Parker addresses LGBT supporters after being sworn in as 1st openly gay person elected mayor of a major U.S. city
HOUSTON — Annise Parker was sworn in as the 61st mayor of the city of Houston in a private ceremony at Cith Hall on Jan. 2.
A public oath was administered at the Wortham Theater Center on Monday before a standing-room-only crowd.
The Houston city charter specifies that transfer of power must take place on Jan. 2. But
Parker chose the private ceremony on Saturday to avoid overtime costs and interrupting city workers’ holiday weekend.
The Jan. 4 public ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. Parker’s partner Kathy Hubbard stood by her side and held the family Bible as U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore administered the oath of office.
In the afternoon, Parker chaired her first city council meeting as mayor.
On Monday evening, a free three-hour concert featuring Jennifer Holliday took place at Discovery Green, a park downtown, in near-freezing weather. Mango Punch, Yvonne Washington, Roy Head and Archie Bell were among the other performers.
Addressing LGBT supporters over the weekend, Parker said, "I am more excited than you can imagine; more proud than you will ever know to be the second woman mayor of Houston, the second city council member to ever become mayor of Houston, the second city controller to become mayor of Houston and the first gay or lesbian mayor of a major American city."
The crowd held its excitement as she began her list but began cheering when she got to the words "the first." With her election, Houston became the largest American city to ever elect an openly gay or lesbian person mayor and the largest city in the world with an openly lesbian mayor. The only larger city in the world with a gay mayor is Berlin. The mayor of Paris is also gay, but that city’s population is slightly smaller than Houston’s. In the U.S., the next largest cities with gay mayors are Providence, R.I., and Portland, Ore.
During the campaign, when asked about attacks against her based on sexual orientation, she said she was focused on the issues of flood control, the tight city budget and neighborhood police protection. And she never promised to lead an effort to amend the city charter to allow partnership benefits for city employees, only saying that at some point that would need to be addressed. However, she never shied away from her identity.
She told her LGBT supporters, "Part of the connection I made with voters, part of the compact I have had with voters over the years, I will always tell them the truth." Part of that truth was always being honest about her sexual orientation and her family. In March, she will celebrate 20 years with Hubbard. Together, they have a foster son and two adopted daughters.
Speaking to the LGBT crowd over the weekend, she said she appreciated receiving a personal phone call from President Barack Obama. She joked that it was embarrassing that she didn’t actually answer the phone, "but I have a really cool voice mail."
"Houstonians weren’t very surprised that a gay woman was elected," Parker said. "We have a tradition of electing mayors not for whom they are but for what they believe we can do as a city. We rise or we fall together, we succeed or we fail together."
In her inaugural address, she made a last-minute addition to the speech directed at the LGBT community.
"Do not fear to dream big dreams," she said. "Bring your whole self to everything you do. Face the whole world with dignity and integrity. I promise you the pain is worth the reward."
Outgoing Mayor Bill White attended the inauguration and then headed to South Texas to begin campaigning full time.
He is running for the Democratic nomination for governor and is traveling the state in advance of the March 2 primary.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 8, 2010.