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On Saturday, Houston Controller Annise Parker soundly defeated attorney Gene Locke in that city's mayoral election in a campaign that centered on the budget, public safety and other perennial issues of municipal governance. As far as Houstonians are concerned, the election marked a milestone in that Ms. Parker managed to defeat the candidate favored by the business establishment. Now she's at work finding ways to solidify city finances and looking for a new police chief.
You may have heard about this election for another reason: Ms. Parker is gay. Much is being made of that now, of the odd juxtaposition of the election of an openly gay candidate in a city that has rejected giving benefits to the same-sex partners of city workers, in a state that has outlawed gay marriage, at a time when gay rights measures appear to be falling left and right in liberal states like Maine, New York and New Jersey.
Ms. Parker's election probably doesn't mean that Texas is about to change its ways as far as gay rights go anytime soon. Voters interviewed by the Houston Chronicle said it was her experience that put her over the top and that sexual orientation had nothing to do with it. Voter turnout was extremely low in the race -- under 20 percent -- a sign that people didn't really care whether their mayor was gay.
In the end, that may be a more important development than any of the recent high-profile defeats for gay marriage at the ballot box and in state legislatures. People may get riled up about the hot-button political issues like gay marriage, but the more their actual experience with gay people is humdrum, the harder that kind of passionate opposition is going to be to maintain. Houston voters decided that having a gay mayor is no big deal; perhaps one day they -- and the rest of the nation -- will think the same about gay marriage.