by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff writer
While the LGBT community cheered the apparent victory of Referendum 71 in Washington and mourned the passage of Question 1 in Maine, electoral results from other parts of the country offered additional cause for celebration.
In Houston, openly Lesbian City Controller Annise Parker ran first in a field of five candidates for mayor. She will face former City Attorney Gene Locke in a runoff election on December 12.
In Detroit, openly Gay TV news anchor Charles Pugh was the top vote-getter for City Council, and will become Council president.
In Kalamazoo, Michigan, voters approved a city anti-discrimination ordinance protecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender residents by a margin of almost two to one.
Parker surprised observers with her strong showing with Houston voters. She had consistently run third in pre-election polling.
She was first elected controller - the second most powerful city official - in 2003, and was reelected in 2005 and 2007. Previously, Parker had served on the Houston City Council since 1997.
While the Houston mayor's office is officially non-partisan, Parker received early endorsement from Annie's List, one of the largest Texas PACs and a financial resource for Democratic women running for elective office in the state. She was also endorsed by the Victory Fund.
Parker shared the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle newspaper with Locke, who will be her opponent in the December runoff.
"The same thing that makes Annise a role model for the LGBT community makes her a role model for people throughout the city. She's looking to do the right thing for all Houstonians," said Parker spokesperson Jerri Brooks.
Parker's opponent, Gene Locke, is African American. He served as Houston City Attorney from 1995 to1998, and is now in private practice. Like Parker, he is a Democrat.
Parker has been with her partner Kathy Hubbard since 1990. They have two children.
Charles Pugh, who will become Detroit City Council president in January, came out in dramatic fashion, announcing his sexuality on air at Fox 2 News in 2004.
Pugh, who is African American, will be the first openly Gay person to hold elected office in Detroit. While not denying the historic nature of his victory, Pugh believes his sexuality was not a major issue in the campaign.
"For those people who thought it would be an issue, they were shortsighted," he said. "They did not see that Detroiters already knew my sexuality and were willing to accept it and say, 'You know what? You're welcome here. We love you. Now let's get to work to fix our collective problems.'"
This was Pugh's first run for public office, and he will be joined by five other new council members out of a nine-member council.
"It sends a message Detroiters have been thirsty and hungry for new leadership for a long time," Pugh told reporters. "Usually you might get one new person, maybe two. But it is hard beating an incumbent. And it is different to have more than half of the city council be new people. I don't know that that's ever happened before."
Pugh was raised by his grandmother after his mother's murder in 1974 when he was 3, and his father's suicide four years later. Despite such devastating tragedy, Pugh went on to graduate from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism on an academic scholarship.
Kalamazoo became the 16th city in Michigan to adopt a Gay rights ordinance that affords protection from discrimination in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.
The new measure added sexual orientation and gender identity to Kalamazoo's list of protected groups, meaning that Gay, Lesbian, Bisexuals and Transgender residents not currently covered by state or federal law would be included in the city statute.
"There's a lot of people who will wake up and breathe easier tomorrow knowing they won't be fired or kicked out of their homes for being Gay, Lesbian or Transgender," said Jon Hoadley, campaign manager for One Kalamazoo, the pro-ordinance campaign committee. "It was astounding the overwhelming support that we had. Kalamazoo said this is what it wants."
The Kalamazoo ordinance passed 7,671 to 4,731.
The road to Tuesday's ballot proposition began nearly two years ago when the local Gay advocacy group Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality presented city officials with draft changes designed to expand an existing, local anti-discrimination statute.
Previously, the city ordinance banned discrimination against all the groups already protected by state and federal legislation.
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