Ex-Roman Catholic priest becomes Austin’s 1st out school board member

Posted on 12 Nov 2012 at 12:37pm

When the Rev. Jayme Mathias defeated incumbent Sam Guzman for the District 2 seat last week, he became the first openly gay person elected to the Austin school board.

But apparently some didn’t realize Mathias — a former Roman Catholic priest — was gay until he mentioned it to a TV reporter in an interview after the election.

From the Austin American-Statesman:

What was a surprise was Mathias’ post-election comment to a reporter that he will be the first openly-gay school trustee, something he hadn’t mentioned during his campaign.

However, people involved in the election — including his opponent — said they knew Mathias is gay, and it wasn’t an issue.

“We figured if we were going to win, it was going to be for the right reasons,” said Guzman. “My team was mature, experienced, reasonable people and we didn’t think that (making it an issue) was good for anybody.”

Said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, which represents 3,000 district employees and backed Mathias: “I want to think that this is not an issue in Austin and that no one will be punished because they are gay. We should be proud of it.”

When asked why he hadn’t discussed it before, Mathias said, “My sexuality has never defined who I am or what I do. I have nothing to hide in the respect.”

Austin’s KVUE-TV reports that some voters are accusing Mathias of being dishonest for not mentioning his sexual orientation during the campaign, with one man they interviewed calling for a “recount”:

When the news hit papers Thursday, the headlines recognized Mathias as AISD’s first openly gay board member. A title Larry Amaro says came through deception.

“I think parents should have the right to know,” Amaro stated. “Because it will sway an election.”

Now Amaro and others are suggesting a recount. As for Mathias, the new board member is trying to move on to what he calls the real issues.

“It’s time for us as trustees to get to work regardless of who we are, where we come from, what race or religion or sexual orientation,” said Mathias.

Mathias reportedly was ordained in 2001 and spent several years as a priest at East Austin’s Christo Del Rey Catholic Church. He left last March to join the American Catholic Church, which allows priests to marry or live in domestic partnerships. He is now pastor of Holy Family American Catholic Church.

Mathias will become one of only two known openly gay school board members in Texas, joining Fort Worth’s Carlos Vasquez.

Watch KVUE’s report — which has been picked up by CNN — below.

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