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Houston voters elect openly gay mayor Annise Parker

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Houston Mayor-elect Annise Parker, center, celebrates with her partner Kathy Hubbard, left, Parker’s runoff election victory at a campaign party on Saturday. David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Looks like Portland has lost its ability to boast the largest city with a gay mayor. In a fairly conservative Houston, Texas city controller and openly lesbian Annise Parker was elected Mayor this Saturday night.

Though this news has a lot to do with a fellow Democratic competitor, it is still quite exciting and surprising. Parker also seems to have a sense of humor about it, bragging that she was the first graduate of Rice University to be elected mayor (and indeed she is) before continuing on to serious topics in her acceptance speech.

“Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the door to history,” she said, standing by her partner of 19 years, Kathy Hubbard, and their three adopted children. “I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office.”

Although Parker has been an advocate for gay rights since the 80s her campaign did not focus largely on these issues. She and her opponent, Gene Locke, had fairly similar platforms but, unfortunately, mud-slinging, race and sexuality took over in some of the final days of the race. That, combined with a gray rainy day (only about 16 percent of registered voters going to the polls) could account for Parker’s win in a state  where voters outlawed gay marriage and a city where a referendum on granting benefits to same-sex partners of city employees was soundly defeated.

Other cities/towns that have chosen gay mayors, such as Providence, RI and Cambridge, MA, have a much more liberal reputation. But whatever circumstances brought Parker into office, she is there now. And the community is grateful.

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