Houston became the largest American city to elect an openly gay mayor on Saturday night, but don't get too excited: No one was really paying attention, and it's not like they're going to let them start getting married or anything.
Annise Parker, a former city council member and city controller with 12 years of experience as a civil servant and 19 years of experience as a lesbian in a committed relationship with her partner Kathy Hubbard (that's Hubbard and Parker, on the right, in the photo), was elected mayor of Houston on Saturday night in a run-off against a fellow Democrat. It's very good news, but the New York Times explains why you shouldn't get your hopes up too much about America no longer hating gay people or anything like that:
- Parker didn't play up the whole gay thing. "When asked, for instance, if she would advocate for a referendum giving benefits to same-sex partners of city workers, she was quick to say it was not in her plans."
- There were no Republicans in the race, so the lesbian-haters sat out the race. "That there was no credible Republican candidate in the race for the first time in three decades also helped Ms. Parker's bid."
- Her opponent Gene Locke had never won elective office and doesn't sound too sharp. "Mr. Locke, who is black, also ran a flawed campaign. He was late to begin television advertising, a fatal mistake for a little-known candidate."
- Also, he was a lawyer and a lobbyist, which led one political columnist to write, "Here's the bottom line, or maybe the punch line. In Houston, it is now harder for a lawyer to be elected mayor than a lesbian."
- No one really cares who the mayor of Houston is, anyway. "In the end, it turned out that the Houstonians who were paying attention to the election - only about 16 percent of registered voters - did not seem to care deeply about Ms. Parker's sexual orientation...."
So the good news is that even Texas will let gay people become mayors, as long as they don't advocate too strongly for things like treating gay people equally and run against flawed opponents in elections no one pays attention to. That bad news is that the FBI's analysis of hate crime statistics for 2008 is out, and offenses motivated by sexual orientation are up 11% over last year. Crimes motivated by racism against African Americans are up 4%, so Prop. 8 generated almost three times as much violent hatred as the Barack Obama campaign, for those who are counting.