In January of 1992, Lee Taft asked Ed Ishmael to lunch. It was at that lunch that the topic of a gay and lesbian bar association was first discussed. Both men thought it was long overdue.
At that time, several of the gay and lesbian attorneys in Dallas were infrequently meeting in private homes as part of a group called “The Stonewall Legal Society.” The idea was to formalize the group’s existence and eventually gain a voice in the legal community for issues affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender attorneys and their clients.
An April 30, 1993, Edition of the Dallas Voice Newspaper listing the “Stonewall Legal Society” in its Directory as an LGBT+ organization. A full copy of the newspaper above is available courtesy of the University of North Texas Libraries, Special Collections here.
As Mr. Taft recalls, “It was our intention to see that the phrase ‘gay and lesbian’ became a part of the vernacular at the DBA.” Mr. Ishmael and Mr. Taft decided that their best option was to create the Gay and Lesbian Study Group. As a study group, they could meet at the Belo Mansion and have the group’s name appear in the monthly announcements of the Bar Association’s “Headnotes.” The first meeting packed the room at the Belo with over 20 attendees and the Gay and Lesbian Study Group was born.
The Study Group continued in existence through 1999. In 1999, Robert Wiley believed that Dallas ought to have a full fledged Gay and Lesbian Bar Association. Mr. Wiley organized the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Bar Association (“DGLBA”) and served as its first president.
In 2001, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Bar Association hosted the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association’s Lavender Law Conference. The conference was one of the NLGLA’s most successful. Texas’ own Phyllis Randolph Fry received an award for her work as a transgender legal activist.
Photos of DLGBTBA meetings from the 2010 archives.
On November 5, 2019, the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers (“DAYL”) Board of Directors voted to recognize the DLGBTBA as an official Sister Bar Association. At the time, no other general Bar association in Texas recognized a local LGBT+ affinity Bar association as a Sister Bar Association.
The Dallas LGBT Bar Association has evolved and changed from its humble beginnings, but it continues to play an active role in the legal communities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas.