Saturday Night Special: Houston's Great Gay Moment

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ever since last year's presidential election, Dem-dissing and Obama-bashing have become fashionable pastimes in many LGBT circles. And why not? Charged with rescuing an entire political landscape in barely a year, the current administration makes an easy target for decades of wrath -- while ignoring the real challenges (and opportunities) now at the LGBT doorstep.
Many of the most crucial challenges are literally upon us right now -- a trio of hard-fought elections coming to a close this weekend down in Texas. At stake are the fates of three out Gay and Lesbian candidates in Houston -- Annise Parker for mayor and Sue Lovell and Lane Lewis for the City Council. All three candidates face run-offs on Saturday (Dec. 12) and are now enduring heavy battering from right-wingers and religious types -- churlishly exploiting sexual identity as a hot-button campaign issue that's all hot air.

It would be easy to assume the Houston outcomes will have little impact beyond Texas -- especially for Gay folks still stung from November's Maine defeat and the recent same-sex marriage setback in New York State. Yet while politics may be initially local, when it comes to LGBTs, every advancement has national implications.

Indeed, during this year's election cycle, 52 out LGBT candidates have won races nationwide, according to the Victory Fund, a Washington, DC-based non-profit that promotes out LGBT candidates. From the mayor's office in Chapel Hill, NC to city councils in Detroit, Atlanta, Akron, OH and St. Petersburg, FL, to the monumental triumph of Simone Bell in the Georgia State Legislature, 2010 has actually been a year of historic GLBT political triumphs as well as defeats.

Along with candidates from traditionally conservative regions, these triumphs also featured a record -- and welcome -- number of Lesbian and minority candidates. These include Georgia's Bell, a Black Lesbian, and Evan Low, the new 26 year-old mayor of Campbell, CA, who is Asian-American. It's the kind of diversity long-promised -- yet woefully lacking -- within the larger, self-appointed leadership of the LGBT bourgeoisie.

Regardless of their their race or gender, openly Gay/Lesbian elected officials are perhaps the most potent political forces within Gay America. "For them, LGBT issues are personal -- these politicians are indefatigable when pursuing community causes," says Victory Fund Vice President Denis Dison. "Our straight supporters are essential," he adds, "but they can easily move on to other issues."

Which leads us back to Texas. Although the elections of Lovell, Lewis and Parker may not undo DOMA or DODT, they would be irrefutable messages of support for the progressivism and liberalism needed for their eventual dismantling. Moreover, an out Lesbian mayor and pair of out Gay council members would ensure that local LGBT issues are accorded the seriousness required to not only promote their passage -- but serve as models for similar initiatives nationwide.

Houston's city charter, for instance, prohibits City Hall from extending benefits to the domestic partners of LGBT employees. Using terms like "gay take-over", Right Wing opponents have turned the benefits question into a key campaign issue. Mindful of the need to actually get herself elected, Parker has yet to officially declare her intent to over-turn this ban. But she has made it clear that same-sex benefits must be introduced "at some point". And I, for one, am certain that under a Parker administration they will.

Many in the myopic LGBT mainstream have called for a boycott of the Democratic party and Obama administration -- a financial "time out" as they regroup their forces. While this closing of the "GayTM" may be intended for the White House, its most immediate casualties are smaller-scale candidates such as Parker, Lovell and Lewis.

This is misguided.

Candidates like the Houston Three need national LGBT support -- and they need it NOW! And even if that support cannot come as cash, they need Gay-folk nationwide to make these elections their key conversation across the community.

The discourse of defeat now flowing through America's mainstream LGBT leadership certainly makes for bombastic blog-posts. But it does little to create real change in the lives of the regular, every-day GLBT masses far removed from the corridors of coastal Gay power. These are the kinds of people who need cities like Houston to recognize their civil unions -- along with leaders like Parker to codify them into law.

On-going White House inaction does warrant a careful reconsideration of how and where LGBT dollars are donated. But it's essential this process be handled with intelligence and respect for impact. We're well aware the loss of same-sex marriage in Maine did nothing to boost the rights of LGBT Pine Staters. But neither did the $6 million spent on the election -- a monumental sum in a poor state whose largest LGBT services organization has mere $40,000 to distribute Maine-wide.

The current political climate demands LGBT Americans stand up, speak out and be heard. Yet, it's crucial that LGBTs fully respect and consider their true cultural street-cred. With 450 out elected officials now in office, Gay America has fought hard to become a potent, powerful community and must reject the victim-hood now being hoisted upon it by LGBT Inc. Along the way, let's trade the Dem-dissing and Obama-bashing for an actual Gay-improvement action plan.

Action number one: Get the Houston Three elected!

"Gay political issues are fought hardest by Gay politicians," says the Victory Fund's Dison. "At the core of every battle and success is an openly Gay elected official pushing, lobbying and working to get laws passed."