The Agenda

Mayor Annise Parker’s Keynote Address – National Champagne Brunch 2018

Hello Washington, DC!

How are y’all doing? Thank you so much for spending your afternoon with us!

Danica Roem received international attention following her historic victory. She appeared on dozens of cable news shows, was featured on magazine covers. But the most memorable moment for me was her swearing-in ceremony in Richmond.

There, Danica brought to the House floor six transgender kids. They placed their hands on her newly received Virginia Delegate pin, and she told them that this symbol of elected office and her victory belonged to all of them.

The people of District 13 entered the voting booths and chose Danica Roem – a public leader who happens to be transgender – to represent them in the state House. And now, these six trans youth and trans people all across our country know elected office can be in their dreams, in their ambitions, in their futures.

The power of a role model is one of the many reasons Victory Fund invested heavily in Danica’s campaign. We saw her promise and we endorsed early because we knew we provided the credibility that all our candidates need. We provided fundraising support, campaign and field advice, and even boots on the ground. And she won.

That crucial support – which Victory Fund has provided to LGBTQ candidates for more than 27 years – is also what helped elect me, the first openly LGBTQ mayor of a major American city.

And it is our ability to make a difference that has me so proud to be standing before you as the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund.

And wow, what a time to be here.

Danica’s race was exhilarating because she was a historic first — and because we removed “Bigot Bob” Marshall.

And what is so exciting about 2018 is that we have these same opportunities in the candidates we have endorsed all across the country.

We will make history again by electing Nickie Antonio our first out Ohio State Senator and electing Rich Madaleno our first gay governor.

We will win again in underrepresented areas by electing Gina Ortiz Jones the first out person to represent Texas in the U.S. Congress.

And we will again defeat bigots by electing Katie Hill – who is running against Congressional incumbent Steve Knight – an extremist who despite having a gay brother, continues to rally against LGBTQ equality and the so-called “promotion of homosexuality.”

We have more LGBTQ candidates running than ever before this election cycle – and so many are poised to break new ground for our community.

One of those candidates is David Ermold.

Who in this room remembers Kim Davis – the notorious county clerk from Rowan County, Kentucky who refused to recognize the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality?

Most people are fired for not doing their jobs.  Well, believe it or not, Kim Davis is still in elected office. She is the shining star of political groups devoted to the destruction of our community. She even has a new book – unbelievably titled “Under God’s Authority” – and the gist is: “God hates the gays so screw the rule of law.”

The good news?

Kim Davis won’t be in office much longer, because our candidate David Ermold is about to take,, her,, down.

David was denied a marriage license twice by Kim Davis – forcing him into lengthy litigation just to exercise what our Supreme Court determined was a civil right.

Now, David is running against her for Rowan County clerk – and with your help, we will defeat her.

Much like Danica’s victory, a win for David would reverberate well-beyond Rowan County. But he is just one of many candidates with races that can have an outsized impact on our equality this cycle.

We know that when our people win, they will block anti-LGBTQ bills, advance pro-equality legislation and be the voice for our community.

When we are in the halls of power, it humanizes our lives and forces our political opponents to look us in the eye when they attack us.

But our candidates are about more than equality. And they have to be.

During my first two races for city council, whenever the media talked about my race the headline was always “Annise Parker, lesbian candidate” or “homosexual activist runs for council.” I could have given a keynote speech on the intricacies of municipal finance and “gay” would still have been the focus of the headline.

I lost both races.

So before my third attempt, I sat down with the local papers and had them review their coverage of my campaigns. They mentioned my opponent’s professions, but not that I worked for Republican oil man Bob Mosbacher.  They covered the issue agendas of my opponents, but my vision for the city didn’t make the lead paragraphs, not to mention the headlines.

To their credit, editors and reporters acknowledged the problem and the coverage changed. In my third race and subsequent races, voters learned about my policy agenda for Houston — not just that I was a lesbian. The coverage changed, and so did the results. I won my next nine races.

Houstonians voted for me because I was focused on the issues that mattered most to their lives. But, voters also told me that being an out lesbian meant I was more open and trustworthy – if I was honest about being a lesbian, then I would be honest about other things as well.

It is our experiences as LGBTQ people that make our candidates such authentic, values-driven leaders. And in this time of political chaos, we are the ones who will fight for equality, remain focused on solutions, and bring common sense to city councils, state Houses and to Washington, DC.

We are running for office like never before not just because our community needs us, but Because America Needs Us.

We are small in number, but we are natural leaders who can navigate pundits, poll numbers and pressure groups and do what is right for all Americans.

America needs Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, who is leading on climate change.

America needs Governor Kate Brown, who is leading on common-sense gun control.

America needs Senator Tammy Baldwin, who is leading on universal healthcare.

America Needs Us.

Which Means America Needs You.

When Victory Fund started in 1991, our supporters would have filled just one of these tables. Just one!

But throughout the years we grew, building LGBTQ political power along the way. Now instead of just a handful of LGBTQ elected leaders, we have more than 520 across the country.

And it is you – the people in this room – who made it happen.

You are the ones who urged them to run, funded their campaigns, gave that extra dollar when all was on the line, and celebrated their victories.

It’s your support, your contributions that have created historic firsts – electing Tammy Baldwin our first U.S. Senator, Kate Brown our first governor and me the first big city mayor.

2018 is an unprecedented election cycle in unprecedented times. We will endorse more candidates than at any time in our 27-year history. But it is up to you whether we can provide the support to help them win.

You have stepped up before and we need you to step up again, Because America Needs Us… especially right now.

In the White House, we have a president who can’t help but tweet abominations about our trans servicemembers and a vice president who redirected HIV prevention funding for conversion therapy.

In Congress, hateful politicians are introducing legislation that does much more than allow bigoted bakers to deny us a wedding cake. These proposed “religious freedom” laws allow doctors to deny us healthcare, daycares to deny our kids, and restaurants to deny us service.

And in state legislatures, more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced – banning us from adopting and even from using bathrooms.=

This is what we are up against. Our enemies are emboldened – and it is up to us to stop them.

America Needs Us, which means America Needs You.

Now, I need you to do something for me.

I need you to look in front of you on the table.

I need you to grab that pledge card.

It looks just like this.

And I need you to be as generous as you can.

When you support Victory Fund, you ensure religious exemption bills and bathroom bills never come up for debate.

When you support Victory Fund, you give our LGBTQ youth role models like Delegate Danica Roem – and ensure they believe in their full potential.

When you support Victory Fund, you remove bigots from public office and replace them with LGBTQ leaders.

When you support Victory Fund, we win.

While you are writing, let me tell you a story.  In 2015 I traveled to Charlotte, NC to stump for a candidate.  As mayor, I had my HPD security detail with me.  I was to attend an afternoon reception in a private home in the Charlotte “gayborhood”.  I had some time to kill, so my detail and I found a café not far from the home (the Smelly Cat Café).  I purchased a drink and went outside to enjoy the weather and people watch.

I saw a group of about six middle school girls walking down the sidewalk, with a mom hovering a half block behind them.  The girls had cute blonde ponytails and big smiles.  They walked up to me and one said, “Excuse me, but are you gay?”

I sucked in a huge startled breath.  It was something like when I used to scuba dive and saw my first big shark—sucking down half my air tank in one breath.  I was stunned.  I couldn’t speak.

My two officers broke out in hysterical laughter.  I looked at them, sure that they had set me up, but one of them replied, “Girls, it’s your lucky day!  This is the lesbian mayor of Houston!”

The girls said they were in a video documentary contest at their school and asked whether they could tape an interview with me on the changing landscape for LGBTQ people.  I agreed.

We had a lovely chat.  After we finished and they began to pack their camera, I asked them a question.

“Girls, was your plan simply to come to a neighborhood that is identified as “gay” and approach random people to ask that question?”

“Uh huh!”

I got that sick feeling again.  I looked at them in shock.  I couldn’t help it.  I said, as gently as I could, “Please rethink that plan.  There are people you may ask who are not gay and who could get angry and react terribly – even with violence.  There are people you may walk up to who are gay but are sadly still ashamed of it.  They may also react with anger or violence.”

They looked at me in shock and disbelief. They couldn’t imagine that what I said was true.

America needs us–America needs you—because they deserve an America that is a safe and accepting as they believe it to be.  We need to create that America they imagine – and our out LGBTQ candidates are the ones who will make that happen.

Please join us in making this a historic Election Year.

Thank you so much.