Houston GLBT Political Caucus backs 4 out candidates in city elections

Mayor-Annise-Parker-300px

Mayor Annise Parker

The Houston GLBT Political Caucus endorsed Mayor Annise Parker for re-election, as well as three other openly LGBT candidates in Nov. 5 city elections.

Unlike other cities in Texas that hold municipal elections in May, Houston holds its elections in November.

The Caucus met Saturday and voted to endorse Parker, Mike Laster, Jenifer Rene Pool and Zeph Capo.

Parker is running for her third and final term as mayor. Houston mayor and city council members are allowed three two-year terms.

Laster is running for his second term as city councilman. When elected in 2011, he was the first openly gay man to be elected to Houston’s Cty Council.

Pool is transgender and running for an at-large seat on the council. This is her second try for the position. Like Parker, she is a former president of the GLBT Political Caucus. If elected, she would become the first trans person elected in Texas.

Capo is openly gay and running for Houston Community College trustee.

“There are a couple of other LGBT candidates running whom we did not endorse,” Caucus President Noel Freeman said.

In an email to Dallas Voice, he noted two other races.

“[City Councilwoman] Ellen Cohen represents Montrose, and has always been an amazing advocate for the LGBT community. She is fantastic,” he said. “One person we would prefer to see out of office is [Councilwoman] Helena Brown. She has voted against every HOPWA contract that has been on the agenda, as well as homeless programs and a whole host of other things. She refuses to meet with me or other representatives of the LGBT community.”

The endorsements were made by 150 members of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Parker and 25 other candidates attended the meeting.

The Houston GLBT was founded in 1975 and is the oldest GLBT civil rights organization in the South. The oldest organization in Dallas, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, was founded about two years later.

—  David Taffet

Public input sought on non-discrimination amendment effort

Fairness Works Houston, a new organization formed to pass a proposed non-discrimination charter amendment in Houston, will hold a public meeting this Saturday, Feb. 25, to seek public input. As previously reported by Houstini, the proposed charter amendment, which is still being drafted, will remove discriminatory language added to the city charter in 1985 and 2001 and make it a crime to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.”

The meeting, scheduled for 1 pm at the GLBT Cultural Center (401 Branard) in rooms 112/113, looks to identify community resources that can be used both topass the amendment and to gather the 20,000 signatures that will be needed to place the amendment on the November ballot. Scheduled speakers include Noel Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Jenifer Rene Poole who chairs the Caucus’ committee on the proposed amendment.

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Non-discrimination measure headed toward Houston voters

Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman

A coalition of organizations led by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus has announced plans to place a city-wide nondiscrimination charter amendment on the November ballot. The amendment would make it a misdemeanor to deny employment, housing or public accommodation to a person because of their “age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.” The amendment would also allow the city of Houston in institute a “plus-one” health insurance system, allowing city employees to add an additional person to their city-provided healthcare coverage.

Currently in Houston (and in much of Texas) it is perfectly legal to discriminate against a person for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

In order to place the charter amendment on the ballot the group will need to collect 20,000 signatures from Houston citizens. Noel Freeman, president of the Caucus, says that the group has not  finalized the language of the proposed charter amendment adding they hope to begin collecting signatures within a few weeks.

Houston voters have rejected similar protections in the past, twice in 1985 and again in 2001 when a charter amendment banning domestic partner benefits passed. If recent polling data is to believed, however, the civic attitude may be changing. A 2010 poll conducted by the Glengariff group for Equality Texas, a statewide LGBT lobbying organization, indicates an overwhelming percentage of Houstonians support laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Respondents also indicated they supported extending domestic partner benefits to state employees. Here’s the data:

Would you support or oppose a law making it illegal to fire someone or deny housing in Texas to any person solely because he or she is gay or lesbian?

Houston: Strongly Support 68.4% Somewhat Support10.1% Somewhat Oppose 3.6% Strongly Oppose 14.6% Don’t Know 2.4%

Would you support or oppose a law making it illegal to fire or deny housing in Texas to any person solely because they are transgender?

Houston: Strongly Support 62.8% Somewhat Support 10.9% Somewhat Oppose 6.1% Strongly Oppose 15.8% Don’t Know 3.6%

Would you support or oppose extending domestic partnership benefits for things like health benefits to gay and lesbian employees that work for the government and public universities so that they match the same benefits offered to heterosexual employees?

Houston: Strongly Support 50.6% Somewhat Support 15.4% Somewhat Oppose 5.3% Strongly Oppose 21.9% Don’t Know 6.1%

Clearly Houston isn’t as homophobic of a city as some would suppose (we have elected lesbians to citywide office eleven times after all), and the public support for such a measure is obviously there. The question then is if the organizers behind the charter amendment can get enough people to the polls in November to pass it.

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Houston one of 21 most “Lesbianish” cities according to Jezebel.com

Another day, another list of queer cities written by someone out of state who clearly doesn’t understand just how awesome Houston is. This one from Jezebel.com uses internet search results to determine the most “Lesbianish” cities in America. Two Texas cities make the grade: Austin at 10th and Houston at 18th (so Houstini’s Dallas Voice overlords can take their rainbow colored tower and stick it where the sun don’t shine).

From the Jezebel.com article:

“Houston’s the largest city in the country with an openly gay mayor, the 12th most populated-with-gays US city and it’s also just one of the largest cities in the country, period. A string of unseemly governors have no powers against Houston’s thriving community and legendarily enormous Pride parade. Chances, one of the largest lesbian bars in the world, recently shut down; but there’s still drinks to be had at places like Blur, The Usual and F Bar and additional queer activities happening at the Houston LGBT Youth Center, The Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Houston’s LGBT film festival, QFest. Houston’s Rice University has a healthy queer community as well.”

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Former GLBT Political Caucus President to lead Harris County Democratic Party

Former HCDP Chair Gerry Birnberg gives new chair Lane Lewis the keys to the party office

Former Houston GLBT Political Caucus president and longtime Democratic party activist Lane Lewis was elected to serve as the Harris County Democratic Party interim chair by the County Executive Committee on Tuesday, December 20. Lewis will serve the remainder of outgoing chairman Gerry Birnburg term, which expires in April. Birnburg announced earlier this year that he would step down after the November general elections.Lewis has also completed his filing as a candidate for HCDP chair on the April 2012 primary ballot.

Lewis previously served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1997. He has a long history of advocacy on LGBT issues.

“Words cannot express the profound sense of responsibility I feel right now,” said Lewis moments after his election as HCDP Chair.  “I am grateful so many fellow Democrats have entrusted me to lead during such a pivotal time. We have much work to do over the next several months to get our county and our candidates ready for the November 2012 election.  This enormous task will take the work of current elected officials, precinct chairs and activists working in unison.  My job will be to foster a new vision for our party and work to keep us all focused on our common goal.”

During Lewis’ acceptance speech, he spoke briefly about the direction and his vision for the party.

“A unified effort from every Democrat is the key to winning elections,” Lewis said.  “It’s plain and simple.  The middle class is under attack; the work we do in 2012 will be key to protecting the future and the promise that the American Dream provides.”

Lane Lewis was elected by an overwhelming majority.  He will begin operating the HCDP immediately.

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Incumbants fair poorly in runoff election

We now have results from all precincts:

District A
Helena Brown: 55%
Brenda Stardig: 45%

District B
Alvin Byrd: 49%
Jerry Davis: 51%

Place 2:
Kristi Thibaut 49.9%
Andrew Burks 50.2%

Place 5
Jack Christie  54%
Jo Jones  46%

Both incumbents, Jones and Stardig, seem to have lost their bid for re-election, Thibaut misses a council seat by only 212 votes and Davis becomes the only candidate endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to win in the runoff.

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Local LGBT activists to confront Rodriquez for anti-gay flier

Manuel Rondriquez

Manuel Rodriquez

A group of Houston LGBT activists, including representatives from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, is urging people to attend tonight’s Houston Independent School Board Meeting to confront HISD Trustee Manuel Rodriquez for an anti-gay flier he distributed during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Under the header “Vote NO for my opponent” the flier reads in part:

Program manager of Minority male Initiative at HCC
His records [sic] show he spent years advocating for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, transgender rights……….. not Kids.

Endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (HGLBTPC) is the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.
54 years [sic] old man with no children
Male partner

The GLBT Political Caucus issued a statement on Saturday, Nov 5, condemning the flier. On Sunday, Nov 6, the Houston Chronicle retracted its endorsement of Rodriquez over the flier. Rodriquez defended the flier throughout the weekend and Tuesday’s election. “[Fonseca] will be responsible for making policy for HISD, and I as a parent, as a grandfather, as a person who has probably more understanding of what a child’s needs are,” Rodriquez told the Chronicle. “[I] just want to give the voters information so that they can make their own choice.” Rodriquez campaign volunteers distributed the flier at polling locations throughout the day of the election on Tuesday.

Yesterday Rodriquez issued an open letter apologizing for the flier.

… I am aware that some people have said they were offended by one of my ads, and I apologize to all those people.

Earlier this year, I proudly joined my colleagues on the HISD Board of Education in unanimously adopting more stringent anti-bullying and anti-discrimination specifically protect the rights and safety of all students and employees regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orintation. I voted for this policy because it was the right thing to do and I remain committed to creating a culture in our schools where all people feel welcome and safe…

Rodriquez’s critics feel his apology is insufficient, and that it stops short of addressing their concerns. Mike Pomeroy of the GLBT Political Caucus has created a Facebook event encouraging people to attend tonight’s HISD board meeting. “I don’t think he gets it,” Pomeroy told the Chronicle. “He was throughout the weekend saying, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with this. It’s the truth.’ And he was still handing out the flier at the polls. This is all coming a little bit too late.” ” We have several signed up to speak,” added Pomeroy, “but also want as many as possible there to stand with us in solidarity against bigotry on the HISD School Board!”

The School Board meets tonight at the Hattie Mae White – Houston ISD Administration Bldg, 4400 West 18th Street from 5-8 pm.

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Conservative blogger warns of LGBT plot to control Houston

Godfather PoliticsOn the eve of today’s municipal elections an anonymously written blog post from “Godfather Politics” warns of the “homosexual agenda” being pursued at the Houston ballot box. The post, entitled “Homosexuals Battle for Control of Houston,” suggest that Mayor Annise Parker and a grand cabal of LGBT leaders are engaged in a conspiracy to recruit young people via election to high office. The “Godfather” reserves special ire for out transgender candidate Jenifer Rene Poole, who is running for the open City Council Position II seat.

“Not only is self-professed homosexual Mayor Annise Parker running for reelection but a man who thinks he is a woman is running for city council. His name is Jenifer Rene Pool.

Young people are influenced by these very visible role models. They will think it’s OK to experiment sexually. Why not? The mayor is a homosexual. That’s hard enough to explain. What will you say to your children when they ask you this question: What’s a “transgendered woman”? You can tell them, Mr. Pool had his sex organs removed.”

The blog post goes on to connect the Houston LGBT community to accused (straight) child molester former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald “Jerry” Sandusky and the North American Man Boy Love Association.

After listing the full slate of candidates endorsed by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the “Godfather” lists his own endorsed candidates. The list includes mayoral candidate Dave Wilson, who last week began calling Houstonians with a recorded message warning of Mayor Parker’s “alternative lifestyle.” The Godfather-endorsed candidates perfectly match the endorsements by the Conservative Republicans of Texas, led by Steven Hotze (who you may remember for his anti-LGBT fliers attacking Parker during the last election).

Houston voters seemed poised to refuse the Godfather’s offer of an election fueled by homo/transphobia. In a poll released Monday by the Carreño Group Parker commands a 26% lead over her closest challenger, Fernando Herrera . Polls open at 7 am on Tuesday and close at 7 pm. Visit HarrisVotes.org and find out voting locations.

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Houston Chronicle pulls endorsement of school board member Rodriguez over anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

The Houston Chronicle has rescinded its endorsement of Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez over an anti-gay flier distributed by the Rodriquez campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier attacked Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flier also suggested that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

In the online opinion piece removing their endorsement, the Chronicle editorial board called out the overt homophobia in the Rodriquez flier.

“With his hateful flier, Rodriguez perpetuates the kind of stereotypes that put our kids in danger. And he implies that all right-thinking people agree with him – an insult to his constituents, and precisely the kind of blithe, old-school homophobia that makes school hallways so treacherous.

Members of the school board are supposed to be role models, not bullies. They’re supposed to support civil rights, not fight against them. They’re supposed to fight hate speech, not commit it.”

In response to the Rodriquez flyer the Houston GLBT Political Caucus had encouraged people to contact the editorial board and ask that the Chronicle endorsement be rescinded. “Certainly we’re very pleased that the Chronicle has taken this step,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “They recognize that there is no place for this kind of homophobia on the school board.” Freeman added the next step for the Caucus will be to continue to work to elect Fonseca. “We’re looking for volunteers who can help us by handing out literature at the polls.”

Until this recent controversy very little attention had been paid to the District III HISD race outside of political circles. No scientific polling on the race has been made public, but it’s considered to be a dead heat, with neither candidate having a clear advantage. It remains to be seen how the Rodriquez flier, and the overwhelmingly negative response it has garnered, will affect the outcome of the race.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

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HISD trustee distributes anti-gay flier

Rodriquez Flier (excerpt)

Excerpt from the Rodriquez flier attacking Fonseco for his advocacy for LGBT people and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (click to view full flier)

Houston Independent School District Trustee Manuel Rodriquez Jr. is under fire for an anti-gay flyer attacking his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. Both seek the HISD District III seat held by Rodriquez. Rodriquez’s flyer attacks Fonseca for his history of advocating for LGBT people, and his endorsement by the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. The flyer also suggests that Fonseca being 52 and unmarried is a reason that Houstonians should not trust him to make decisions affecting children, and points out that he has a “male partner.”

The GLBT Political Caucus was quick to denounce the flyer, issuing a statement on Saturday. “Manuel Rodriguez is assuming the voters of District III share the same bigoted, hateful views he holds,” said Caucus president Noel Freeman. “Houstonians have proven time and time again that such views are not welcome in our City, and have consistently rejected candidates who espouse such hateful views. We urge the voters of District III to reject Manuel Rodriguez on election day.”

Other HISD Trustees have joined in the chorus of people speaking out against the mailer. “I denounce the reprehensible, mean-spirited, bigoted mailer that was sent out in the HISD, District III race,” Trustee Juliet Katherine Stipeche said via her Facebook wall. “I ask my colleagues to maintain and uphold HISD’s total non-discrimination policy and treat every person, including other candidates, with dignity and respect. Let us embrace diversity and equality and treat every person as we would like ourselves to be treated ” Stipeche is seeking re-election to her district VIII seat.

HISD District I member Anna Eastman echoed Stipeche’s comments. “My fifteen year old son could not comprehend why someone would think that distinction would change a vote for school board and would be used as such by a candidate.”

The GLBT caucus is urging people to contact the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle to encourage them to rescind their endorsement of Rodriquez in light of his campaign tactics.

HISD elections are part of the general elections taking place this Tuesday, Nov 8. Visit HarrisVotes.org to find your voting location and view a sample ballot.

—  admin