Mayor Annise Parker

But Houston mayor says she’d be ‘shocked’ if Obama evolves on marriage equality before November

During her opening remarks at the third annual Haas LGBT Journalists convention in Houston this past Friday, openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker said that when President Barack Obama called to congratulate her on her successful mayoral bid in 2009, Parker was in an interview with her phone on silent and let his go to voicemail.

“You would think that the president of the United States would have somebody that could call ahead and say, ‘The President’s gonna call you — answer the damned phone!'” Parker told the crowd of journalists. “But no. But it did make for a nice souvenir for about a week until I accidentally erased it.”

She then went on to take “no-holds-barred” questions from the journalists about reproductive rights, conservative Christians, marrying her partner and whether the Democratic party will support marriage equality in the 2012 election. We snagged her best quotes for you below:

On becoming the first openly lesbian mayor of the fourth-largest U.S. city:

“The response was overwhelming. I was surprised at how mow much media attention I got on the election. I mean, I’ve spent my entire adult life as a lesbian activist. I still consider myself a lesbian activist even though my first priority now is as mayor of Houston. And I no longer am generally a spokesperson for the GLBT community. But I worked all my adult life to help move us forward in the political process and to me it was just, well, it’s just one more milestone on the journey. And it’s not usual that the mayor of Houston’s election gets a front page blurb on the Times of India or worldwide news coverage. To make the Time Magazine ‘Most Influential 100’ in 2010, all I had to do was win an election — I didn’t have to actually do anything in office, I just had to win the election.”

On whether she has ever considered legally marrying her partner outside of Texas:

“Have I thought at all about marrying outside of Texas? Yeah, I’ve thought about it, and personally as much as I want to be married, I find it offensive that I have to leave my state to do it, and I’m waiting until I can do it in Texas. And however long it takes, I’m hoping that I live long enough. I don’t know, we have a constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage. And so you’d have to do something. It’ll probably take a change at the federal level that rolls down to us before we actually have that change. It’s hard to be a prognosticator on this, but the world is changing at lightning speed, and I say I think within the next 10 years, it’s all gonna fall.”

On why the Republican Party has waged a “war on women” by rolling back reproductive rights laws:

“I think that this is a crass political decision on the part of the right. But I also think there are true believers on the right. And I think Rick Santorum is one, and that if you consider his positions in the Senate and over the years, these are not new positions for him. But the way it has been adopted by the Republicans to help fuel the agenda is very deliberate. And I would hope that those on the other side of it storm together to fight it. You know it is interesting that the trans-vaginal sonogram deal in Virginia … that everything blew up around that. You know, we passed one in Texas. So, welcome to Texas.”

On how she works with religiously conservative pastors who might disagree with her sexual orientation on a moral or scriptural level:

“When I was sworn in for my first time as mayor of Houston, the inaugural prayer was offered by Joel Olsteen, who has the largest church in America. Joel Olsteen has said on national TV that he doesn’t think that we [gays] are God’s best. But I worked with Pastor Olsteen on issues of importance to the church. I have worked with him on issues of importance to the city. He doesn’t preach on gay issues … he actually preaches the prosperity gospel. He doesn’t preach hell and damnation as the prosperity gospel, and he was asked a question and he answered it honestly. He didn’t go out and attack everybody. And I understand where he is, and I asked him to offer the inaugural prayer for me as a symbol to our city that with our differences we can work together and he was gracious enough to agree to do that. As I said, I’m a pragmatist. This is about what’s the best in running my city.”

On whether the Democratic Party or President Obama will vocalize support for marriage equality before the November 2012 elections:

“I really don’t think they [the Democrats] win many brownie points by jumping onto this issue among their constituents. I think they fundamentally believe that it’s the right thing to do and wanna move it forward … but I’ve been a Democrat for a very long time and I know how we Democrats get. And we’re gonna get in there and everyone’s gonna get fired up and get passionate. And we’re gonna wanna kill each other over marriage equality. No. We need to go in there and have a really vigorous debate and whichever way it goes we get over it and go get President Obama elected because he’s so much better than the other guy.

“I would be shocked to see [Obama endorse marriage equality before the election], and I would not expect to see it. I know what I’m told as a candidate, and that is you stay on message. You figure out what the American people wanna know about and you stay on that message and you stay on that message until you’re sick of talking about that message and don’t have anything distract you. And so I would expect that his advisers would tell him that he doesn’t need to go down that path. And if he does, more power to him, but I would be surprised.”

On whether the activist pressure to get Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to join Freedom to Marry’s “Mayors for Marriage” campaign has been effective or counterproductive:

“I don’t respond well to pressure… I don’t know Mayor Rawlings well enough to say whether the pressure has been counterproductive or not. Each of us responds to that in a different way. But do I believe he can take the position that the rest of us have taken with no impact on his viability in Dallas? Absolutely. I think that he needs to come on over. … I sympathize with Mayor Rawlings, but I think he’s just wrong on the issue, and I do think that he will eventually come around.”

On her political aspirations after Houston:

“What’s next after Houston? I love local government, I love my city. I could be mayor of Houston for a very long time except we have term limits. I would look for some other way to serve. And I would tell you that I like being CEO, so it would have to be an executive position … and I do not have any plans in place because I believe if you look past the job you have you stop doing the job you have.”

Several journalists at the convening interpreted her final answer to hint at a future bid as Texas governor.