Message from the CEO


Cece Cox:  Angst over gay rights rulings will soon seem ridiculous
Published: July 19 2013, Dallas Morning News

The landmark Supreme Court rulings this summer dealing with gay marriage technically don’t change anything for gay couples living in Texas. Yet everything changed.

My partner and I were on vacation with my parents when the rulings were announced. The night before, I told my mom how anxious many LGBT people were about the outcome. I shared how exhausted we were from struggling just to be seen as human, as equal.

The next morning, as I followed the court announcements, my emotions welled up and I could barely get the words out to my partner that the federal Defense of Marriage Act had been struck. The other Supreme Court ruling on June 26 stated that same-sex marriage is legal in California.

My dad, a fan of Fox News and conservative talk shows, walked into the kitchen to tell me how good the rulings were. He supported the court getting in line with this country’s fundamental principle of equality. More tears flowed. Hours later, long after sunset, my partner and I pulled ourselves away from the images of celebrating couples. We held hands and cried some more, in grateful shock to have our lives and love acknowledged.

Many LGBT Texans have married in other states and will soon be able to file joint tax returns or access other benefits. For those individuals, change is coming. But even for other LGBT people, the opinion on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, lifts a burden from the LGBT community and acknowledges that DOMA created a second-class, unequal and demeaning status for those in same-sex marriages and their children.

Even with all the celebration, though, work must be done. There is no marriage equality in Texas, and key state leaders are adamantly opposed; additionally, there are no employment protections for LGBT people. In our own city, the mayor and council members in June could not even rise to the occasion to support a nonbinding statement supporting marriage equality and employment nondiscrimination. But that’s a minor setback. The delay has allowed the LGBT community to identify other issues that need to be addressed, such as health benefits for transgender employees and services for LGBT youth and seniors.

The local LGBT community is committed to work with all council members to address those matters and make this city better for all. Most of the speakers June 12 supporting these issues at City Hall received threatening mail. I receive hateful email every time a column of mine regarding LGBT issues is published.

But love is a greater force. Even without legal recognition, our community has created long-term loving relationships; we have raised children; we take care of our young, our seniors and our ill. We have loved hard, often because we were told we were unlovable. We didn’t need the Supreme Court to tell us we are equal. We have intrinsic value, dignity and worth, like all human beings. But laws establish the framework for equality. The complement to law that creates change is a softening of hearts and minds. With most Americans favoring marriage equality, that is also well underway.

In the near future, the angst over these legal issues will seem ridiculous. In the meantime, we will continue to love and work for change.

Cece Cox of Dallas is the CEO of Resource Center and a Community Voices volunteer columnist. Her email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


 

Cece Cox: Gay graduates have a brighter future than ever before
Published: May 30, 2013, Dallas Morning News

Graduation season is a time of optimism and anticipation mixed with apprehension about an unpredictable future. For students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ), that apprehension may be compounded by worries about fitting into a new environment of work or higher education — will they be safe if they are out of the closet? Will they be fired at work or shunned by a dormitory roommate? Is there anyone else like them?

Even with these worries, I am optimistic about the future of LGBTQ young adults and the contributions they’ll make to society. As more LGBTQ people have come out, resulting in a societal shift to greater acceptance, today’s LGBTQ graduates face opportunities to make tremendous contributions to our society.

Here’s what I would tell them:

Be true to yourself. Too many lives have been lost to suicide or the unrealized potential of those who hid or suppressed their true selves. I squandered five years with my precious family by hiding and lying before I found the courage to come out. My fears were far greater than any threat that manifested. I had only myself to answer to, and lying took a bigger toll than telling the truth ever could.

If coming out to your family truly isn’t an option, find someone. There are people who love and care about you.

Be healthy in mind and body. Yours is the first generation to live its entirety in an era of effective HIV medications. But, people ages 14 to 25 are one of the fastest-growing groups becoming HIV-positive.

By providing unrealistic sex education, most Texas schools haven’t done you any favors. So, here goes: 1) Use a condom during sex. 2) Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV). And 3) know your HIV status and the status of your partner.

The Dallas County Health Department, Resource Center Dallas and other community organizations provide free STD and HIV testing.

As for your mind, if you don’t like the people and places that surround you, make changes. If you find yourself struggling, please ask for help. Colleges offer free counseling for students. Resource Center Dallas offers sliding-scale counseling, and The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

Be vigilant. Even in 2013, some people think it’s OK to sacrifice the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ people for their convenience. Discarding the rights of LGBTQ people may be politically expedient for many, but you should demand better.

Don’t believe everything you hear. So much we hear as “fact” or “truth” is neither. The recent rhetoric against the Boy Scouts of America’s changing its policy to allow openly gay Scouts as members included statements that gays are inherently immoral and a threat to young people. These are myths.

If you are a young person and you have been taught those untruths by a religious institution, I encourage you to seek a community of faith that values LGBTQ persons.

Be grateful. An army of supporters helped you get where you are, including many unknown to you. If you are a woman or a person of color, lives were lost, and not all that long ago, for you to have the right to vote. If you’re an out LGBTQ person, blood was shed for you to live out of the closet. Show your gratitude by helping someone else.

Give to your community. However you define community, contribute to it. Service to others creates something bigger than you. You will meet friends. You will create. You will solve significant social issues and enrich lives beyond your wildest dreams.

Be bright. As Marianne Williamson says, “we are all meant to shine.” You have what it takes. Get out there and have fun doing it.

Cece Cox of Dallas is the CEO of Resource Center and a Community Voices volunteer columnist. Her email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 


 

Cece Cox: Statement on today’s vote by shareholders of Irving-based Exxon Mobil to again deny expanding employment protections for LGBT workers
Published: May 29, 2013

The result of today’s vote by the shareholders of Exxon Mobil is sadly unsurprising. The company continues to incorrectly assert that it provides employment protections and an equitable workplace for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees, and Exxon’s shareholders appear to believe that the company’s statement on a web page provides sufficient protections. Even after I led a team last summer to meet with two Exxon vice presidents at their global headquarters in Irving  and explained in person how the web statements fall short of true employment protections, the company refuses to budge. Exxon says it would comply with an executive order mandating LGBT employment protections for federal contractors if and/or when one is issued, and it is looking more and more likely that will be the only way to get the company to treat all of its employees equitably. The Center remains committed to working with Exxon on this issue, but the ball remains in their court.


 

Cece Cox: Statement on Boy Scouts to allow gay Scouts
Published: May 23, 2013

Let's be clear: the Boy Scouts of America's decision today to finally lift its ban on openly gay Scouts is a half-measure. It is a step forward from their previous position, but not a full solution.  It tells gay Scouts that they can take part in their troops, but once they reach adulthood, they will be denied the ability to lead. It also excludes open LGBT adult leadership in the Scouts, thereby maintaining a system of “less-than” status.  Scouting should not rest and pat itself on the back for only lifting the ban on gay Scouts; they should take the next step and lift it for adult leadership as well.

 


Cece Cox: The LGBT civil rights moment is now
Published: March 15, 2013

There is a photograph at my house that I spend time with daily. Two girls walk away from the viewer, each holding a paper sack, wearing a winter coat and walking with determination. They walk along a railroad track. The diminutive size of one girl is accentuated by the looming railroad cars. Quickly, the viewer grasps that they are young and black. The photograph is Brown Sisters Walk to School, Topeka, Kansas, 1953, by Carl Iwasaki. They are the Browns of the landmark school desegregation case, Brown vs. Board of Education, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the system of “separate but equal” schools, leading to integration.

The image reminds me that behind all the legal arguments, amicus briefs and prime-time posturing related to cases that wind their way to the Supreme Court, there is always a real person. Judicial decisions impact real lives. Two little girls clasping their paper lunch bags and walking with purpose represent the quest for dignity and equality. In just a few weeks, oral arguments will be heard in two cases raising one of the most important civil rights issues of my lifetime, marriage equality. Around 100 supportive amicus briefs were filed. Everyone from professional football players to a group of 75 Republicans is backing marriage equality.

The background of one of the cases, Windsor vs. United States, involves a couple devoted to one another for better or worse, in sickness and health. Real people.

Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were partners for over 40 years. In the 1970s, Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and Windsor quit her job to care for her. Spyer’s condition worsened; she became a quadriplegic. Later, doctors discovered a heart problem, giving her a year to live. A day after the diagnosis, they decided to marry. They were married in Toronto, Ontario, in 2007. Spyer died in 2009. At that time, their home state of New York legally recognized same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. However, federal law excludes them and all other same-sex couples from more than 1,000 marriage rights and benefits.

Windsor received a $363,000 estate tax bill. If federal law treated their marriage the same as others, her tax bill would have been zero.

As a result of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, any same-sex couple, even those who can marry in the nine states and District of Columbia that recognize marriage, are not allowed federal benefits and protections. These include Social Security survivors benefits, federal employee health benefits for spouses and protections against one spouse losing his or her home when the other spouse enters long-term care, just to name a few.

The other case before the court, Hollingsworth vs. Perry, challenges California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples. Kristin Perry and her partner, Sandra Stier, married in 2004, only to have their union invalidated by Proposition 8. The women have been together more than 10 years and are raising four children. Real people sharing real love, despite the lack of protections and benefits available to their family that others enjoy.

No one knows how the Supreme Court will rule. Some outcomes have the potential to reshape LGBT rights. Yet, there is more to accomplish in the march toward equality — including employment nondiscrimination, combating anti-LGBT hate crimes and stemming the tide of youth forced to live on the street after rejection from their families. Just as the Brown sisters put one foot in front of the other each day, the LGBT community and its allies will continue to strive toward the America of equality that we are meant to be.'

Cece Cox of Dallas is the CEO of Resource Center and a Community Voices volunteer columnist. Her email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 


Cece Cox: Resource Center Dallas comments on Boy Scouts of America move to delay decision on LGBT scout participation national ban.
Published: February 6, 2013

Dallas-- The following statement is from Cece Cox, J.D., chief executive officer of Resource Center Dallas, on the Boy Scouts of America’s delaying a decision on a national ban against the participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Scouting:

“The Center is disappointed that the Boy Scouts of America and its board of directors are deferring a decision until May on whether or not to repeal a ban that continues to force gay Scouts and LGBT Scout leaders to lie about who they are. The ban is a relic of discrimination and disinformation; it should be on the ash heap of history. We urge the Boy Scout board to stand for equality and fairness and join the ranks of both corporate American and the American people who value their lesbian and gay employees, friends and neighbors. 

The Center does not believe this is the end of the issue. We urge the people working within the Boy Scouts to remove the ban and redouble their efforts.”

 


 

Cece Cox: Fiscal Cliff: A call to action
Published: December 6, 2012

On December 5, I attended a meeting at the White House along with around 80 of my fellow Texans about the so-called “fiscal cliff” of automatic spending cuts and what is at stake if Congress and the White House can’t reach a federal budget deal.  The talk from either side of the political aisle is frequently about abstracts – what combination of tax increases (particularly on the wealthy) and what kind of budget cuts should be made. I’d like to talk about the actual impact in human terms for our families and our community.

Contrary to commonly-stated rhetoric, federally-funded programs are not “handouts” or “entitlements.” In many cases, they provide a bare minimum safety net. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, like so many others, government spending is vitally important to their health, well-being, and economic livelihood. A recent study commissioned by the Center for American Progress and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force examined how drastic cuts to federal spending would harm many LGBT people who need housing, health care and services for victims of violence.

Of particular concern are potential cuts to the Ryan White Program and others that provide life-saving support for people living with HIV/AIDS, and directly impact people we serve here at the Center. These programs are more that just pluses and minuses on a hypothetical budget sheet; real people will feel the pain from these deep, drastic and automatic cuts. These cuts, referred to as sequestration, are scheduled to happen automatically on January 2, 2013 if a budget deal is not achieved.

The tax dollars we pay help support a social safety net to help one another out right here, in our own neighborhoods. Instead of acting like money paid in taxes suddenly disappears, we should recognize how it comes back to help us, our neighbors and friends. Reaching a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff” is not only the right thing to do; it also helps boost the economy by encouraging spending.

I am asking you to make your voice heard NOW. To find your Congressperson, go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find. Our elected representatives have only a few weeks to agree to a budget deal. Please encourage your member of Congress to work sincerely with their colleagues and pass a responsible budget. Pass it before sequestration causes disastrous effects. Ask your friends and family to act, too.

Sincerely, Cece Cox, J.D., Chief Executive Officer


 

Cece Cox: LGBT workers lack basic workplace safeguards
Published:  November 7, 2012 

The recent presidential election made it obvious that job creation and stability remain top priorities. Americans want work to provide financial security for their families and to feel productive and useful. Yet, the workplace isn't a level playing field when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees.

While federal and state laws prohibit employment discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability, legislative protections don't exist in Texas or at the federal level for people who happen to be L, G, B or T. (There are some exceptions under case law and as created by municipal and other government ordinances).

Texas is an "at will" employment state; an employer can terminate an employee for any reason. Is there a difference if someone is fired because they're L, G, B or T? Answer: If the real reason for termination is based upon federally protected classes, the employer is breaking the law. If, however, an employee is fired for WWG (working while gay), that's OK.

There have been congressional efforts to pass legislation (known as ENDA, the federal Employment Nondiscrimination Act), but nothing has passed.

In a 2011 survey conducted by the Center for American Progress, 73 percent of Americans said they supported LGBT employment protections. And 90 percent of people incorrectly said they believed such protections already exist.

In some ways, we can understand why most people believe workplace protections already exist. More LGBT people are willing to be out, and we're surrounded by positive media representations of gay adults and families. But TV isn't real life.

LGBT employees are faced with discrimination at work every day. According to the Human Rights Campaign Degrees of Equality study of LGBT employees, 42 percent lied about their personal lives at work, 21 percent job searched and 13 percent stayed home from work due to discrimination in the workplace.

Private-sector employers are considerably ahead of legislators regarding workplace equality. The majority of Fortune 500 companies have employment policies that offer protections to their LGBT employees. Nearly nine in 10 prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and half prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

Even as employers adopt inclusive policies, they often face challenges in creating cultures that match those policies. And this plays out in real ways. Not long ago, I received a call from a distraught friend. His male partner's father had died. My friend asked his boss for time off to attend the funeral. The employer had recently adopted an employment policy stating it would not discriminate as to benefits and compensation based upon characteristics including sexual orientation, but the boss denied the leave because my friend was not married to a woman.

A policy is only as good as the culture that supports it. My friend's work environment did not match his company's policies, and he was afraid to bring up the matter with anyone internally.

As a Dallas-based Fortune 500 executive told me: When an employer creates an even playing field, the business works. Human resources staff won't wonder how to administer leave benefits to non-gay employees while puzzling through another system for LGBT employees. As he said, "the business can focus on work." Also, studies show inclusive workplaces inspire loyalty among employees, and in turn employees are more productive.

Imagine if the Texas Legislature, sure to have an ENDA bill introduced after its session begins in January, embraced the concept of workplace nondiscrimination. Texas companies would reflect the markets they serve. They would also be a mecca for more corporations to join their colleagues already headquartered here, such as AT&T and Texas Instruments, who have thrived while creating work environments that value all employees, including those who are LGBT.

Cece Cox of Dallas is the CEO of Resource Center and a Community Voices volunteer columnist. Her email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


 

Biography:

Cece Cox, J.D.
Chief Executive Officer, Resource Center

Cece Cox is recognized for her effective leadership and advocacy in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights movement. In 2010 and 2012, Dallas Voice named her Best Local LGBT Role Model, and she was awarded the Profiles in Leadership Award from Southern Methodist University’s Women’s Symposium. Cox serves as executive director and CEO of Resource Center, which operates the largest LGBT community center in Texas, and provides health services and programs to individuals with HIV. The Center serves more than 50,000 people annually with a staff of more than 50 employees and 1,100 volunteers.

Cox has been an advocate on behalf of the LGBT and HIV communities for nearly 30 years. She was instrumental in the passage of a nondiscrimination policy inclusive of sexual orientation for the City of Dallas, the first anti-harassment policy adopted by Dallas Independent School District and its subsequent anti-bullying policy.

In 2007, Cox joined the Center as associate executive director and became executive director/CEO in July 2010. She has led the Center in expanding programs, staffing and its impact in the community. Before joining the Center, Cox practiced commercial law and provided pro bono legal services to individuals with HIV.  Her activism and support of the community have included work at the Turtle Creek Chorale, Legal Hospice of Texas, Youth First Texas, the regional office of Lambda Legal, and an appointment to both a City of Dallas board and task force.

Cox is a member of the executive committee for SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and a board member of Dallas Women’s Foundation. She is also a former president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance (DGLA), a former co-chair of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation/Dallas and an officer of the LGBT Section of the State Bar of Texas. She is an alumna of both Leadership Dallas and Leadership Lambda. In 1999, Cox was recognized with the prestigious Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Black Tie Dinner.

Cox is a former professional photographer who co-authored a book chronicling the 1993 March on Washington for gay and lesbian rights. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a law degree from SMU. Cox is a member of the State Bar of Texas.

 

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