Houston, Texas made history on Saturday by electing city comptroller Annise Parker to be mayor. Parker ran on the always-popular crime reduction platform, and was a solid, above-the-mudslinging-fray campaigner. But that’s not why she made history. What the victory signified was that Houston had elected a lesbian to be the the face of city politics, making it the largest city in America to hand a mayoral victory to an openly gay or lesbian politician. Cities such as Providence, Rhode Island and Portland, Oregon have already taken that step, but Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, with a population of 2.2 million people. And it is located in a state that is generally a solid Republican voting block, one that had an anti-sodomy law on the books until the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in 2003.
So it did come as a bit of a surprise to me that this city elected Parker. Then I stopped and thought, and realized that the supposedly liberal state of California repealed gay marriage, and my home state of New York, full of godless sodomites in the minds of some, just shot down a gay marriage amendment earlier this month. Iowa has gay marriage; New York does not. Iowa also gave Obama his first victory of the primary season almost two years ago. So what Parker’s victory signifies to me, more than anything else, is that the us vs. them mentality that this country has regarding gay rights — on both sides of the debate — is gradually losing whatever substantive arguments it once had. This is not to say that I’m expecting Texas to suddenly grant full, unfettered civil rights to the LGBTQ community by the end of next year, but Parker’s victory gives me hope that the march of progress can take root in any part of the country.