What happens when you get 36 LGBT bloggers, writers, journalists and editors together in one hotel in Houston for a weekend? They tweet the mayor’s remarks before her opening sentence is finished. They broadcast photos of the speakers even before the mics were pinned to their lapels. In this town of cowboys, you’d be hard pressed to find a group of sharp shooters faster on the draw than were the attendees at the third annual Haas Jr. Fund LGBT Writers Convening, March 23-24.
Given the many millions of readers who rely on the 36 attendees for their LGBT news, opinions, activism and entertainment, the Haas Jr. Fund makes a wise annual investment in this gathering and attracts high level guest presenters.
At the opening dinner, Annise Parker, the lesbian mayor of Houston, spoke to the group about her career in politics and her personal future plans. She was recently re-elected to a second term as mayor. She spoke of being attacked by a local pastor and other detractors for referring to her long time partner as Houston’s “first lady.”
She said, “They try very hard to be polite, but they also say I am going to hell, in a very polite way.”
Mayor Parker answered questions about marriage equality. Delineating the work at hand on the municipal, state and federal levels, she said, “Marriage is something we can’t fix in our cities. Marriage is something that has to happen at the federal level…While I want very much to marry the person who shared my life for so many years, I have alternatives because I have a certain level of economic security. Marriage is great, but if you don’t have the ability to earn a living wage and to support yourself and your spouse, then we haven’t given you very much.”
In response to questions geared to elicit some disclosure of interest in running for higher office, Mayor Parker said that while she has enjoyed her years as an elected official, she hopes that her next job will be as a CEO of some sort.
On the subject of marriage equality, the group became testy early in the weekend. Many resented the apparent commandeering of the agenda by this one issue, and pains were taken to keep it from consuming the discussion. On the other hand, a relentless parsing of President Obama’s performance for the LGBT community did not seem to disturb anyone in the room.
Presenter Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans was facing a tough crowd. His co-presenter was Jerame Davis, Executive Director of the National Stonewall Democrats. Aware of the room’s general feeling of distrust for the proposition that anyone could be both gay and Republican, Cooper invoked the principle that the 20 percent of a man that is your enemy does not overcome the 80 percent that is your friend. The attendees, on their best behavior, largely treated disagreeable words and positions with silence. This was not reserved exclusively for Republican presenters. Steve Walker, deputy political director of the Democratic National Committee, stayed so carefully on message that his words also received the silent treatment.
Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation, MALDEF, spoke about minority voter disenfranchisement through redistricting and voter suppression tactics, a subject of particular concern to the LGBT community of South Florida where redistricting is often an injurious distortion.
The most entertaining speaker of the weekend was Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center For Transgender Equality. She got a big laugh when she said, “We have not trans-jacked the gay rights movement. I’d like to. I think it could use it.”
Vist http://www.haasjr.org/programs-and-initiatives/gays-and-lesbians for more information about the work of the Haas Jr. Fund for the LGBT community.
Watch a video of Mayor Parker’s words: http://bit.ly/HFpTgp