Ben E. Keith’s disregard for LGBT community
Recently, I sought some modest support from the Ben E. Keith Co., for the Turtle Creek Chorale (TCC) in connection with the fundraiser I held at the Brick Bar on May 3. I asked them to participate because, as the distributors of Budweiser, they have sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of their product to the Dallas gay community, much of it through my current or previous clubs. I viewed the opportunity I presented to Ben E. Keith Co. as a win/win chance for them to do good and to look good at the same time.

I am delighted to report the event raised more than $15,000 for the Turtle Creek Chorale.

My passionate support of TCC stems directly from the many years its volunteer members have invested in unifying the diverse communities of Dallas — across boundaries of age and income, gender and sexual orientation, race and ethnicity — through the power of music and the inspiration of the members’ selfless gifts of song. This organization is important to me personally, and is a pillar of strength in the Dallas gay community.

However, the manner in which the manager of Ben E. Keith Co. rejected the request for support clearly demonstrates to me the indifference they have for my efforts, as well as the business I have given the Ben E. Keith Co. over the past quarter century.
In his e-mail of March 31, declining to make any contribution whatsoever directly to TCC (which is a 501(c) organization), he stated, "We try to steer away from those types" — although he did indicate a willingness to furnish "signage" that would also promote their products. I am in business myself, and I would not expect to prosper if I ever treated my loyal customers and clients with such disdain.

The background of my invitation to support TCC puts this response in context. Several months ago, I approached the sales representative with the idea of helping sponsor TCC. He was enthusiastic and optimistic and indicated no awareness of any supposed policy of the Ben E. Keith Co. to reject participation in this type of event.
He told me several weeks ago that he would set up a meeting with the manager to review the proposal. I changed my appointments to accommodate a meeting with him on March 17. Imagine my disappointment when the manager failed to appear, but instead sent a stranger to me, a new employee to the Ben E. Keith Co.

He reviewed the proposal packet I had prepared, and promised a quick and positive response at some level. I held open the printing of the press packets to allow appropriate recognition of the Ben E. Keith Co., for its anticipated sponsorship of TCC.

In my view, it would have been far classier for the Ben E. Keith Co., simply to have had the forthrightness to reject my request at the outset, rather than string us out for weeks, and then reject this request with a shifting and unconvincing rationale. Texas law, they said, would prohibit a contribution — although they also said they weren’t sure whether the Ben E. Keith Co. had sponsored a similar event last year (they didn’t).

Time constraints made it impossible to come up with any contribution, they said — even though the manager personally delayed our meeting by at least three weeks, and then delayed his response by another two weeks.

Their response has conveyed clearly to me that my patronage and loyalty to the Ben E. Keith Co. over the past 25 years — from Patrick’s to The Wave, to the Box Office, Headquarters, Moby Dick and now the Brick and Joe’s — is neither appreciated nor returned.

I understand clearly that the TCC, and the Dallas gay community that so fervently supports this worthy organization, is not on the Ben E. Keith Co.’s radar. I have received their message. I will act accordingly.

I will change the draft beer in my bars from Budweiser to Coors. I made sure that the guests at the TCC fundraiser knew who supports TCC and who does not.
TCC enjoys the support of the Belo Corp. (WFAA-TV and The Dallas Morning News) and American Airlines, to name a few. It’s a shame that the company selling Budweiser to our community does not wish to join them.

It is astonishing to me to see an organization like the Ben E. Keith Co., which acts only through its agents like its manager, disrespect their good customers and our community.

Howard Okon

Thanks for articles on bishop’s visit
This letter is to say a great big "Thank you" for the two wonderful articles John Wright authored regarding The Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle in the Dallas Voice ("Church head to visit Dallas," April 25, and "Bishop predicts gay union blessings ‘in our lifetimes,’" May 2).

The visit of Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to our little parish was one of the highlights in our more than 50 years of existence, and it allowed us to celebrate with her the real reason for our being at the corner of Mockingbird Lane and Inwood Road. We are a part of the real community, with all our stripes and spots.

Wright wrote two very honest pieces as a true reporter. Thank you so much. Come join us anytime.

Bud Knight and Chet Flake

Coverage makes more than a local impact
Hello from Massachusetts.

I am a lifelong Episcopalian who wishes to thank John Wright for his good, solid and unbiased coverage of our presiding bishop’s visit to Dallas ("Church head to visit Dallas," April 25, and "Bishop predicts gay union blessings ‘in our lifetimes,’" May 2).
Coverage, no matter how local or regional, concerning the condition of the Episcopal Church reaches far wider than one might think. One of the blessings of that is people like me in the Northeast are able to read about what is happening in the life of our denomination on so very many levels.

One of the things it does highlight, however, is the political views/outlooks of the different regions of our country, as depicted in articles, yes, but also sadly by journalists who are able to put a biased spin (on either side of the fence) into their writing.

To say it simply, thank you. The first sentence of thie e-mail really says it all.

Louis Bower-Bannister
Pittsfield, Mass.

Why there’s no T in DADT repeal
I am writing in response to the Viewpoints column by David Benkof ("Spelling military inclusion without the T," Dallas Voice, May 2).

I would like for readers to understand why transgender service members are not included in the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (MREA) and why it would be inappropriate to include them:

1. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things. Not every trans woman considers herself to be attracted to men; after transitioning she may continue to date women. She is a lesbian. Some trans women want to date men and consider themselves to be heterosexual.

2. The current law, Title X, Section 654 of the United States Code, specifically addresses sexual orientation and does not include an
y discussion related to gender identity. That is the law which would be repealed. Including transgender individuals would involve numerous additional regulations and laws that are unrelated to "Don’t ask, don’t tell."

3. Even though "Don’t ask, don’t tell" specifically discusses sexual orientation, many transgender people have been discharged under the law as well because commanders inside the military confuse orientation and identity. MREA — even without the T — will help transgender servicemembers too.

Since I was discharged under "Don’t ask, don’t tell" in 2003, I have been deeply involved in efforts to repeal the law. I have met many LGB and T veterans. Inevitably, we have had several discussions on the inclusion of transgender people in our efforts to repeal the existing law. What I have written above is the result of those discussions.

I encourage all of your readers to learn more about the honorable service of all Americans. Anyone interested in learning more about transgender military service can contact the Transgender American Veterans Association:

Pepe N. Johnson

UMC not demonstrating Jesus’ love
I would ask members of the United Methodist Church that met recently in Fort Worth to read Matthew 22:39-40 in the Bible: "And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

They should also read John 13:34-35: "A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you love one to another."

The UMC voted on April 30 to affirm that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and to allow pastors to deny gay men and women membership in the United Methodist Church. Are they aware that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus preach about homosexuality? Are they living in the first centuries A.D. when the Bible was written, before anyone realized that there were two sexual orientations, homosexual and heterosexual?

I am not sure what to call the UMC’s denial of Christian men and women who are gay. It does not come across as the love that Jesus preached.

Jeffery Weber

To send a letter
We welcome letters from readers. Shorter letters are more likely to be printed, as are those that address only a single topic. On some weeks we receive more letters than we can print. In that case, we print a representative sample. Letters are subject to editing for length and clarity, but we attempt to maintain the writer’s substance and tone. Include your home address and a daytime phone number for verification. Send letters to the senior editor, preferably by e-mail ( Letters also may be faxed (214-969-7271) or mailed (Dallas Voice, 4145 Travis St., Third Floor, Dallas, TX 72504).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 9, 2008.

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