Tag Archives: annise parker

Houston council passes equal rights ordinance

The Houston City Council on May 28 voted 11-6 to pass the Equal Rights Ordinance championed by openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker.

Parker offered the measure, which was amended by Houston Councilmember Davis to include protections to transgender people.

The ordinance protect all Houstonians from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.

Workers in both the public and private sectors will be protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, genetic information, and pregnancy. 

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said, “Under Mayor Parker’s leadership, this commonsense legislation will make life a little easier and fairer for thousands of Houstonians. It is far past time to protect the citizens of Houston from all forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The ordinance takes effects in a month.

About 200 people addressed the issue during the council meeting, most of them in favor of the ordinance.

Mayors to back marriage equality

Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, will launch Mayors for the Freedom to Marry on Jan. 20 during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C.

More than 75 Republican, Democrat and Independent mayors from cities across the country have pledged to support gay and lesbian couples’ freedom to marry, according to the advance notice from Freedom to Marry.

By creating Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, the city officials hope to expand public and political support for ending the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage.

The broad-based coalition of mayors includes Rahm Emanuel of Chicago and Annise Parker of Houston, and is chaired by mayors Jerry Sanders of San Diego, Thomas Menino of Boston, Michael Bloomberg of New York and U.S. Conference of Mayors president Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles.

LGBT candidates prevail at the polls

Virginia elected its first openly gay senator, Democrat Adam Ebbin, in a district that encompasses a swath of suburban Washington, D.C., making him one of more than 50 LGBT candidates elected to office in the Nov. 8 election.

“We’re thrilled for Adam and for LGBT Virginians, who will finally have an authentic LGBT voice in the state senate,” Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe said in a press release. “The Victory Fund has been proud to support Adam throughout his career. He’s been a persistent champion for fairness and equality, and we congratulate him.”

In the highest profile of the races, Houston’s out lesbian mayor Annise Parker narrowly won re-election to a second term. Parker was the first out candidate to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city.

“I had five opponents. Plus, I had the economy, and that was a tough opponent,” Parker said in her victory speech.

Houston also elected its first openly gay man to city council – Mike Laster. 

Openly gay Alex Morse was elected mayor of Holyoke, Mass., making the Brown University graduate the youngest mayor in the nation at age 22. The city of 40,000 is located in the western part of the state, about eight miles north of Springfield.

Morse has had the political bug since grammar school, joining his city’s youth commission at age 11. He was elected freshman class president at Holyoke High School when he was 15.

“I think of my age as an incredible asset, in that I haven’t been around for 20, 30 years. I’m not beholden to special interests. I haven’t been around long enough to owe anybody a political favor,” Morse said in an interview reported by CBS News.

Morse beat the 67-year-old incumbent, Elaine Pluta, by capturing 53 percent of the vote.

Other LGBT winners on Nov. 8 included:

• LaWana Mayfield became the first openly LGBT person elected to Charlotte, N.C., City Council. She was heavily favored after ousting the incumbent Democrat in a primary race earlier this year.

• Openly gay attorney Daryl Justin Finizio was elected mayor of London, Conn.

• Caitlin Copple, an out lesbian who was endorsed by the Victory Fund, won her race for the Missoula, Mont., city council, defeating an incumbent who voted against an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.

• Mayor Tim Eustace of Maywood, N.J., was elected to the New Jersey Assembly, becoming the first openly gay non-incumbent to win a seat in that state’s legislature.

• In Cincinnati, Chris Seelbach won his race for city council, becoming the first openly LGBT council member in the city’s history.

• Daniel Hernandez Jr., the intern who helped save the life of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was elected to the Pima County, Ariz., school board.

• Robin Kniech became first openly LGBT member of the Denver City Council.

Parker inaugurated as mayor

Annise Parker has taken over as Houston’s mayor, making her city the nation’s largest to be presided over by an openly gay person.

The 53-year-old Parker was sworn in during a private ceremony as chief executive of America’s fourth-biggest city. She repeated the oath of office Jan. 4 as part of public inaugural ceremonies and celebrations.

Parker received almost 54 percent of the vote in a December runoff, defeating former city attorney Gene Locke in a race to succeed term-limited Bill White. Democrat White is now running for Texas governor.

Parker, a three-term former city controller, has never made a secret or issue of her sexual orientation in her runs for office.

Her sexual orientation drew attention after anti-gay activists and some religious groups endorsed Locke and sent out mailers condemning her.

— AP

Hero

Annise Parker worked hard in both the private and public sectors before taking a shot at the mayoral office in the nation’s fourth-largest city. She spent two decades in oil and gas, worked as a gay rights advocate and served three terms as city comptroller.

Last fall, she ran a clean, honest campaign for mayor. She ran with integrity, and she ran on a smart platform that Houstonians believe will help the city continue to weather the recession better than most U.S. cities.

In December, Parker entered a runoff race against Gene Locke, whose supporters circulated campaign material suggesting her sexual orientation made her unqualified for the job. Parker secured the mayoral seat, and Houston won prominence as the largest city in the country to elect an openly gay mayor.

In her inaugural speech Jan. 4, WiG’s hero said her election marked a milestone, but “today is simply one step toward a tomorrow of greater justice.” Parker’s partner Kathy Hubbard held the Bible upon which Parker took her oath of office.

Lesbian wins Houston mayoral race

HOUSTON — Deep in the heart of Texas, voters elected openly gay candidate Annise Parker in a runoff election for mayor.

Houston is now the largest city in the United States to elect an openly lesbian mayor.

Parker, in a statement released after she learned she had captured 53.6 percent of the vote in the Dec. 12 runoff with former city attorney Gene Locke, said, “This election has changed the world for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, just as this election is about transforming Houstonians’ lives for the better.

“Let us begin from this moment to join as one community, united in the goal of making Houston the city it could be, should be, can be and will be. That’s what this city will be about under my administration.”

Parker, a businesswoman and neighborhood leader, served six years on the city council and five years as city controller. She had worked 20 years in the oil and gas industry before entering public service.

She ran a campaign that focused on bringing jobs to Houston, improving neighborhoods and promoting “hometown values.”

Locke, in his concession speech, said, “Don’t let past disappointments, past anger, past frustrations guide us into the future. Let’s unite and work together.”

Locke and Parker had emerged from the four-person Nov. 3 contest with the highest number of votes. In that heat, Parker’s sexual orientation had not been made an issue.

In the fourth week of the runoff race, however, social conservatives mounted a campaign against the candidate, offering Locke their endorsement and attacking Parker’s “homosexual behavior” in mailings to voters.

LGBT rights activists celebrated the victory over the weekend.

“Her election today makes Houston the largest city in the country to be governed by an out LGBT person — and is another reminder that being authentic with one’s constituents is a winning strategy,” said Michael Mitchell of Stonewall Democrats, whose organization made 10,000 calls to voters on Election Day.

“This is an important milestone for our country, but it’s equally important to know voters in Houston chose Annise even after a flurry of anti-gay campaigns designed to divide and distract voters,” said Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe. “This time the extremists failed. Houstonians rejected their tactics and voted for the most experienced and competent candidate to lead this city forward.”

Parker will take office Jan. 1.

Houston biggest US city to elect openly gay mayor

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston became the largest U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor, with voters handing a solid victory to City Controller Annise Parker after a hotly contested runoff.

Several other U.S. cities, including Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., and Cambridge, Mass., have openly gay mayors, but none are as large as Houston.

“This election has changed the world for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Just as it is about transforming the lives of all Houstonians for the better, and that’s what my administration will be about,” Parker told supporters after her opponent, Gene Locke, conceded defeat.

Parker’s victory comes after several setbacks for gay rights activists. New York lawmakers earlier this month rejected a bill that would have made their state the sixth to allow gay marriage. In November, Maine voters repealed the Legislature’s passage of a state law allowing same-sex marriage there.

Parker, 53, has never made a secret or an issue of her sexual orientation. But it became the focus of the race after anti-gay activists and conservative religious groups endorsed Locke and sent out mailers condemning Parker’s “homosexual behavior.”

Locke, 61, a former city attorney, tried to distance himself from the anti-gay attacks while courting conservative voters who could tip the election in his favor. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian political organizations nationwide rallied to support Parker by raising money for her campaign and making calls urging people to vote.

Parker defeated Locke with 53.6 percent of the vote Saturday in a race that had a turnout of only 16.5 percent. Locke had hoped to become the city’s second black mayor.

A little more than 152,000 residents turned out to cast ballots in the nation’s fourth largest city, which has a population of 2.2 million. Of those voters, 81,743 chose Parker — some 11,000 more than voted for Locke.

Anti-gay rhetoric rises in race for Houston mayor

HOUSTON (AP) — Annise Parker’s mayoral campaign Web site bio reads like a catalog of campaign catchphrases: She has been Houston’s city controller and a member of City Council. She’s for job creation, against irresponsible spending and tough on crime.

Until the last line: “Annise Parker and her life partner, Kathy Hubbard, have been together since 1990. They have two children.”

Parker, 53, has never made a secret or an issue of being a lesbian. Not during her bid to be Houston’s next mayor nor in previous campaigns.

But others have. If Parker wins the Dec. 12 runoff election, Houston would become what’s believed to be the largest U.S. city ever to have an openly gay mayor — and that has catapulted Parker’s sexual orientation into the center of the race.

Anti-gay activists and conservative religious groups have endorsed her opponent, former city attorney Gene Locke, and sent out mailers condemning Parker’s “homosexual behavior.”

Meanwhile, gay and lesbian political organizations nationwide have endorsed Parker, raised money for her and plan to run phone banks rallying her supporters.

The controversy has put Locke in a precarious political position. With the election expected to be tight, the 61-year-old has been trying to distance himself from anti-gay attacks while courting conservative voters who could tip the race in his favor. If Locke wins, he would be Houston’s second black mayor.

Two of Locke’s key supporters contributed money to a conservative political action committee that sent out an anti-gay mailer earlier this month urging voters not to pick Parker because she was endorsed by the “gay and lesbian political caucus.” Campaign finance reports show Ned Holmes, finance chairman of Locke’s campaign, and James Dannenbaum, a member of the campaign’s finance committee, each gave $20,000.

“Gene is disappointed and wishes that Ned Holmes had not made that contribution. Gene has been very clear with his supporters to not participate in divisive campaigning,” Kim Devlin, a senior Locke adviser said in a statement Tuesday. “Gene Locke has fought against bigotry his entire life and knows that there is no place for it in this campaign and this city.”

Parker’s campaign said she did not want to be interviewed by The Associated Press on the issue.

The dynamics of the mayoral runoff echo California’s Proposition 8 vote in 2008, where black voters formed an unusual alliance with conservatives to approve a measure that banned same-sex marriage, said Richard Murray, a University of Houston political scientist.

“You don’t have many cases where you have an older straight, black male supported by conservatives matched up against a younger white female who happens to be gay, and is backed by non-establishment sources,” Murray said. “Normally, you see progressive whites allied with African-Americans. This is exposing the same fault line we saw nationally in Prop 8.”

Parker and Locke, both Democrats in the nonpartisan race, made it to the runoff after garnering more votes than two other candidates on Nov. 3. They are vying to replace Bill White, who is term-limited after serving six years and is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

There are several other openly gay mayors, including in Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I. and Cambridge, Mass. But Houston, which is largely Democratic, is the nation’s fourth largest city. It has about 60,000 residents who identify as gay or lesbian.

Though Parker’s sexual orientation initially was not an issue in the campaign, that’s changed.

Dave Wilson, a longtime anti-gay activist who once led a successful campaign to prohibit benefits for the domestic partners of city employees, sent out 34,000 mailers opposing Parker.

The flyer shows a picture of Parker being sworn in as controller with her partner by her side. The headline asks: “Is this the image Houston wants to portray?”

Another vocal anti-gay activist, Steven Hotze, has endorsed Locke, saying Parker’s “lifestyle choices” was one of several reasons, his spokesman Allen Blakemore said. Hotze, whose group received the contributions from Holmes and Dannenbaum, sent out a mailer against Parker and candidates in other municipal races because they were supported by a gay and lesbian political action committee, Blakemore said.

The Houston Area Pastor Council also discouraged voters from choosing Parker, saying she is an “open advocate of a gay agenda.” The pastors worry Parker will try to re-establish domestic partner benefits for city workers, even though she has said she has no plans to.

Locke has condemned the divisive rhetoric, but accepted the endorsements from anti-gay activists. Locke has said he would “accept endorsements from those people who believe I am the best candidate.”

Parker, who has not responded directly to the attacks, keeps her campaign focused on her record.

“I know there are folks ascribing a lot of different things to this campaign,” she said in November. “The simple fact is: I am the most qualified candidate in this race and I intend to be the next mayor of Houston and I’m in the best position to lead our city.”

Parker began her political career as a gay activist. She campaigned against the passage of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2005, and has said she supports gay marriage and continuing a city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Through the years, she gained the support of a broad constituency but never lost touch with the gay community, said Ray Hill, a Houston gay activist who founded the GLBT Political Caucus and helped Parker get her start in community activism.

“She belongs to the whole city, not just us. But we have accomplished something when one of us has reached this point,” said Hill, who is already planning a party on Pacific Street, in the heart of Houston’s gay neighborhood. “When she’s celebrating her victory at her campaign headquarters, we’ll be celebrating here.”