Out & Equal Executive Director Selisse Berry

I asked a few simple questions at this week’s Out & Equal conference. That’s what I do. I like to break news in the Dallas Voice. After all, I’m covering this event and the New York Times isn’t.

So I asked Barbara Spotts, at the Out & Equal conference representing NASA, if she could tell me when the first manned mission to Mars would take place. She couldn’t tell me.

Neither could David Morse, also with NASA.

“Just one scoop. Anything,” I said.

“Wish I had one for you,” he said.

And FOR Michael Barber with the CIA, a few simple questions.

He’s here to dispel myths. One of my favorite is that “everyone drives a sports car with machine guns in the tailpipes.” He assured me that he didn’t, but wouldn’t reveal to me where he does hide the machine guns in his sports car.

And he couldn’t tell me, even off the record, the CIA’s budget or who’s the next dictator we plan to bump off. Off the record! Sheesh. I wouldn’t tell. I’d just say that I knew.

And when I approached people from Chevron, I told them I write for Dallas Voice and said, “So, say something nasty about ExxonMobil.”

I wasn’t expecting them to be so gracious. This is big business. One of the people I spoke to manages a $220 million project. His project is bigger than most companies. Bigger than the economy of some countries. I expected cut-throat. Mean and nasty. This is big business.

I didn’t expect, “We want them to get their benefits too.”

See what happens when gay people get into upper management in business. People turn … well, downright nice.

I did learn that the LGBT employee group at American Airlines is even larger than the more than 50 volunteers they had at the conference. Gay people at American Airlines? Who knew? One confided that there may even be some gay people at Southwest Airlines as well.

I spent time trying to understand the thinking behind one of the week’s awards but couldn’t find a good reason that Houston won “affiliate of the year” honor. At least not until I spoke to Paul von Wupperfeld.

Out & Equal spokeswoman April Hawkins told me that Houston had an active group with more than 80 companies participating. OK, I thought, staring blankly, shaking my head. She said there are lots of activities sponsored by the Houston affiliate. OK, I’m listening. They’re growing rapidly. They’re active with the national group. I’m still not convinced.

Von Wupperfeld, who heads the Dallas affiliate finally explained: “Dallas won last year. We won the first award.”

OK, so Houston is second. Hawkins should have just said that in the first place.

Click here for more pictures of the conference.