How a Parker win fits into tapestry of LGBT elected officials

Posted on 10 Dec 2009 at 5:18pm
Annise Parker
Annise Parker

On Dec. 12, voters will decide if Houston will be the largest U.S. city with an openly gay or lesbian mayor. Annise Parker is running ahead in the polls and has won six previous citywide elections.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

New York’s mayor Ed Koch (1978-1989) is sometimes cited as gay, but he has never come out. Although L.A. has never had an openly gay mayor, West Hollywood does have one.

Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund lists 13 LGBT elected officials currently serving in Texas. That number includes three Dallas County officials — Jim Foster, county judge; Lupe Valdez, sheriff; and Gary Fitzsimmons, county clerk.

LGBT council members across the state include Joel Burns in Fort Worth and Sue Lovell in Houston. Lovell is in a runoff that will also be decided Saturday. Other cities with an LGBT council member are Austin, Pearland and Kemp.

Kemp, a city on Cedar Creek Lake southeast of Dallas, not only claims a gay councilmember, but also a gay mayor.

Travis County ties Dallas County with the most open LGBT elected officials at three each. In addition to Austin’s lesbian city council member, the county has a lesbian district attorney and justice of the peace. (And Kemp ties Houston for second place).

The other elected LGBT officials in Texas are a civil district judge and Parker, who is currently Houston’s controller.

Victory Fund lists 32 open LGBT mayors around the world. That list includes Jerry Birdwell who is Mayor Pro Tem in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. Birdwell, a former Dallas resident, was a district judge in Dallas in the 1990s.

Currently, the largest U.S. cities with gay mayors are Portland, Ore., and  Providence, R.I. Large European cities with gay or lesbian mayors are Berlin, Paris and Zurich.

Earlier this year, J.W. Lown, the gay mayor of San Angelo, resigned after being elected to a fourth term. His partner, a Mexican national, could not get a visa to remain in the United States so Lown moved to Mexico.

There are 85 openly LGBT state legislators in the U.S., but none in Texas. Three members of Congress are gay or lesbian.

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