How did Houston's gay mayor win?

Lesbian Annise Parker persuaded conservative Texas's biggest city to elect her mayor—even as liberal states reject gay marriage

houston's gay mayor
(Image credit: (AP Photo/David J. Phillip))

In what would seem a milestone for the "topsy-turvy" gay-rights movement, city controller Annise Parker, a lesbian, has been elected mayor of Houston — the largest U.S. city ever to elect an openly gay mayor. Parker, 56 — who has two children with her longtime partner — beat fellow Democrat Gene Locke, 61, a black lawyer, by a healthy margin (in a year when liberal Maine and New York rejected gay marriage). How did she do it and what does it really mean? (Watch an AP report about Annise Parker's mayoral win)

Low turnout may have been a factor: When "only 16 percent of voters bother to show up," says James Joyner in Outside the Beltway, I'm not sure "we can draw major conclusions" from Parker's victory. So yes, with a population of 2.2 million, Houston is America's fourth-largest city, but this is "not exactly a popular referendum" on gay rights.

"Houston's lesbian mayor"

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She ran as a conservative, not as a lesbian: Parker's election "seems to be emblematic of the changing attitudes toward gays," says B. Daniel Blatt in Gay Patriot, but that's arguable. Houston voters judged her on her conservative "fiscal common sense" rather than her "sexuality." Other gay and lesbian candidates should take note: A good platform beats sexual politics.

"Houston elects lesbian mayor"

Parker managed to be reassuringly boring and memorable at the same time: "I think it was easy for many voters to make uninformed but rational choices," says McGarret50 in Salon. They could vote for Locke, the guy they'd never heard of. "Or, they could vote for Parker, a person who had been around for 12 years and was well-known. . .for being boring and not part of any major controversy." Also: It's easy "for people to remember, 'Oh, she’s the lesbian.'"

"Houston Mayor's Race: It Probably Helped that Parker is Gay"

Parker handled the inevitable anti-gay attacks with grace: Though "a group of black pastors" and others unleashed a homophobic smear-campaign against Parker in the campaign's final weeks, says Luisita Lopez Torregrosa in Politics Daily, Parker "stood up to the attacks with grace, courage, and determination which carried the day." Her Houston victory "in a conservative state where voters have banned gay marriage" is "not just a glimmer [of hope] but a huge lit-up sky" for the gay community.

"Houston Mayor's race outcome cheers gay advocates"

A lesbian mayor doesn't mean much in the absence of real gay rights: It's "really nice" that "even in Texas (yeah, Texans, I'm going there), many people really do believe in that 'content of your character' business," says Joel Mathis in Philadelphia Weekly. "But you know what’s nicer? Actual civil rights," and Houston voters haven't seen fit to grant those to Parker and other gays and lesbians in marriage-like relationships.

"Annise Parker, Houston’s openly gay mayor"



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