Houston Mayor Annise Parker marries longtime partner

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Houston first lady Kathy Hubbard, left, and Mayor Annise Parker

Annise Parker married her life partner of 23 years, Kathy Hubbard, on Thursday in Palm Springs, Calif., The Houston Chronicle reported.

The ceremony, held at sunset at a private home, was attended by a small group of family and friends of the couple, including Parker’s mother and Hubbard’s sister, according to a statement from Parker’s office.

“This is a very happy day for us,” said Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city. “We have had to wait a very long time to formalize our commitment to each other. Kathy has been by my side for more than two decades, helping to raise a family, nurture my political career and all of the other ups and down and life events that come with a committed relationship.”

Late Thursday she tweeted: “I am privileged to now be the wife of the woman I have loved for more than 2 decades. I couldn’t be happier. We said our vows today.-A”

The Rev. Paul Fromberg administered the vows. He is a friend of the couple and partner of Parker’s longtime political consultant Grant Martin, formerly of Houston. Fromberg and Martin now live in San Francisco.

Former state District Judge Steve Kirkland and Mark Parthie, who are longtime friends and business partners of Parker and Hubbard, served as witnesses.

Thursday was the couple’s 23rd anniversary.

“It’s wonderful,” said City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen. “They’ve demonstrated a commitment to each other over all these years. How marvelous it is that they can look forward to a long life together as a married couple. I’m very happy for them.”

Parker had previously  said that she would not get married until the union was legal in Texas, including as recently as June, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Speaking in November, however, it was clear the mayor had reflected on the impact of the verdict.

“At some point I fully intend to marry her,” Parker said. “I will say that when the Supreme Court ruling came down, the first person to call me was my youngest daughter, who said, ‘Does this mean you’re going to go out and marry mommy now?’ And I said, ‘Well it doesn’t exactly mean that because it doesn’t change everything.’ But, you know, I also am conscious of the messages I send to my own kids.”

When Parker first took office in 2009, she pledged to put the city before social advocacy. Conservatives have accused her of reneging on that pledge, particularly in 2012 when she joined 78 mayors in 2012 in calling for equal marriage rights for gay couples.

And in late November, Parker, relying on a legal opinion from City Attorney David Feldman and recent court rulings, announced the city would begin offering health and life insurance benefits to the spouses of all legally married city employees, gay or straight, in alleged violation of a 2001 city charter amendment.

At the time, Parker said the decision would not affect her because she and Hubbard were not legally wed, adding that Hubbard pays about $700 a month for health insurance. In Thursday’s statement about her marriage, however, Parker clarified that Hubbard has other insurance options available and will not claim city benefits.

The city has been sued over the benefits decision by two plaintiffs represented by Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill. He was less congratulatory about the union.

“Why does she wait to get married in another state after the election? Why does she give same-sex benefits to couples married in other states after the election?” Woodfill said. “This is a mayor who is bringing California and New York values to Texas, and these are values Texans don’t subscribe to. Texans have defined their position on marriage in the form of a constitutional amendment.”

Nationally, Parker often is seen as the gay mayor of Houston. She has worked to ensure she is seen as the mayor who happens to be gay, repeatedly saying, “The best thing I can do for my community is to be a great mayor of Houston.”

Parker and Hubbard met in 1990 when Hubbard, a tax consultant, stopped by Parker’s Montrose bookstore, Inklings, looking for clients. They have two daughters and a son, and their goddaughter lives with them.

—  Steve Ramos

Annise Parker to seek 3rd, final term; trans woman to run for Houston council

Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker at Dallas Pride in 2010.

Pool.Jenifer

Jenifer Rene Pool

Houston Mayor Annise Parker plans to seek a third and final term in November, and a transgender candidate has launched her campaign for City Council. Houston mayors and council members may serve up to three two-year terms.

On her campaign website Parker writes:

“We’re leading the nation in job creation. We’re ‘America’s Coolest City’ (Forbes) and the 7th best place in the world to visit in 2013 (New York Times). We’re the #1 city in America to further a career (Monster.com). And those are just a few examples in just the last year.”

This year Parker may have some serious opposition. Benjamin Hall III, who served as city attorney under Mayor Bob Lanier (1992–1998), told a local TV station he is seriously considering a run. As of today, he had no campaign website in place.A recent poll by a Rice University political scientist shows 57 percent of voters approve of her job performance and 30 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, Jenifer Rene Pool, who is transgender, tells Instant Tea she’ll make a second run for an at-large City Council seat.

Pool is a self-employed consultant in construction management and permitting. She served as a member of the Buildings and Standards and Police Advisory commissions and was appointed by Parker to a special blue ribbon task force on buildings and standards. She co-hosts Queer Voices, a weekly radio show on the Houston Pacifica station.

But her biggest asset in running for office in Houston may be the three terms she served as president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Both Parker and former three-term City Councilwoman Sue Lovell began their political careers heading the caucus.

Pool’s campaign kickoff event takes place from 5:30–7 p.m on Thursday at BB’S, 701 Studewood St., Houston.

Houston municipal elections are in November.

—  David Taffet

Measure would ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston

Charter amendment could also allow DP benefits for city workers

DANIEL WILLIAMS  |  Contributing Writer

HOUSTON — Long-brewing plans to place a city-wide non-discrimination policy before Houston voters became public this week.

Since December a coalition of organizations and leaders have been working to draft a city charter amendment that would make it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment or public accommodations on the basis of  “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 remove anti-LGBT language added to the Houston city charter in 1985 and 2001 — which could allow the City Council to vote to offer health benefits to the domestic partners of municipal employees.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who famously became the only out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city in 2009, has declined to comment on the proposed charter amendment until the language is finalized. She told the Houston Chronicle: “I believe it’s important for the city of Houston to send a signal to the world that we welcome everybody and that we treat everybody equally, and depending on the elements of what was actually in it, I might or might not support it,”

According to Equality Texas Executive Director Dennis Coleman, the prospect of Houston voters approving the non-discrimination amendment has ramifications for efforts to pass similar measures in the state Legislature.

“Nondiscrimination in Houston builds a better case for us when we go for nondiscrimination in Austin,” said Coleman. “To be able to tell representatives that they represent areas that already support these efforts is very helpful.”

The cities of Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth all already have similar nondiscrimination ordinances and offer DP benefits to employees.

But Houston’s form of governance makes this effort unique. While the City Council is empowered to pass city ordinances covering issues of discrimination, they can be overturned by popular vote if those opposing the ordinance collect 20,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot.

That was the case in 1985 after Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire pushed through the council the city’s first protections for gay and lesbian Houstonians (no protections were provided for the bisexual or transgender communities).

A coalition of right-wing voters led by Louie Welch, then president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, was able to place the issue on a city-wide ballot, claiming the policy “promoted the homosexual lifestyle.” The group also recruited a “straight slate” of candidates to run against City Council members who had favored the protections, with Welch running against Whitmire.

The public vote on nondiscrimination was held in June 1985 and Welch’s forces prevailed, but the city’s temperament had changed by the time of the City Council and mayoral races in November. A comment of Welch’s that the solution to the AIDS crisis was to “shoot the queers” was aired on local TV and few in Houston wished to be associated with him after that. The “straight slate” failed to capture a single City Council seat and Whitmire remained mayor, but the defeat of the city’s nondiscrimination policy remained.

By 1998 Houston had changed: Annise Parker was serving as the city’s first out lesbian city council member and Houston boasted the state’s first out gay judge, John Paul Barnich. Mayor Lee Brown, sensing the change, issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees from employment discrimination. But the city had not changed that much. Councilman Rob Todd led efforts to fight the order in court, arguing that since voters rejected city-wide protections from discrimination in 1985, it was inappropriate for the mayor to institute them without voter approval. The city spent the next three years defending the policy in court, finally emerging victorious.

The joy of that 2001 victory would be shortlived, however. That year Houston’s voters approved another amendment to the city charter, this time prohibiting the city from providing domestic partner benefits for city employees. In a narrow defeat, just over 51 percent of voters decided that the city should not offer competitive benefits.

The current proposed non-discrimination amendment would remove the language added in 1985 and 2001. While it would provide non-discrimination protections it would not require the city to offer benefits of any kind to the spouses of LGBT city employees, leaving that question back in the hands of the City Council.

The organizers of the current effort are confident that this year is the year for victory.

Noel Freeman, the president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which is spearheading the effort, explains that the previous votes occurred in “non-presidential years,”when voter turnout in general is low, and conservative voters make up a larger percentage of the electorate.

Additionally, polling by Equality Texas in 2010 showed that 80 percent of Houstonians support employment protections for gay and lesbian people.

In order to place the non-discrimination amendment on the November ballot the coalition supporting it will need to collect 20,000 signatures of registered Houston voters and submit them to the city clerk. Freeman says that the final charter amendment language is still under consideration and that once it is finalized the group will begin collecting signatures.

Even former Councilman Todd, who once fought the city’s policy of non-discrimination for LGBT employees, supports the current effort.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

‘I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position’

Cece Cox

Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox issued a statement this afternoon, criticizing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings for failing to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality this week.

“As the executive director and CEO of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community center in the sixth largest LGBT community in United States, I am concerned that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings is not supporting marriage equality alongside other big-city mayors,” Cox said. “Legally recognized marriage is a civil rights, an economic and a legal issue that directly affects the members of the LGBT community where he serves as mayor and who call Dallas home.

“In the last two years, two major LGBT conferences (Creating Change and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit) have visited Dallas, bringing millions of dollars in local economic impact. I suspect that no LGBT group will want to come to Dallas when they learn of the mayor’s position,” Cox wrote. “LGBT families are shut out of the legal protections granted with marriage. The result is that couples and children in LGBT families are precluded from legal health benefits, economic benefits and the safety and security that so many others enjoy because the laws automatically protect them. I urge Mayor Rawlings to revisit and reconsider his decision.”

Below is video from this morning’s press conference in Washington, where Freedom to Marry formally launched the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign. According to the press release we’ve posted after the jump, 80 mayors from across the country have now signed the pledge in support of marriage equality. Among those who spoke at the press conference was Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is co-chairing the campaign.

“Everyone here believes in the vital importance of marriage to our constituents, to our communities, and to our country,” Parker said. “Together, we will work to ensure that our cities have what they need to thrive – and in order to keep our cities competitive in business and welcoming in culture, we will work hard to win the freedom to marry everywhere and end federal marriage discrimination once and for all.”

—  John Wright

Out & Equal to honor Parker, Welts

Mayor Annise Parker

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates will honor Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts at its Leadership Celebration on March 14 in San Francisco.

In October, Out & Equal held its week-long Workplace Summit at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Because of rave reviews, the group plans to return in the next few years. Welts was among the speakers at the Dallas convention.

Now in its fifth year, the Leadership Celebration is a fundraising event that includes a hosted reception and dinner. Parker and Welts will be recognized as role models and inspirations in the movement to achieve equality in the workforce.

To attend the San Francisco event, register online.

The 2012 Workplace Summit will be in Baltimore on from Oct. 29-Nov 1.

—  David Taffet

Here’s the pledge in support of same-sex marriage that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings refuses to sign

Houston Mayor Annise Parker is among the co-chairs of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry.

Jackie Yodashkin at Freedom to Marry sends along word that the group has now posted a list of 74 of the mayors who’ve signed its pledge in support of same-sex marriage, as well as the text of the pledge itself.

As many of us are painfully aware by now, the list doesn’t include Dallas’ Mike Rawlings, who says he “personally” supports same-sex marriage but doesn’t sign things related to social issues that don’t directly impact city affairs. Read our latest story here. (It’s worth noting that since we broke this story Wednesday, it’s been picked up by both the Dallas Morning News, which ran it on the front page of the Metro section today, and the Dallas Observer.)

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Mike Rawlings

Rawlings has also posted a statement on his Facebook page further explaining his position: “Upon taking office, I made a conscious decision to focus on issues that create a healthy, viable city and not on those that are partisan and social in nature. I was asked to pledge my support to ‘Mayors for the Freedom to Marry’ in an effort to pressure state and federal entities to legalize marriage for same-sex couples. I decided not to sign onto that letter because that is inconsistent with my view of the duties of the office of the mayor. To be a world class city, we must be inclusive towards all citizens, including the LGBT community. Personally, I support the LGBT movement and its efforts for equal rights that they deserve.”

Judging by the 63 comments on Rawlings Facebook post, the LGBT community isn’t satisfied. As of this morning, 173 people had signed a Change.org petition calling for Rawlings to sign the pledge. There’s also a Facebook page where you can find contact information for the mayor’s office.

Yodashkin also said that Houston Mayor Annise Parker is now a co-chair of the campaign, called Mayors for the Freedom to Marry. And while Austin’s Lee Leffingwell hadn’t been added to the published list, Yodashkin told me Thursday that Leffingwell had signed the pledge. Yodashkin also mentioned that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will speak at a press conference at 9:45 Eastern time this morning to formally unveil the campaign. Is it possible that Rawlings will have a change of heart and show up, pen in hand? We’ll find out, but for now the full text of the pledge is below.

—  John Wright

Parker expected to win re-election in Houston

With lesbian mayor at the top of the ballot, 4 LGBTS among candidates for seats on City Council

Annise-Parker-wins

Annise-Parker-wins

 

Daniel Williams  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who’s 2009 election made her the first out LGBT mayor of a major American city, faces five challengers in her bid for re-election on Nov. 8, and more than one of those challengers brings a decidedly anti-gay record to the race.

Most prominent among the anti-gay candidates is Dave Wilson, who is infamous for his decades-long efforts to roll back advancements for LGBT Houstonians.

In recent weeks, the Wilson campaign has launched robocalls attacking Parker, as Wilson claims, using her position to advance her “alternative lifestyle.”

Also in the race are perennial socialist candidate Amanda Ulman, little-knowns Kevin Simms and Jack O’Conner, and Fernando Herrera.

Last year Herrera ran as the Republican candidate for Texas House District 148 against Democrat Rep. Jessica Farrar. During that race Herrera responded to a questionnaire from the right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation with a statement that he opposed allowing same-sex couples to adopt or be foster parents.

A poll of 748 likely voters, published by television station KHOU-Houston on Oct. 17, shows Parker with a commanding lead, with 37 percent of the respondents saying they intended to vote for her. Most pundits expect the incumbent to win re-election handily.

Her five challengers split 11 percent.

But the big winner in the poll was “Do Not Know,” the option that pulled in more than 50 percent, reflecting the disinterest most Houstonians appear have towards the race.

Council elections

Houston has a 16-member city council, made up of 11 members representing districts assigned letters A-K, and five at-large positions. All 16 council members are up for election, as is the city controller, the position Parker held before being elected mayor.

Incumbent City Controller Ronald Green is unopposed.

The lack of a real contest in the mayoral race has driven voter participation down 20 percent from the last municipal elections in 2009, sending candidates scurrying for every available vote.

With Parker at the top of the ticket, several LGBT candidates are among those vying for a seat at the council table.

In at-large position 2, transgender candidate Jenifer Rene Poole and gay candidate Bolivar “Bo” Fraga are among the crowded field of 10 jockeying for position in the race.

Poole has the support of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, the Houston Stonewall Democrats and the Houston Young Stonewall Democrats, while Fraga has the endorsement by the term-limited position incumbent, lesbian political veteran Sue Lovell.

Other position 2 candidates are Eric Dick, Elizabeth Perez, David Robinson, Kristi Thibaut, Griff Griffin, Rozzy Shorter, Andrew Burks and Gordon Goss.

In District C, gay candidate Josh Verde is one in a field of five contenders, including former state Rep. Ellen Cohen, who has the backing of the GLBT Political Caucus and Stonewall.

Other District C candidates are Brian Cweren, Karen Derr and Joshua Verde.

Gay candidate Mike Laster enjoys the endorsement of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, the GLBT Political Caucus and both Stonewall clubs in his District J race. Laster has handily outstripped his two rivals — Rodrigo Canedo and Criselda Romero — in both fundraising and endorsements, but the race remains highly contested.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Annise Parker accepts LGBT Trailblazers Award while Westboro Baptist protests outside

A member of Westboro Baptist Church protests outside the LGBT Trailblazers luncheon in Houston on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Noel Freeman)

On Saturday, while Gov. Rick Perry was throwing his prayer rally “The Response” inside Reliant Stadium and GetEQUAL was staging mock funerals at the front gate, the Harris County Democratic Party sat down to a quite luncheon honoring LGBT Trailblazers. The highlight of the luncheon was the videotaped acceptance speech by Houston Mayor Annise Parker (WATCH IT BELOW). In 2009 Parker became the first out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city after years of community service as an activist, city council member and city controller.

Parker was unable to accept her award in person due to previously scheduled city business. Via pre-recorded message she thanked the luncheon’s co-chairs, Robert Shipman and Brad Pritchett, and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, who took the lead in organizing the event.

Parker’s son, Jonon Tyler, accepted the award on behalf of his mother. Tyler talked about the thrill of riding with Mayor Parker in the 2010 Dallas Pride Parade, about how the crowd seemed to swell with hope and pride at seeing her. “When we see Mayor Annise Parker, we see the best in ourselves,” said Tyler. “We’ve only seen the beginning; the best is yet to come.”

Also honored as LGBT Trailblazers were Judge Steven Kirkland, City Councilwoman Sue Lovell, Judge Phyllis Frye and Linda Morales. Judge John Paul Barnich received a posthumous award.

—  admin

Parker attacked for ‘My Gay Houston’ campaign


The Houston mayoral election is still four months away, but challenger Fernando Herrera must be getting desperate considering he’s already throwing anti-gay mud at incumbent Annise Parker. Herrera posted a picture to his campaign’s Facebook page (screen grab above) from the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s “My Gay Houston” campaign. The campaign features prominent LGBT Houstonians talking about what makes Houston great. Herrera captioned the photo as follows:

“The Gay Boy’s Weekend in H-Town?
The July 13th, 2011 City Council Agenda includes $420,000.00 for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Yes…the same Bureau that launched the My Gay Houston campaign and website. See where your tax dollars are going –www.myGayHouston.com. Read all about it — http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/busi​ness/6780236.html
I’m just saying…”

Well, “I’m just saying” that most major cities in the U.S. are actively competing for the LGBT vacation dollar (including Chicago, Los Angeles, Los Vegas, Washington D.C., Dallas and even Salt Lake City), and if Houston is to be competitive as a vacation and convention destination it has to follow suit. I’m also “just saying” that gay-baiting the very popular Parker is a dumb political move that does little to legitimize Herrera’s struggling campaign.

Houston city elections are nonpartisan, so neither Parker or Herrera will be running on a particular party’s ticket. In 2010 Herrera ran as a Republican against State Rep. Jessica Farrar, and he’s never held political office. Parker previously served three terms on Houston City Council and three terms as city controller before being elected as mayor in 2009.

Below is the comment thread from Herrera’s post. As you can see, he’s taking a beating on his own page:

—  admin

Houston bigot Dave Wilson sends out another anti-gay mailer attacking Annise Parker

It was only a matter of time really: Dave Wilson is sending anti-gay letters (above) to Houstonians attacking Annise Parker, who’s seeking re-election in November.

Wilson, you may remember, is the homophobic electrician who sent 35,000 fliers like the one below to Houston homes during the 2009 elections with a picture of Parker’s swearing in for her previous position as City Comptroller, her partner Kathy Hubbard at her side. The 2009 fliers asked the question, “Is this the image Houston wants to portray?” To which Houston voters resoundingly replied, “Yes!” Parker became the first openly gay person elected mayor of a top 10 U.S. city.

Wilson’s latest attack is on a much smaller scale than his full color assault from 2009: It’s a personal letter sent to Parker’s donors and Houston Democratic precinct chairs. The letter, dated May 25, reads as follows:

—  admin