By Caleb Simpson
We spoke with Callie Butcher, President of the Dallas LGBTQ+ Bar Association for our affiliate spotlight blog series.
The Dallas LGBT Bar Association was founded by a small group of queer lawyers in 1992 under the guise of a “book club” to provide a safe space. By 1999, the group formally identified itself as an LGBT legal organization. At the time, the founders were seen as “trailblazers” in the Dallas LGBTQ+ community for fearlessly associating themselves with a queer organization, potentially upending their careers. That history of courage and persistence is still present in the Association’s actions today.
Fight For Representation
In today’s political climate, the Texas political system is seen as one of the country’s most significant adversaries against the LGBTQ+ community. Over 30 anti-LGBTQ+ bills, mainly targeting trans youth, were introduced in the 2021 Texas state legislative session. Butcher notes that local and state queer advocacy groups are spread thin defending against the senseless attacks from the state government. She sees the role of the Dallas LGBT Bar Association members as being visible professionals to maintain hope for the youth and normalize queer people with professional careers.
Butcher says, “Texans themselves aren’t anti-LGBTQ+. Generally they aren’t mean, and there are few places where I feel unsafe due to my identity. However, the Texas legislature, with the rhetoric they use and the bills they push, creates an environment where people feel more scared of LGBTQ+ people than they would otherwise. We combat that by being out and open and by showing that we are people you know and engage with in your daily life.”
This summer, for the first time, the Dallas LGBT Bar Association hosted a booth at Dallas Pride. At Pride, Butcher was able to see the impact of queer visibility, particularly for local youth — the most vulnerable group within the community. “It was really special to not only see other queer lawyers talk to us and show interest but more importantly, the teenagers who came up to our booth not knowing anything about the leal profession but intrigued by the sight of us. They were able to see possibilities for their future that they might not have known was an option because of their identity, but we prove that it is not.”
Within the legal profession, the fight for representation persists. Butcher said the focus for the Association this year was becoming a full voting Affiliate Bar to the Dallas Bar Association (DBA). The DBA is the largest legal association in the Dallas area, and is a driving force on legal policies in the region. Butcher saw the Dallas LGBT Bar Association’s lack of a seat on the DBA board as a “glaring omission,” and it was vital to her that the Association should be involved in the DBA’s deliberations considering the current state of affairs in Texas. Butcher proudly reports that the Dallas LGBT Bar Association now has that seat at the DBA’s table, and can work to ensure that the concerns of Dallas LGBT legal professionals are met at a wider scale in the community.
Moving forward, Butcher wants to build on the momentum of this year by finding the most effective ways to sustain member growth and engagement. In the last two years, membership has doubled as more professionals flock to the Association. She wants to continue to host informal social events and provide intersectional CLE sessions to meet the needs of the Association’s broad membership. Next year, the Dallas LGBT Bar Association is also planning to oversee clinics pertaining to LGBTQ+ Elder Law and name and gender marker changes.
The National LGBTQ+ Bar Association thanks Callie Butcher for her leadership, and the Dallas LGBT Bar Association for its resiliency and commitment to the Dallas LGBTQ+ legal community!