Nov 5, 2009: FWPD holds press conference releasing report on investigation into raid.
• Nov 5, 2009: TABC releases excessive force findings.
• Nov 10, 2009: Diversity Task Force recommendations presented at City Council meeting.
• April/May, 2010: Volunteers train to teach GLBT Diversity Training Class to city employees.
• May, 2010: GLBT Diversity Classes commence with Mayor Moncrief in the first class.
• June 28, 2010: BBQ Anniversary with police and city officials invited to Rainbow Lounge.
• April 27, 2011: Final Diversity Task Force Meeting. More than 1,200 city employees trained to date.
• May 3, 2011 : Assistant city manager and FFW members address council on progress to date.

—  John Wright