Wednesday, December 9, 2009

An Interview With Annise Parker, Candidate for Houston Mayor

The BILERICO Project
December 8, 2009
Adam Bink posts an interview he conducted with Annise Parker, the openly lesbian Houston mayoral candidate. When asked her opinion on recent setbacks in LGBT equality ballot measures and legislation, Parker said, "We just have to keep chipping away, coming out, being visible, integrating our concerns into the issues of our society at all levels, and we're going to get there." An excerpt from the interview:

Adam: I’m interested to know what you think of the recent losses on marriage equality in California, Maine, and yesterday in New York State. There’s a lot of discouragement and debate about where to go from here.

Annise: It’s frustrating. I’ve been an out, gay activist since the 70s. I helped found the gay student organization at my university. I was, for a decade in the 80s, arguably the most visible lesbian activist in Houston for a very long time. Texas lost marriage a few years ago. I really take the long view. We lose battles, but we’re winning the hearts and minds of this war. And we just have to keep chipping away, coming out, being visible, integrating our concerns into the issues of our society at all levels, and we’re going to get there.

Adam: There has been a lot of discussion about shifting strategy and resources from marriage equality to domestic partnership benefits. While I know Houston is “a blue island in a sea of red”, I’m curious what you think of that coming from a more conservative state.

Annise: Because I have been doing this kind of work for more than 30 years, and I do tend to take the longview, but I’ve also been in a lot of negotiations, and you don’t start a negotiation from your bottom line. You start from where you’d like to be, and you settle for your bottom line. Full marriage equality is where we want to be. But we have to be pragmatic as we move forward, and I would remind folks, when I started in public office, we were only talking about domestic partner benefits. When we shifted to marriage, domestic partnership started popping up lots of places, and people would say, “please leave marriage alone! You can have domestic partnership benefits!” Marriage is a cultural institution that provokes a visceral reaction. Domestic partnership benefits is something you can have a discussion with folks on its merits. Soon as you talk about marriage, you tap into collective, subconscious issues for a lot of us. You don’t abandon marriage, but you take the pragmatic course when there’s an opportunity to advance.
The Houston election is on Saturday. You can contribute here. If you are in the area or know folks who are, they also need help getting out the vote. You can also join the campaign on Facebook to stay up to date in the final stretch. [Link]

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