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News Briefs: May 2007

Pokey Anderson remembers a White House meeting 30 years ago. Jack Valenski feted. LHI. Black Tie Dinner beneficiaries. The future of pride. Milestones.

Compiled by Nancy Ford

Pokey Anderson remembers a White House meeting for gay rights … 30 years ago
Jack Valinski feted for 25 years of community service
Special election early voting continues through May 8
Lesbian Health Initiative events see changes
Houston Black Tie Dinner names beneficiaries
The Future Of Pride: What Do You Think?


Historic Access
Gay and lesbian leaders, including a Houstonian, recall a time the White House hosted them in a three-hour meeting—30 years ago

Gay leaders on their way to a 1977 meeting with the White House.

Thirty years ago, a start-up advocacy organization called the National Gay Task Force (now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) initiated the first-ever meeting between the White House and more than a dozen gay and lesbian leaders.

At that time Midge Costanza, the presidential assistant for public liaison for President Jimmy Carter, met with Task Force co-chairs and board members as well as representatives of gay and lesbian organizations for a briefing on policy issues affecting the gay community, as it was called in those pre-inclusive days. Costanza and the gay and lesbian leaders were joined by other Carter administration staff, including Robert Malson, the civil rights specialist for domestic policy.

The meeting marked the first time openly gay and lesbian leaders were welcomed at the White House and the first official discussion of gay and lesbian rights in the White House. Community activists who attended the 1977 meeting included Charles Brydon, Frank Kameny, William Kelley, Elaine Noble, Rev. Troy Perry, George Raya, Charlotte Spitzer, and Pokey Andeson, the Houston equal rights activist and author. (In top photo: (L-r) Charlie Brydon, Jean O’Leary, Bruce Voeller, Frank Kameny, Myra Riddell, and George Raya. Photo by Bill Bland, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.)

“I expected virtually nothing from this meeting. I did not expect to be really welcomed and really heard,” Anderson said in a March 26 teleconference held by the Task Force. “However, we were welcomed, and we were heard.”

The meeting took place in the historic Roosevelt Room, down the hall from the Oval Office, Anderson said.   “It was a weekend, however, and Carter himself was not on the grounds of the White House.”

The 1977 meeting lasted three hours, with Costanza and other White House staff posing thoughtful questions to the panel.

“We presented facts and policy, but we also spoke from the heart about things we all knew about deeply–the impact of discrimination against us and our community,” Anderson said.

During the meeting, the point was made that Franklin Kameny had marched outside the White House in 1965, 12 years earlier.

Pokey Anderson (far left) with the delegation to the White House.

“Here we were in 1977, and Frank was inside the gates now,” Anderson recalled. “Midge welcomed him, saying, ‘Frank, I’m really glad to meet you finally. I’m just sorry that it has taken so long to come into a house that belongs to you as much as it belongs to anyone in this country.’

“Elaine Noble said that some of us had been marching outside the White House gates so long, we wondered if there was an inside. ”

Anderson recalled 1977 as a time when Anita Bryant became famous for her anti-gay rhetoric, calling gays and lesbians “human garbage.”

“But it was a very exciting time,” added Anderson, who went on to help establish the Gay Political Caucus, now known as the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. “Harvey Milk would be elected to public office within the year. It was a time of hope, when many of us thought all we needed to do was tell our story to America, and America would respond by making good on the national promise of freedom and opportunity for all.”

The 1977 meeting was a critical milestone for the gay and lesbian community in terms of gaining access to the country’s most powerful leadership. Accordingly, the criticism of the Carter White House that followed was intense. Appearing on the CBS news program Face the Nation , Carter press secretary Jody Powell responded, defending White House staff who participated in the meeting.

“Costanza was only doing her job when she used the Office of Public Liaison to allow groups to present issues that they would like the administration to address,” Powell said at the time.

Costanza agreed, noting, “A basic tenet of American government is the right of citizens to petition that government.”

Thirty years later, the invisibility that enveloped gay men and lesbians has dissipated, Anderson said. “However, the dynamic that makes one group of people into scapegoats remains.

“I salute the open hearts and open minds that people at the highest level of American government met us with 30 years ago, and hope to see a time like that again soon.”

Jack Valinski feted for 25 years of community service

Annise Parker helps salute community stalwart Jack Valinski.

In a roast-and-toast considered long overdue by many community leaders, longtime Houston equal-rights activist Jack Valinski was honored March 29 for his many years of service to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. Sponsored by the Houston Equal Rights Alliance (HERA), the event was held at South Beach nightclub,

“Jack is one of our best and has served our community well for many years,” HERA president Tammi Wallace said. “The entire GLBT community has benefited from his dedication.”

Supporters packed the South Beach front bar to listen to comments from community leaders including activists Ray Hill and Ed Barnes, City Council member Sue Lovell, and others. City Controller Annise Parker presented Valinski with an official proclamation from her office, thanking him for supporting her in her campaigns for City Council and controller.

That night, HERA also introduced Jack’s Pack, a new fundraising effort for the advocacy organization. Producer and co-host for the KPFT radio program Queer Voices , a board member of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and previous executive director of Pride Houston, Valinski was recently named director of operations for HERA, managing the GLBT community database (see “Milestones,” page 20). Details: www.houstonera.org.

Special election early voting continues through May 8

E arly voting continues through May 8 for the special City Council election. The election on May 12 determines who will serve as the representative to City Council At Large Position 3, the seat that Shelley Sekula Gibbs vacated last year when she ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

Among the 11 candidates seeking the council position are two openly gay men, Log Cabin Republicans-Houston president Noel Freeman and Ivan Mayers. However, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC endorsed Melissa Noriega, a special projects manager for the Houston Independent School District, in its March general meeting for the position. Noriega, who is married to state representative Rick Noriega, will speak at the caucus monthly meeting on May 2, 7 p.m., at the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Havens Center.

Voting information: www.hglbtpc.org, www.harrisvotes.org/Early_Voting.

Lesbian Health Initiative events see changes

The Lesbian Health Initiative (LHI) has set its next Rainbow Health Fair for Saturday, June 2, 8:20 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Available services will be more limited compared to LHI screening events in the past. Pap tests will not be offered at this health fair, representatives said, though Pap tests continue to be available at no cost as a scheduled appointment at the Legacy clinic.

The health fair, held at the Legacy Community Health Services, will continue to offer mammograms through its collaboration with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Mobile Mammography Program at no cost to women ages 35 and up who are part of the greater Houston area GLBT community. (To schedule a mammogram, call 713/426-3356.)

LHI will again offer some other screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, A1c for diabetes, total cholesterol, and blood typing. Health professionals will also be on hand to discuss the screening results with clients, upon request. Details: www.lhihouston.org.

Houston Black Tie Dinner names beneficiaries

After contributing $80,000 to nine GLBT organizations in 2006, organizers of the Houston Black Tie Dinner say the organization plans to give even more to local service groups this year.

The recently announced seven beneficiaries of the 2007 Houston Black Tie Dinner, scheduled for November 10 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Downtown, are the PFLAG/HATCH Youth Scholarship Fund, Bering Omega Community, PFLAG Houston, Montrose Counseling Center, Casa de Esperanza de los Niños, AIDS Foundation Houston, and AssistHers.

“We’re proud to continue the tradition of celebrating and supporting such a diverse group of local organizations that began some 14 years ago with the first Houston Black Tie Dinner,” president Scott Nettles said.

Since 1993, the Houston Black Tie Dinner has distributed more than $2 million to local nonprofit organizations that primarily serve the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Details: www.houstonblacktiedinner.org.

The Future of Pride: What do you think?

In April, OutSmart began conducting a survey to poll readers about a possible move of the location and date of the Houston GLBT Pride Parade and Festival in 2008. Express your opinion at www.outsmartmagazine.com. To learn more about the issue, read OutSmart‘s“Two Sides of Pride,” March 2007, and “Whither Pride?,” January 2007.



 25th Anniversary,   Mike Jernigan and Gaard Egeland recently celebrated their 25th anniversary as a couple. On the occasion of their silver anniversary, we asked the couple to offer some thoughts on maintaining a relationship. Mike (r) sent the following:

SilverAnni“It was 1982 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He and his friends frequented the restaurant where I worked after school and that’s how we met. The attraction was swift and powerful as are many romances of youth. Looking back, we seemed fearless and almost oblivious to the challenges of our type of relationship in an early 1980’s small-town mentality. We were lucky in many respects. Our relationship has seen conflict and resolution, individual growth and sacrifice, and the evolvement of the gay lifestyle to a standard unimaginable 25 years ago.

“It does get easier and the grass does get greener on your side of the fence, if you stay on your side.

“A few quick tips we’ve found helpful:

1. Be proud of the two of you.

2. Listen, listen, and listen to your partner.

3. Expect acceptance from everyone.

4. Adapt once in a while.

5. Be kind to the mother-in-law.

6. Live far enough “out” to disrupt your social life.

7. Make each other laugh hard and often.

8. Foster individual growth.”

OutSmart featured Egeland and Jernigan, who both competed in the sand volleyball competition at Gay Games VII in Chicago, in our Gay Games/Outgames coverage last summer (“They Got Game,” July 2006 OutSmart).

Hired Jack Valinski as director of operations for Houston Equal Rights Alliance. Valinski, who is former executive director of Pride Houston and producer and co-host of the KPFT radio program Queer Voices, will work on the GLBT voter database project.

Hired Mary Urban as the new director of operations for Pride Houston. Marian LaSalle is the new Pride Houston director of development.

Engaged Ryan Lindsay and John Palmer in Central Park in New York City in September. Lindsay, who is an attorney, and Palmer, the well-known Houston artist, plan an October 13 wedding at The Lovett Inn.

Send information regarding commitment ceremonies/marriages, births, deaths, or other events regarding people in the community to editor@outsmartmagazine.com.

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