2006 is our year for equality in Houston. That’s why the Houston GLBT Political Caucus has started a blog to write about our progress.
Maybe you’ve never heard of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Let me tell you about who we are and what our work is. We’re the oldest GLBT political organization in the south, and for the past three decades, our members have worked to elect candidates to public office who support equal rights.
Every election year, the caucus interviews candidates in small, intimate screening panels to ask them about issues affecting our community. And believe me, we’re a tough audience to please. We’re not happy with vague pronouncements from people asking for our votes that tip-toe around our issues. We ask them straight up, “Do you support our right to raise children and have a family like anyone else? Do you believe that students should be free from harassment in public schools just because they’re gay? Do you support our right to marry?” Screening candidates is an ultimately democratic process for us; become a member, and you have the opportunity to ask a candidate every sort of question, for every sort of office, from a member of a school board, to a member of Congress.
After we screen the candidates, they have an opportunity to give their stump speech to the members as a whole and tell us why they deserve our support. Then they’re ushered out into the hallway, the doors are shut, the floor is opened and we debate whom to support. Policy and politics are the buzz of the room; we argue, we implore, we talk about everything from the political minutia of public opinion polls and political realities, to our highest ideals of democratic government and what equality means in Texas and in America today. It’s always messy and loud and raucous, but every free exchange of ideas we have at our endorsement meetings makes me proud to be president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Our members care so much because they how know not only how high the stakes for their relationships, for their families, and their lives as citizens, but how important the political process is to ensuring their rights in Houston.
Once we’ve endorsed a candidate, we go to work for them. We knock on doors and dial up homes to let voters know which candidates are best at supporting the GLBT community. Since 1975 we’ve been sending out small, black-and-white endorsement post cards to voters to let them know who deserves their support on Election Day. The card is simple, it’s short, and you can carry it into the voting booth with you. You’ve probably received one or two over the past few years.
We do our work not because we like politics, although I do. We do our work because we know the political process is integral to improving our government and the quality of the lives we lead. We do our work so no loving couple need be denied all the benefits and legal rights that come with being married, so no hardworking transgendered person has to worry about getting fired because her boss doesn’t want someone to want “someone like that” working for him, and so no kid in Conroe has to deal with the sting of cruel taunts as he rides home from middle school on the bus. But most importantly, so no politician can go on television and wrap himself in “the sanctity of marriage” or “not wanting to give people special rights” or “family values” and get away with it.
Unfortunately there are more than a few of those politicians in office in Houston right now who would rather stir up fear than support equality. Pick up any newspaper recently while the US Senate was debating whether to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, or last year when Texas was debating it’s own marriage amendment, and you might feel a little hopeless.
But you shouldn’t be discouraged, because the best thing about working with the caucus is we can beat these people. We’ve done it in the past year.
• In the fall 2005 election, ten out of thirteen of our endorsed candidates won their races, by margins as small as the number of voters we told to vote for them, including City Councilmember Sue Lovell, the second openly gay member of council.
• State Representative Garnet Coleman, who has screened with the caucus for over a decade and is one of equality’s strongest allies in the state legislature, crushed two challengers this past March who ran campaigns more or less on a “gays-are-evil” platform. He did it with our help.
• With substantial help from the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in this year’s primaries (1,714 pieces of direct mail to voters in District 146), Borris Miles defeated State Representative Al Edwards, who in office had done everything from vote to take children away from GLBT foster parents to call homosexuality “a social ill."
• And this year, just four months from now, we’re poised to defeat State Representative Martha Wong, who oddly represents “gayborhood” Montrose yet has consistently voted against GLBT people or refused to stand up for equality when her vote was needed.
The wind’s at our back this year, but there’s still so much for us to do. I know I’m looking forward to all the work ahead of us, but we can’t do it without your support. That’s why I’m asking you to become a member of the caucus. Those on the radical right are well organized and well funded, and unfortunately their work has paid off at the ballot box. Now’s the time for us to invest the resources we need to spend, here, on the ground in Houston to elect good candidates and defeat bad ones. I’ve been amazed by what we’ve done so far, and we need your help to do so much more.
Hopefully, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus' role in the blogosphere will be to cover what candidates are telling us, why they deserve your support, as well as follow Houston's political scene as it relates to GLBT issues and equal rights. There should be coverage of national GLBT issues as well.
Equality’s a great goal, and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is whole-heartedly dedicated to using the political process to achieve it. I hope you’ll join the caucus and keep reading our blog, and I look forward to meeting you at our next meeting.
- Jenifer Pool
President, Houston GLBT Political Caucus