The Fight for Pride Week (Part 4)
Once formed, "The Caucus," as the Houston LGBT Political Caucus became known, quickly organized a series of actions that would see the political power of the LGBT community expand exponentially. By the end of the decade, even straight candidates would seek and welcome its endorsement. One of its first important actions was the protest of pop singer Anita Bryant's appearance in Houston.
Outspoken and violently opposed to homosexuality, Bryant had become a "family values" symbol and mouthpiece, and she was invited to Houston to sing "country and patriotic songs" for the Texas State Bar Association convention in Houston on June 16, 1977. Writer Chris Love describes the raucous 3,000--strong protest by gays as "Houston's Stonewall moment." Hill also marks the Bryant protest as a key moment in Houston LGBT history.
"She really did us a favor by coming out against us. After Anita spoke here, things started coming together like they never had before."
By the time the first Pride Parade took place in 1979 (with vice squad raids on Mary's and other gay establishments occurring the week prior to the parade), the caucus had proved its power by endorsing and helping elect Eleanor Tinsley, the first woman to be elected to an at-large council position. It marked the first time a straight local political candidate publicly accepted the caucus's endorsement.
Tinsley did so against the advice of numerous operatives in her campaign, who warned she would lose votes if she accepted the endorsement. Tinsley responded, "I believe I will gain more votes than I will lose, and it's the right thing to do. I want to be on the forefront of this civil rights movement."
Along with Tinsley, the Caucus was also instrumental in breaking the good-old-boys hold on city government with the election of future mayor Kathy Whitmire as comptroller in 1977 and councilwoman Christin Hartung.
Sue Lovell is another woman who worked tirelessly for LGBT rights through the Caucus during this crucial period. She became part of the organization in the late Seventies when she printed the caucus's newsletters at no cost at her Spring Branch print shop. She was an active participant in the historic election of Tinsley in 1979, and she became a caucus board member in 1980, vice-president in 1982 (the same year she founded AIDS Foundation Houston), and the organization's first female president in 1984. She narrowly lost a race for president of the organization in 1985 to current mayor Annise Parker by a single vote.
Continuing her political activities, Lovell was elected as a member of the Democratic National Committee in 2000. She was subsequently elected to Tinsley's former Houston City Council At-Large Position 2 in 2005, where she served three terms. Lovell has held myriad committee positions on the council and chaired the Historic Preservation subcommittee. Among her accomplishments, she led the effort to initiate the light-rail system.