LGBT candidates, allies win big in Texas primary

Texasprimary

Out JP candidate Sara Martinez and former City Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, surrounded by supporters, both made it into runoffs in Dallas County. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Openly LGBT candidates and the community’s allies swept the Texas Democratic primary Tuesday, winning the party’s nomination while others made it into runoffs.

In Dallas County, out justice of the peace precinct 5, place 1 candidate Sara Martinez led in the crowded race after early voting. She secured a place in the runoff alongside Melissa Bellan. Other out candidate John McCall came in fourth in the race.

Out candidate Susan Lopez-Craig came in third in the precinct 5 constable’s race. Incumbent Beth Villarreal and Michael Orozco will face off in a runoff.

In the race for county treasurer, former Dallas Councilwoman and LGBT ally Pauline Medrano and Bennie Elnora Brown came out on top to make it into the runoff.

Queer state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, easily won re-election, defeating her only Democratic challenger, Rey Sepulveda. Gonzalez previously told Dallas Voice she expected a challenger based on her outspokenness on women’s and LGBT rights. She’s one of five openly gay state House candidates, but the only one with a contested primary. With no Republican challenger in November, she’ll serve another term.

—  Anna Waugh

Mary Gonzalez leads in re-election bid after early voting

Gonzalez.Mary

Mary Gonzalez

Out state Rep. Mary Gonzalez will likely keep her House District 75 seat after early voting results gave her a strong lead Tuesday.

Gonzalez, D-El Paso, brought in 69 percent of the vote, compared to her only Democratic  challenger Rey Sepulveda, who received 31 percent of the early vote.

No Republican is seeking the office, so Gonzalez is sure to return to the state Legislature after final results come in.

She’s one of five openly gay state House candidates, but the only one with a contested primary.

Other out candidates are Celia Israel, who won the runoff in the special election to replace state Rep. Mark Strama in Austin and will face one Republican in the fall, and Denton’s Emy Lyons and Daniel Moran, who will both take on Republican incumbents.

Former state board of education member George Clayton is unopposed in his Democratic bid for HD 102, which covers parts of North Dallas, Richardson and Addison.

On the crowded Republican side, incumbent Stefani Carter came in second to former Dallas Councilwoman Linda Koop with 33 percent and 35 percent after early voting, so a runoff is likely.

Sam Brown received 28 percent of the vote with Adyana Boyne coming in last with 4 percent.

—  Anna Waugh

16 lawmakers ask TX National Guard to process benefits for gay spouses

State Rep. Lon Burnam

State Rep. Lon Burnam

In a letter to Major General John F. Nichols, National Guard Adjutant General of Texas, 16 members of the Texas House of Representatives asked that he begin enrolling eligible spouses for benefits.

Texas is the only state that is refusing to take applications for federal benefits. Mississippi and Louisiana are not taking applications on state property but are taking them on National Guard bases.

The 16 legislators asked Nichols “if you have been advised by the office of the Governor not to offer these benefits to same-gender spouses, please send our offices a copy of that communication.”

The letter was written by Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam, who represents a district in Fort Worth. Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, is the only other North Texas legislator who signed it. Openly gay Rep. Mary Gonzalez of El Paso also is among the 16 signers.

Below is a copy of the letter:

—  David Taffet

Stonewall Dems gather in Austin to talk pro-equality strategy in Texas

Former Congressman Barney Frank addresses the crowd during the Equality Forward Summit in Austin on April 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

AUSTIN — Texas Stonewall Democrats met in Austin this weekend for the first Equality Forward Summit to discuss how to gain support for pro-equality measures and ultimately turn Texas blue.

The event was the first collaborative effort between the Texas Democratic Party and the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus and drew about 150 people for the weekend’s workshops.

About 250 people, many standing, packed a room at the Hilton Austin Airport hotel after a day of workshops on Saturday to hear former Congressman Barney Frank speak about his time in office and the change he expects in the future.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker introduced Frank, during which she said she still considers herself an activist and has since learned of a gay agenda.

“I don’t know of any gay agenda, but I have been doing this long enough that we do have a gay agenda,” Parker said. “Our gay agenda is the ability to have jobs that we love, to support the families that we care about and to pay taxes.”

She said No. 2 on the gay agenda was serving openly in the military, which has been accomplished, No. 3 is feeling safe in schools and being free from bullying, and No. 4 is the freedom to marry.

Parker said all of the items on the list will gain support from Texas votes but it is Stonewall and the state party’s job to get that message out.

“But just as we as Democrats have a message that will resonate in Texas, the GLBT community has that same agenda that will resonate across Texas,” she said. “And when we openly advocate for that agenda, I’m standing here as proof that being who we are, being open and honest, we can win at the ballot box.”

—  Anna Waugh

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez on getting hate mail after coming out as pansexual

Gonzalez.Mary

Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, who is believed to be the nation’s first pansexual elected official, recently did an interview with El Paso Inc. in which she talked about, among other things, the reaction of other legislators and the public to sexual orientation and her  historic election. Here’s a snippet:

Q: The Texas Legislature is a profoundly conservative workplace. Without delving into your personal life, how have members reacted to your coming out so publicly and to your unusual sexual orientation?

I think in the beginning they were confused by me for a lot of different reasons. You look at me and you don’t expect me to have an agriculture background. You read about me and my ambiguous sexuality. I think in the beginning there was confusion.

But, I hit the ground running. I filed 29 bills, opened my office before any other freshman. I’ve been at the mike asking pointed questions. I think I’m serious and that as progressive as I am, I’m not polarized when it comes to politics. I can work with Republicans and get along with Republicans, and I can get things done.

I think the best way to combat any oppression is for people to meet someone who is that identity. So, they’ve met me; they understand me a little better and see me as a person. They don’t care anymore.

Q: What about the public reaction?

Right after all the media stuff happened, it did feel like bullying. I was getting hate emails and ugly, ugly messages sent to me. At that point, I thought, “This is why no one comes out in politics. This is why kids don’t come out in schools.” While I’m proud of all the barriers we’ve broken, it has not come without a lot of ugliness attached to it.

Read the full interview here.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS: Lobby Day draws record crowd to Capitol

IMG_3233

Openly LGBT state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, addresses the crowd on the south steps of the state Capitol on Monday during Equality Texas Lobby Day. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

AUSTIN — Hundreds of LGBT Texans and allies from across the state told their personal stories of discrimination, love and hope for a better future to lawmakers Monday during Equality Texas Lobby Day.

With more than 540 registered attendants, it marked the biggest Lobby Day ever, Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said.

Smith started working with the statewide LGBT advocacy organization as a lobbyist in 2003. He shared his experience with the crowd Monday morning, explaining that he came out to former state Rep. Carter Casteel, who had been his eighth-grade history teacher. He told her that he and his partner of 17 years, Rick, had loved each other dearly until his death in 2001.

And he asked her not to vote for the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage between a man and a woman and passed later that year.

Smith said she acknowledged his love between him and his partner but told him she couldn’t vote against DOMA because she would lose her seat.

“The day changed my life because I learned that the people who serve this state are real people just like me,” he said, adding that more legislators need to hear stories to earn their support. “They just need to hear from enough of us to give them the strength to do the right thing for the people of Texas.”

Pansexual state Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, thanked those who attended for standing behind her when she came out during her contested Democratic Primary last year and for encouraging her with their fight for LGBT rights.

—  Anna Waugh

El Paso Rep. Mary Gonzalez sworn in as Texas’ only openly LGBT legislator

State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, is sworn in at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday. (Andrea Grimes/Dallas Voice)

ANDREA GRIMES  |  Contributing Writer

Out of the 150 voices swearing to do their democratic best in the Texas House of Representatives at the state Capitol this morning, only one belonged to an out pansexual: El Paso’s history-making 29-year-old educator Mary Gonzalez.

Today, she became the first openly LGBT female to serve in the Texas Legislature, the first known pansexual elected official in the nation and the first woman to serve District 75. Oh, and she’s also the youngest member of the 83rd Legislature.

Safe to say, there are some eyes on Mary Gonzalez.

“Today was a really wonderful experience,” Gonzalez told Dallas Voice this afternoon after the House’s first session of the year. She brought a number of friends and family members to her first day of work, including her father — “my Republican father!” noted Gonzalez, laughing — and her girlfriend.

Gonzalez effectively won her seat in May 2011 when she won the Democratic Primary in El Paso’s District 75, where there was no Republican challenger. Gonzalez was the first LGBT candidate elected to the Legislature since Glen Maxey, D-Austin, left office in 2002. During her campaign for the seat, Gonzalez’s challengers kept bringing the conversation back to her sexuality. It’s a topic she doesn’t shy away from, but she also tells the Dallas Voice that it is not, and shouldn’t be, the sole definer of her political career.

Now that Gonzalez and her staff are busy moving into her sparsely decorated office in the Capitol, she’s ready to get to work — especially since it’ll give folks something to talk to her about besides her sexual orientation.

“One of the reasons identity has been so central to my public persona is because there’s nothing else,” said Gonzalez. “I haven’t been able to take votes yet, I haven’t been able to give, hopefully, amazing speeches yet. So I hope to fill the void of information out there.”

As the youngest member of the House, she’s also part of a new generation of politicians who focus on intersectionality, recognizing that race, gender, class and other identifiers can’t necessarily be separated from each other.

“It is a little bit suffocating to only be known as this queer, lesbian, pansexual representative,” said Gonzalez. “While that’s important to me, it does create an invisibility to other parts of me. I don’t want it to overshadow the work I want to do to serve my district.”

Gonzalez calls intersectionality the “lens” through which she “views the world,” and embraces the different aspects of who she is: Latina, working class, pansexual. Through that “lens,” Gonzalez says she’ll look at three major issues during the session: agriculture, the border and education.

First up is a dairy farm bill that could help shore up Gonzalez’s economically struggling district. She remembers her first time walking into the agriculture council meeting, “all dolled up” and surrounded by older white male legislators: “They’re like ‘Who are you?’ I grew up on a dairy farm!’”

She’ll also be working on issues surrounding a new international bridge in El Paso, tackling how to “manage growth and development” in a way that doesn’t create more colonias, border settlements with little-to-no infrastructure or access to sanitation and water.

In the long term, Gonzalez will focus on creating a state work-study program, confident that it would be “huge” if she can show “how work study programs help students graduate.” And as for LGBTQ issues, she’s working on those, too, hoping to co-author bills with Dallas Democratic Rep. Rafael Anchia.

Whatever happens over the next 139 days, Gonzalez certainly doesn’t intend to cut herself, or her staff, any slack: “I want it to be the most progressive, most inclusive, most welcoming office to everybody who comes in.”

—  John Wright

Mary Gonzalez makes NBC Latino’s top 10 politicians to watch list

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez made our Top 10 LGBT stories of 2012 list in this week’s print edition, but she’s also made a national list of politicians to watch.

Gonzalez, D-El Paso, who became Texas’ first female LGBT representative and also broke new ground by later coming out as pansexual, was named by NBC Latino as one of its 10 Latino politicians to watch in 2013.

But she’s not the only Hispanic Texan politician people excited to watch. Newly elected Democratic Congressman Joaquín Castro and anti-gay Republican Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, who’s Cuban-American, also made the list.

View the full list here.

—  Anna Waugh

Mary Gonzalez officially becomes Texas’ 1st openly LGBT female state legislator

Gonzalez.MaryEl Paso’s Mary Gonzalez unofficially captured the Texas House District 75 seat back in May when she won a contested Democratic primary.

And without a Republican opponent in the general election, she sailed to an official victory Tuesday, becoming the first openly LGBT woman elected to the Texas Legislature. Gonzalez identifies as pansexual, so she’s also the first-known openly pansexual elected official in the U.S.

Gonzalez marked the news by thanking her family and supports this afternoon on her “Mary González for State Representative” Facebook page.

“Well it is OFFICIAL that I will be representing Texas House District 75 at the Texas Capitol. Thank you to all my family, friends and loved ones for all your support,” the post reads. “I recognize that I wouldn’t be here without the people who worked to make this happen. Let’s get to work- changing the world one day at a time.”

Congrats, Mary. We look forward to you making a mark in Austin come January.

—  Anna Waugh

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez visits Stonewall Dems in Dallas, Fort Worth

Mary Gonzalez speaks at the Round-Up on Monday night.

State Rep.-elect Mary Gonzalez was the keynote speaker at a Stonewall Democrats of Dallas fundraiser Monday night at the Round-Up Saloon. She will appear at a fundraiser for Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats tonight at a private residence in Fort Worth.

Gonzalez won her El Paso primary election and faces no opposition in November. She will be the youngest member of the Legislature and the first LGBT woman to serve. Gonzalez made national news a second time when she came out as pansexual in an interview with Dallas Voice.

On Monday night, she said she hopes to develop a warm working relationship with Stonewall Democrats.

Although she hasn’t yet entered the House, it seems Gonzalez may already have her sites set on the Senate. She pointed out that only six women serve in the 31-member state Senate.

While she hopes to break down stereotypes among her colleagues once she enters the House, Gonzalez said she ran to help people in her district. Large areas of her far West Texas district are without electricity, running water and plumbing. She said she hopes to represent the area better than her predecessors, one of whom was indicted on drug trafficking charges.

The evening was a fundraiser for County Commission District 1 candidate Theresa Daniel and Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Commissioner Elba Garcia attended, although she is not up for reelection. Several other candidates including Judge Don Adams also attended. Former state Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt was there to greet the newest queer member of the Legislature.

Gonzalez is scheduled to appear tonight at Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats with Hon. Tonya Parker and former Rep. Glen Maxey.

More photos from Monday’s event below.

—  David Taffet