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social sciences

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Parker, Annise (b. 1956)  
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Although Parker is certainly not a single-issue politician, her visibility as an openly lesbian elected official drew world-wide attention after her victory in the run-off.

"It's unprecedented for an election for the mayor of Houston to make the cover of the Times of India," Parker noted to David Taffet of the Dallas Voice. "It was difficult to slog through. It was a distraction at the beginning."

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Nevertheless, the publicity provided opportunities for Parker to serve her city. While on a trade mission to China in 2010, Parker, who had been named in Time magazine's latest list of the "100 most powerful people in the world," was granted a meeting with a Chinese official also included on the roster.

She surmised that he "probably met with her because both were on the list and because of the curiosity factor" about a woman—particularly a lesbian—in a position of political power.

Parker has stated to her constituents, "My number one priority as your mayor is fiscal responsibility." She noted that when she took office the difference between the city's expected expenses and available revenue was some 205 million dollars. Through a variety of measures, including finding ways to reduce expenses and consolidate operations and by selling some surplus land, she has been able to reduce the gap, a difficult task in a severely strained economy.

Although Parker is insistent on her commitment to work for the good of all Houstonians, she is also mindful of the importance of promoting equality for glbtq people and encouraging women to take an active role in politics.

"I really do believe that the fact that I'm wanting to be a role model for the LGBT community, wanting to represent women in public office . . . makes me a better office-holder," she stated to Laura Kiritsy of Ms. magazine, adding that "girls and women need to follow their passions. Getting to serve my city and local government is an absolute passion for me. . . . I figured out what I needed to do in order to win the race to get there. I hope that there are girls and women out there who choose to do the same."

Although Parker stands for all Houstonians, she has shown her support for the glbtq community by amending the city's non-discrimination policy regarding hiring, promotion, and contracting to include persons. In addition, in April 2010 she signed an order allowing transgender people to use the restrooms in public buildings for the gender with which they identify.

Kris Banks, the president of the Houston Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Political Caucus called Parker's actions "essential" because "a non-discrimination provision that protects sexual orientation but doesn't protect gender identity is toothless," adding that "it's quite a thing, having a mayor that really understands these issues."

Parker further affirmed her support for the transgender community by nominating Phyllis Randolph Frye as the first transgender municipal judge in Houston in November 2010. The City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Frye to the bench.

In 2011, Parker ran for re-election. She faced five challengers and received 51 percent of the vote in the primary, thus she was able to avoid a run-off.

In 2013, Parker again faced the voters. This time she garnered 57 percent of the vote, 30 percent more than her closest opponent in the nine-person field.

Since Houston has a law limiting mayors to three two-year terms Parker cannot run again when her term expires in 2015.

In comments to Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times, political science Professor Mark Jones of Rice University commented that despite her gay activism Parker has been able to forge a working relationship with both liberals and conservatives in the city. He said, "The mayor has an image as a technocrat, a policy wonk, not an in-your-face left-wing activist. She's not someone who really alienates conservatives. . . . She's first and foremost a mayor who focuses on policy. Her life is one that people in Houston can really identify with. . . . Unless they can't get past her sexual orientation, there are a substantial number of Republicans who are happy with her, or at least won't go out and vote against her."

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