Houston Is Now Majorly Gay.

Annise Parker

Unless you’re from there, it would probably be easy to write off Houston as a backward, smoggy, sprawling conservative stronghold. And there might be some truth to that.

But  Houston is also a large international hub when you consider the demographics, the institutions and the diversity of industries.

And last night, my hometown made a little history and confirmed its generally progressive lean: Houston became the first major U.S. City to elect an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker.

It’s hard to have an immediate reaction to that development other than, congrats, and let’s what and see what happens from here.

During my weeklong stay in Houston for the Thanksgiving holidays, I had the chance to watch a mayoral debate between Parker and her challenger, Gene Locke. To be frank, I wasn’t really impressed by either of them.

Of course, some of that was colored by the general lack of substantive policy differences between the two, their wooden mannerisms and an awfully boring segment where they traded questions on issues that had little to do with running the city.

Also, it would be hard to inspire much enthusiasm for change given the guy they’ll be replacing in City Hall. Bill White is the truth.

Anyway, there are some things that made this election particularly interesting: Parker’s sexual orientation (even Perez Hilton took notice!); the racial dynamics given that Locke is black and a former civil rights activist; and the general revelation to outsiders that Houston – home of the Bush familyis no typical Southern stronghold.

In some respects, Harris County – which includes virtually all of Houston – does not align perfectly with typical Texas politics. In the 2008 presidential election, it gave Barack Obama 19,000 more votes than Sen. Jon McCain – this in a state where Senator McCain won by 950,000 votes. Moreover, both candidates in Saturday’s nonpartisan election were Democrats.

Since the results were confirmed last night, I’ve heard (and read) a number of accounts claiming Parker’s victory – and the election of two other openly gay city council candidates – will be a substantive development for gay rights and marriage equality.

I’m not so sure; after all Houston voters recently decided against extending benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian members of the city government and, across the country, voters in state after state have dealt crushing blows to the fight for marriage equality.

But I hope this is a step in the right direction.

Asked earlier in the campaign by some particularly bigoted elements, “is this the image Houston wants to portray?,” I’m glad my hometown came up with the right answer.

The gay takeover is underway. And there are some attendant benefits to that.

May the rest of you be so fortunate.


Joel Anderson —blackink —  writes about sports, politics, crime, courts, and other issues far beyond his competence at BuzzFeed. He has worked at media outlets in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Atlanta and contributed to a number of publications, including The Root and The American Prospect, among many others.
  • steve

    I learned alot more about Houston from reading about this campaign then I ever knew before.

    Also, as an aside, I didn’t realize she has three black adopted children.

  • jmundstuk

    And Houston was majorly gay, in a minorly way, in the 1970s, believe it our not, if you stayed in the Montrose area. Yes. It’s true. Houston.

  • Annise Parker’s election is really exciting, but let’s not forget Portland elected Sam Adams back in 2008! Gotta stand up for my hometown 😉

  • J.M.

    Houston, land of Enron and Tom Delay and relentless gerrymandering, nevertheless, remains one of the most segregated cities in the country, with an embarrassingly large and disaffected underclass, in a state–the most backward in the country–that frequently executes retarded–not to mention innocent–people, has the highest number of uninsured residents, and teaches creationism in schools. Houston, an industrial wasteland that is every unscrupulous developers wet dream due to a nonexistent environmental policy and zoning laws, is not, in any meaningful sense, progressive, though I am told there are a few people who, in hushed tones, refer to themselves as liberals there. I haven’t lived in H-Town since the start of the crack era though, so these rumblings about liberals remain unconfirmed. I’m not sure what having a gay mayor will do to change that awful swamp-town, but who knows.

    • blackink12

      I think, if you had lived there sometime within the past decade or so, you might have a change of opinion. Time has a way of changing things.

      Also, could you tell me how much different Houston is – in terms of segregation and a large and disaffected underclass – from other major cities? I wasn’t aware that my “awful swamp town” was particularly special in that way.

      • J.M.

        Frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in Houston in any decade, certainly not the last one (blame Enron). I am amused by the innocence of your question. Liberals have their priorities mixed up.

        • blackink12

          So that means you don’t have an answer. Cute.

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  • Ladyfresh

    and now…for gay marriage…cause NY keeps messing this up
    texas show us the way!