JUNE 25, 2004
www.houstonvoice.com HOUSTON VOICE
2004 Pride Parade Grand Marshals are ready to roll
Grand Marshals for the
2004 Houston Pride
Parade have contributed
By JOSEF MOLNAR
The Grand Marshals for Houston's
Pride Parade gathered recently to be officially introduced and to receive the medals
they will wear on Parade night.
This year's marshals, nominated during
the fall and selected in open elections during two weekends at the beginning of the
year, include attorney Jerry Simoneaux,
Montrose Clinic spokesperson Sonna
Alton. PFLAG activists Sue and Jim Null
and the Lesbian and Gay Rights Lobby of
Last year when we honored the past
marshals, I got a chance to talk to some of
them.'' said Jack Valinski, coordinator for
the Pride Committee Houston. "It's interesting how many of them considered it
such an incredible honor, even years later."
Jerry Simoneaux, this year's male
Grand Marshal, is not waiting until his
moment passes to appreciate the honor.
"I never even considered the possibility
of winning," he said. "What a humbling
experience it is that people took time from
their days to think that much of me."
Simoneaux's increasing presence as an
openly gay lawyer and advocate for marriage equality for same-sex and transgender couples has not gone unnoticed.
"I do what I love, and people know I'm
an advocate for these causes," he said.
As the president of the Stonewall Law
Association of Greater Houston, Simoneaux
has pressed for the further integration of
gay and transgender people in the law profession. He and his law partner, John
Nechman, recently broke ground by making
their firm the first in the nation to name a
transgender partner, Phyllis Randolph Frye.
Now, the law firm is poised to handle not
only alternate family issues and immigration matters involving gay and lesbian
clients but also transgender cases.
Simoneaux and his life partner,
The 2004 Grand Marshals include (from left) Jerry Simoneaux, Sonna Alton, Randall Ellis representing the Lesbian and Cay Rights Lobby of Texas and Sue and
Jim Null (Photo by Dalton DeHart)
Christopher Bown, have worked tirelessly
to stage events such as the annual
Alternative Family Law Seminar and this
year's marriage equality demonstration.
Recently, Simoneaux was selected by the
Texas Bar Association to head its section
on Sexual Orientation and Gender
Identification Issues, which includes legal
issues related to the community.
This year's female Grand Marshal,
Sonna Alton, said that for an individual to
be singled-out by their peers is a tremendous honor and, "To be honored as Grand
Marshal for the Parade makes me speechless. I'm very touched."
Alton, Director of Communications and
Events for the Montrose Clinic, arrived in
Houston in 1988 to attend graduate school,
not thinking she would end up making the
city her home.
She began volunteering for various
causes in the gay community, including the
Krewe of Olympus. The Montrose Clinic
chose her to be its spokesperson a little
over three years ago.
"This is the best job I've ever had," she
said. "This job can be emotionally draining because of the clientele we serve, but it
can also be rewarding because we save
lives. I'm very proud that the work we do is
As this year's honorary Grand
Marshals, Sue and Jim Null are being honored for their advocacy and organization
on behalf of gay and lesbian issues. At the
marriage equality demonstration earlier
this year, the Nulls were there. When there
is an occasion to march, they are there.
In retrospect. Sue Null said it's interesting, considering she once told her lesbian
daughter, "We can deal with you as you are,
but we don't want to march in the street."
When the Nulls came to suspect that
their daughter was a lesbian, Sue said,
they turned to their church family at First
Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston
for support. With a minister who is gay and
a number of gay and lesbian parishioners,
she said, it was the place to be.
When a young man from another country came to live with the couple and they
learned he was having trouble coping with
being gay, Null said, she and her husband
contacted Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays.
"Four months after we joined PFLAG,
both of us marched in the streets," Null
In their PFLAG affiliation, Sue has
taken on advocacy, and Jim has organized
educational conferences for the Houston
Independent School District to educate fac-
ulty and administrators on gay and lesbian
"We just teach them to do things right in
the first place, and then help them understand the legal costs of doing the wrong
thing," Jim Null said,
As for being named Grand Marshals, Sue
Null said, "We're pleased and delighted."
Living in the heart of the state gives
Randall Ellis and the Lesbian and Gay
Rights Lobby the perfect venue for advocating on behalf of all gay and lesbian Texans.
Ellis, the executive director of LGRL,
said he was happy that the-»organization
was selected to be the organizational
"This is a statewide organization, and I
think it speaks to the involvement we have
in every community in Texas," he said. "It
really is about bettering communities, and
that's why we do it."
Ellis said LGRL hopes to include John
Lawrence and Tyron Garner, the plaintiffs
in last year's groundbreaking U.S.
Supreme Court case, on its float. The group
will pass out tlyers about ww.saveourcon-
stitution.org, a Web site that educates the
public regarding proposed marriage
amendments at the federal and state levels.