Having a closeted council member representing one of Dallas’ most heavily LGBT districts in 2013 would be a major step back for equality

John Wright

Twenty years ago this May, Craig McDaniel shattered a glass ceiling when he became the first openly gay candidate elected to the Dallas City Council.

Since then, Dallas has had four openly gay council members, including McDaniel. Two of them, John Loza and Chris Luna, were Hispanic and represented District 2, which is arguably Dallas’ most heavily LGBT district.

This year, another gay Latino candidate is running in District 2, Adam Medrano. However, unlike Loza, Luna and two of his opponents, Herschel Weisfeld and Vernon Franko, Medrano has chosen not to be open and honest about his sexual orientation — even though he was once arrested after allegedly engaging in homosexual sex in a public bathroom.

Last week, Dallas Voice posed a simple question to Medrano: “Are you gay?”

“I’m not going to discuss that,” Medrano responded. “I don’t think that sexual orientation is an issue in the race.”

While I suppose this response is preferable to an outright lie — such as the one Medrano told when he denied being gay in an interview with Dallas Voice last year — it’s hardly the type of transparency voters should expect from someone who’s asking for their trust with the public’s business.

On an LGBT level, Medrano’s efforts to cover up his sexual orientation seem to imply that he thinks there’s something wrong with being gay — that he’s somehow ashamed of it. And let’s face it, it’s this type of shame that has often led closeted gay people to seek out anonymous sex in public bathrooms. Would history repeat itself if he is elected to the council?

Another problem with closeted gay elected officials — even if they are generally supportive of the community on a policy level, as Medrano appears to be — is that they tend to avoid LGBT issues because they’re afraid of being outed.

Medrano has been in office for seven years as a Dallas Independent School District trustee, thrice being elected president of the school board. Medrano and his LGBT supporters tout his vote in 2010 in favor of the district’s fully inclusive anti-bullying policy. But this policy passed unanimously, and Medrano wasn’t among trustees who led the charge publicly. Meanwhile, other important LGBT issues, such as domestic partner benefits for district employees, have gone largely undiscussed at DISD.

Furthermore, Medrano could have accomplished more for LGBT youth than any policy by simply coming out and serving as a positive gay role model — living proof that it gets better.

But the school board is one thing. Having a closeted City Council member representing a heavily gay district would undeniably be a major step backward for the Dallas LGBT community in 2013.

Which is why it’s so difficult to understand why one so-called LGBT advocacy group, Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, would choose to endorse Medrano.

Even though many Stonewall leaders are aware of Medrano’s sexual orientation, no one brought it up during the group’s recent candidate screenings.

That’s probably because some feared the wrath of the powerful Medrano family, which had many members in the room and is a force in the Dallas County Democratic Party.

Mind you, though, this is the same organization that put so much stock in electing an openly gay council member two years ago that it was willing to stab a staunch LGBT ally in the back to endorse her out challenger.

Medrano, because of his family name, as well as the fact that District 2 overlays much of his school board district, remains the odds-on favorite to win the seat.

Coming out wouldn’t hurt Medrano’s chances, and in fact it would probably help him among the district’s many LGBT voters.

But remaining in the closet could hurt him, especially among LGBT voters who may wonder how he can represent their interests if he can’t even represent his own.

LGBT political experts have long said that when gay candidates try to hide their sexual orientation, it ends up becoming an even bigger issue.

That’s why the best approach for Medrano would simply be to acknowledge that’s he’s gay and move on to the real issues facing the city — both LGBT and otherwise.

John Wright is senior editor of Dallas Voice. He can be reached at Editor@DallasVoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 22, 2013.