By John Wright Staff Writer

Businessman-philanthropist speaks about advocacy for gay youth, religious tolerance at Chamber event

Businessman and philanthropist Mitchell Gold: "I do not want one more gay teenager to live through what I lived through." JOHN WRIGHT/Dallas Voice

Mitchell Gold says he has a passion for making the world more comfortable.

But Gold, chairman and co-founder of luxury furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, isn’t just talking about the customers who buy the company’s products.

He’s talking about his employees, their children, his buyers, and above all — LGBT youth.

"I do not want one more gay teenager to live through what I lived through," Gold told a crowd of about 200 people during his inspiring keynote address at the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s Third Anniversary Dinner on Tuesday, March 25.

Gold, now 57, didn’t come out as gay until he was 26. He said he was unhappy as a teen and contemplated suicide because of his sexual orientation.

Gold said he believes 90 percent of gay youth suffer from depression. He’s currently working on a book with the help of 30 well-known LGBT figures that he says will be an "exposé" on this "mental health crisis in America that’s being swept under the rug."

Gold co-founded the Taylorsville, N.C.-based furniture company in 1989 with then-partner Bob Williams. Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams now has more than 700 employees and upward of $100 million in annual sales.

Gold, a major LGBT philanthropist, also is the founder of Faith in America, a nonprofit organization that’s been fighting religion-based anti-gay bigotry since 2005. On Tuesday, Gold talked about how widespread the sentiment is, especially in places like Taylorsville.

"I live in a really bigoted area," he said. "They are nice, decent people, but they are misled by their ministers."

Gold, who’s Jewish, said it’s not the first time religion has been used to justify oppression. He recalled how Southern Baptists invoked the Bible to justify slavery.

"Some 150 years later, they issued a formal apology," Gold said. "When will they issue the apology to us?"

Award winners from Tuesday’s dinner at the Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre were:
• Brinker International, corporate ally award, sponsored by American Airlines
• Youth First Texas, community service award, sponsored by Raytheon
• Texas Instruments, member service award
• Attorney Lorie Burch, business person of the year, sponsored by EDS
• The UPS Store, business of the year, sponsored by Southwest Airlines
• Amy Moreland, Chairman’s Award.

Todd Camp, an entertainment writer for The Star-Telegram of Fort Worth and founder of Cowtown’s LGBT film festival, Q Cinema, served as master of ceremonies for the event.

Chris Heinbaugh, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert’s openly gay chief of staff, and Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia delivered a proclamation from the mayor.  Jonathan Palant, artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale, served as honorary co-chair. The other honorary co-chair, Louise Young, was unable to attend.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 28, 2008.
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