Lubbock is not gay-friendly. A few years ago, when some straight high school kids tried to support some gay kids by forming a Gay-Straight Alliance, the Lubbock Independent School District banned it. A school board member explained, “If I let something in like y’all, I’d have to let in the Ku Klux Klan.”
The district’s decision violated federal law. However, in Caudillo v. LISD, the judge ruled that “the local school officials and parents are in the best position to determine what subject matter is reasonable.”
“It was terrible. We felt very cut down,” says Betty Dotts, who had called in a lawyer from Lambda Legal in Dallas. Betty and husband Ted, a retired Methodist clergyman, have been fighting for gay rights since 1975, a continuation of their civil rights activism that began in the 1950s. Betty and Ted are also advocates for comprehensive sex education in a school district that teaches “abstinence only.” Faced with high sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy rates, Betty and Ted teach sex-ed in church.
In 1993, a friend asked Betty and Ted to start the first group for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Lubbock. Betty said she “felt like a huge wave of water was coming over me and I was drowning,(because) I know the people here.” Nevertheless, she scheduled the first meeting.
Betty kept the lights low, and security stood at the door on the church’s second floor. When 50 people showed up and weren’t protesters, she was relieved. But many in the congregation were angry.
“We got some very harsh letters—some from our own Methodist ministers,” Betty says.
The couple also received menacing phone calls. Betty remembers wondering how far the critics would go. But Mary Vines, one of Ted’s former parishioners, says Ted has a way of diffusing resistance. “He would be at home with the Greek philosophers,” she says.
Ted and Betty have now made their home a haven for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth. Ted meets with a transgendered support group twice weekly. The Dotts show the kids unconditional acceptance; a rare thing in Lubbock.