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Attorneys Neel Lane and Barry A. Chasnoff with Cleopatra DeLeon, Nicole Dimetman, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes at a press conference after Judge Garcia's ruling. (Photo courtesy Snow Montemayor)

Spirit of Texas honorees on frontline in fight for equality
QSanAntonio.com, May16, 2014

This year, the Equality Texas Spirit of Texas Brunch will honor over a dozen current and former San Antonians who are on the frontline of the equality movement in San Antonio and the state of Texas.

The award recipients are participants in two historic events which have had a profound effect on San Antonio's and the state's LGBT community: The passage of the city's nondiscrimination ordinance and the recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia, which found the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

The Spirit of Texas Brunch is slated for June 1 at the Pearl Stable.

The Advocate award is given annually to "an outstanding public servant whose high ideals include a dedication to equal rights for LGBT Texans." This year, that honor will go to the eight San Antonio City Council members who voted to approve the city's nondiscrimination ordinance last September.

That list includes Mayor Julian Castro and council members Diego Bernal, Rebecca Viagran, Rey Saldana, Shirley Gonzales, Ray Lopez, Cris Medina and Ron Nirenberg.

Attorneys Barry A. Chasnoff and Neel Lane from Akin Gump at the Federal Courthouse in San Antonio. (Photo courtesy Randy Bear.

The Vanguard Award is given annually to "an exemplary business who has demonstrated a commitment to LGBT equality in the state of Texas through fair employee policy and community advocacy."

This year, that award goes to Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, the law firm handling the Texas Freedom to Marry lawsuit in which two same-sex couples are seeking to overturn the state's same-sex marriage ban.

In that case, Judge Garcia on February 26 ruled that Texas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. He also issued a stay, so the ban remains in effect while the state appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans.

"Not only does Akin Gump have a stellar pro-equality record with regard to their employment policies, but they have pledged the firm's resources to take the marriage case all the way to the US Supreme Court," Equality Texas executive director Chuck Smith said at the time the award was announced.

Vic Holmes, Mark Phariss Cleopatra DeLeon, and Nicole Dimetman. (Photo courtesy Randy Bear)

The Anchor Award is given to "individuals who steadfastly support the goals of Equality Texas through years of dedication that advances the lives of LGBT people."

Two couples, Mark Pharris and Vic Holmes, and Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, who filed the suit challenging the state's ban on same sex marriage and who are clients of Akin Gump, will receive the Anchor Award. Both couples previously lived in San Antonio.

The keynote speaker for the Spirit of Texas Brunch is Mark McKinnon. According to The Daily Beast, McKinnon "has served as principal media adviser for hundreds of campaigns for candidates, companies, and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, and Bono, and has helped to engineer five successful presidential primary and general elections."

McKinnon is also the Texas co-chair of the Freedom to Marry Campaign.

The Spirit of Texas Brunch is Equality Texas' biggest fundraiser of the year in San Antonio. Last year, the organization was an integral part of the coalition that helped pass the nondiscrimination ordinance.

At a Spirit of Texas kickoff party on May 14, Smith announced that Equality Texas would soon be opening an office in San Antonio with a full-time staff person.

Equality Texas Spirit of Texas Brunch, 11:30 a.m. on June 1, 2014 at the Pearl Stable, 307 Pearl Parkway. General admission tickets are $125/person. VIP tickets are $140/person. For more information and to purchase tickets go to SpiritOfTexasBrunch.org.

Photos: Spirit of Texas Brunch kick-off party
QSanAntonio Facebook Album, May 14, 2014
Organizers of the Equality Texas Spirit of Texas Brunch held a kick-off party on May 14 at W.D. Deli. At the event, executive director Chuck Smith announced Equality Texas is opening an office in San Antonio with a full-time staff person.

LGBT community jubilant as judge strikes down state's same-sex marriage ban
QSanAntonio, February 27, 2014
Members of San Antonio's LGBT community were jubilant on February 26 when news that Judge Orlando L. Garcia of the United States District Court declared that Texas' ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

VICTORY! S.A. City Council passes nondiscrimination ordinance
QSanAntonio, September 5, 2013
Despite loud and vocal opposition from Christian extremists, the San Antonio City Council on September 5 passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes protections for LGBT citizens and veterans. The vote was eight in favor and three against.