Houston voters made history in December, electing the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city. Annise Parker, 53, takes the oath of office on Jan. 1 to lead the nation's fourth largest metropolis, with some 2.2 million residents. Currently Houston's city controller, Parker has been open about her sexuality throughout her political career and has three adopted children with her longtime partner, Kathy Hubbard. "Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the doors to history," the Democrat said after winning the city's Dec. 12 runoff election. "But now, from this moment, let us join as one community."
Born May 17, 1956, in the Spring Branch community of Houston. Her mother was a bookkeeper, and her father worked for the Red Cross. His job took the family to the U.S. Army base in Manheim, Germany, for two years, beginning when Parker was 15.
Attended Rice University on a National Merit Scholarship, graduating in 1978 with a degree in anthropology and sociology.
Worked for 20 years in the oil and gas industry, most of it at Mosbacher Energy, where she was a software analyst. Also co-owned a bookstore and an income tax company.
Won a seat on the Houston City Council in 1997 on her third try, becoming Houston's first openly gay elected official. Won her bid to be city controller the No. 2 elected position in 2003, and ran unopposed for re-election in 2005 and 2007.
Her sexual orientation did not emerge as a campaign issue before the Nov. 3 mayoral election among four candidates. But it did prompt attacks before the runoff against Gene Locke, a former city attorney. A group of African-American pastors criticized her supposed "gay agenda," and a conservative activist distributed flyers featuring her and her partner and asking, "Is this the image Houston wants to portray?" But the attacks did not find traction; a Houston Chronicle/Zogby poll found that Parker's sexuality mattered to just 18% of likely voters.
Campaigned on her experience and financial acumen, declining to stress her pioneering candidacy. After her election, she joked that she was "very proud to have been elected the first ... graduate of Rice University to be mayor of Houston."
"Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the doors to history ... I know what this win means to many of us who thought we could never achieve high office. I know what it means. I understand, because I feel it too. But now, from this moment, let us join as one community."
Addressing supporters on election night (Houston Chronicle, Dec. 13, 2009)
"I realize that I'm a role model, but I've been a role model for my community for 30 years. It's part of who I am, and I believe it makes me a better representative for the city of Houston."
At a press conference the day after her win (Associated Press, Dec. 13, 2009)
"In both her public and personal life, Parker has maintained high ethical standards and decorum in her years as an elected official. No scandals have occurred on her watch. As mayor she will present the city's best face to the world, one of tolerance, diversity and compassion for all our citizens."
An endorsement from the Houston Chronicle (Nov. 22, 2009)
"[Parker's sexuality] was a factor, but not enough of a factor to stop her. We are talking about a candidate who has been in public life for 12 years. Everyone knows her. You had an entire race where no one ever questioned whether she was good at her job."
Jay Aiyer, a chief of staff to former Mayor Lee Brown (New York Times, Dec. 13, 2009)
"For Houston, it means we have finally reached the point where being gay cannot be used as a wedge issue to divide the community and prevent us from reaching our aspirations. Annise Parker is not our mayor she is the city's mayor."
Ray Hill, a prominent gay-rights activist (Houston Chronicle, Dec. 13, 2009)
"In Houston, it is now harder for a lawyer to be elected mayor than a lesbian."
Rick Casey, political columnist (Houston Chronicle, Dec. 13, 2009)