Houston became the first major U.S. city to elect an openly gay mayor on Saturday after a hotly contested run-off election that gave gay and lesbian supporters a symbolic victory following defeats over legalizing same-sex marriages in California and Maine.
“The voters of Houston have opened the door to history,” Annise Parker told supporters at a convention center in Houston. “I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office.”
A Democrat who is now the city controller, Parker will face a $130 million budget deficit when her term as mayor begins in early January.
She won the run-off against fellow Democrat Gene Locke, an African-American lawyer and former city attorney, after a four-way primary in November came up inconclusive.
Other big U.S. cities — like Portland, Ore., and Providence, R.I. — have openly gay mayors, but none the size of Houston, the fourth-biggest city in the nation with over 2 million residents. Abroad, Berlin and Paris are among cities with gay mayors.
Houston is a Democratic stronghold, but Republicans have dominated state and national elections since George W. Bush won a gubernatorial contest against Democrat Ann Richards in 1994.
“Most peoples’ understanding of Texas would not be this open and this welcoming,” said Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. “But the people of Houston obviously don’t feel that way.”