Austin's first LGBTQ Commission hosts inaugural meeting; officials call it a 'historic' moment

District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, the first openly gay man to serve on the Austin City Council, announced the opening meeting of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Quality of Life Advisory Commission during a press conference at Austin City Hall on Tuesday.

District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, the first openly gay man to serve on the Austin City Council, announced the opening meeting of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Quality of Life Advisory Commission during a press conference at Austin City Hall on Tuesday.

The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Quality of Life Advisory Commission held its first meeting on Tuesday evening, which officials touted as a historic event and the culmination of years of work by city staffers, activists and elected officials.

“There are shoulders of giants that we stand on here today,” said District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan during a pre-meeting press conference. Flannigan, who is the first openly gay man to serve on Austin City Council, was sure to give a shout out to his predecessor, former council member Randi Shade—who, elected in 2008, was the first openly gay council member and played a crucial role in bringing LGBTQ issues to center stage.

District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, the first openly gay man to serve on the Austin City Council, cuts a ceremonial cake at the first meeting of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Quality of Life Advisory Commission. District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, the first openly gay man to serve on the Austin City Council, cuts a ceremonial cake at the first meeting of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Quality of Life Advisory Commission.[/caption]

"In Austin, we like every star and every stripe of the flag, and we love every color of the rainbow,” Adler said. “Creating an LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission helps make Austin more Austin."

Austin was given the highest rating in Texas by the Human Rights Campaign last year for its support of the LGBTQ community. According to Adler, Austin also has the third-largest LGBTQ community per capita in the country.

There was a palpable buzz throughout Tuesday’s opening meeting—which coincided with LGBT Pride Month—and began with a ceremonial cake, complete with a rainbow and unicorn design. There were laughs at “Golden Girls” references, tears during emotional testimonies of experience in the LGBTQ community, indications of preferred gender reference, gratitude for Austin’s inclusive community and clear recognition of the importance of the day.

Then the board—whose membership includes engineers, public activists, social workers and lawyers—got down to business, running through the laws surrounding meetings, the commission’s structure, its bylaws and bureaucratic reach.

The commission started Tuesday with 11 members—appointed by the mayor and 10 council members—but will grow to 15 after the commission appoints four more members among themselves. According to the commission’s staff liaison, there are 47 applicants for those four positions.

Flannigan said that the commission was created without specific policy agenda. However, he told the members that their role was to not just list the needs of the LGBTQ community but to prioritize them.

“There are a lot of wants and needs, but there is no way we can do all of it,” Flannigan said.

The only specific city issue on the commission’s agenda was proposing guidance to the City Manager Search Advisory Taskforce, the group charged with the collecting public input on what the next city manager should look like. Commissioners highlighted issues such as violence against the community as well as employment and housing discrimination.

In October 2016, Austin Mayor Steve Adler called for the formation of an LGBTQ Quality of Life Advisory Commission as the city continued its aim to analyze and understand the needs of its diversifying population. The LGBTQ Commission joins the city’s other cultural commissions, which include African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic groups.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


MOST RECENT

Dripping Springs High School has the highest number of remote learners of any campus in Dripping Springs ISD, with 44% of students still learning off campus. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
About 75% of Dripping Springs ISD students have been learning on campus since winter break

The district has continued to see an increase in on-campus learning as the school year has progressed.

About one in 10 Austin ISD students failed a class this fall as the district adjusted to virtual learning. (Community Impact staff)
Failure rates, education gaps increase as nearly 80% of Austin ISD students continue to learn from home

About one in 10 Austin ISD students failed a class this fall as the district adjusted to virtual learning.

RiverPark is a 109-acre project that is set to be phased in over the next 10-20 years along East Riverside Drive in Austin. (Rendering courtesy Sasaki)
Hundreds of acres, billions of dollars: Three major developments to follow in Austin

The EastVillage, River Park and Brodie Oaks projects will see the investment of billions of dollars into condos, apartments, office space, retail space, restaurants and more.

District 1 Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, left, and District 10 Council Member Alison Alter will serve successive one-year terms as mayor pro tem. (Courtesy city of Austin/Alison Alter)
East Austin’s Natasha Harper-Madison, West Austin's Alison Alter will each serve one year as mayor pro tem

In a move Austin Mayor Steve Adler called "probably unprecedented," City Council has chosen two mayors pro tem.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has named a new executive director. (Courtesy Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority)
James Bass named executive director of Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority

Bass, the former executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, replaces Mike Heiligenstein, who stepped aside Jan. 24.

A nearly five-year project to improve I-35 in the area of William Cannon Drive and Stassney Lane is set to finish in mid-2021. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
I-35 news to follow in '21: Work finishing in South Austin, input to be gathered for managed lane projects

While one project in South Austin approaches its final months, the Texas Department of Transportation is gathering input for projects to add nontolled lanes to I-35 over the next several years.

The Texas Legislature is responsible for drawing lines for new state and federal districts. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Redistricting process affecting every level of government gets underway in 2021

The state's process is largely a political one, while the city's process is left to an independent commission.

Photo of the Travis County sign
Travis County votes to accept application for Silicon Silver development incentives agreement

The company behind the project will be named once it submits an application and pays a $150,000 fee—the same as Tesla paid to apply for its hefty 2020 agreement.

Previous headliners included Cody Johnson, Turnpike Troubadours, Aaron Watson and Mark Chestnutt, among others. (Courtesy KOKEFest)
KOKEFest releases dates in Hutto; Marisol's Mexican Grill taking orders in Georgetown and more area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Alder could open its first units in Southwest Austin this fall. (Rendering courtesy Brandon Miller Group)
New Austin townhome community breaks ground in Oak Hill

Alder could open its first units in Southwest Austin this fall.

See how Southwest Austin's real estate market performed in 2020 compared to 2019. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Those who sold their homes in Southwest Austin in December made $91,000 more per sale than in 2019

See how Southwest Austin's real estate market performed in 2020 compared to 2019.

The school at the end of Sawyer Ranch Road is currently under construction. (Courtesy Dripping Springs ISD)
Dripping Springs ISD's newest school to be called Cypress Springs Elementary, helmed by Principal Kellie Raymond

Cypress Springs Elementary School is named for a group of springs near the district.