|Mayor of Houston|
|2010 - Present|
|Years in position||5|
|Elections and appointments|
|Last election||November 5, 2013|
|First elected||December 12, 2009|
|Next general||November 5, 2015|
|Term limits||3 terms (6 years)|
|2004 - 2010|
|Houston City Council|
|1998 - 2004|
|Date of birth||May 17, 1956|
|Place of birth||Houston, Texas|
Before becoming mayor, Parker served as Houston's City Controller from 2004 to 2010 and was a member of the Houston City Council from 1998 to 2004.
Below is an abbreviated outline of Parker's political career:
- 2010-Present: Mayor of Houston
- 2004-2010: Houston City Controller
- 1998-2004: Houston City Council Member
In October 2014, Parker called for reforms to existing drug policy and laws in the United States, saying, "We have seen over and over again that outright prohibition doesn’t work. We saw that in the 20’s when the prohibition in this country fueled the rise of organized crime. At the same time we don’t want in any way to send a message that illegal drugs are approved or appropriate but we need to figure out a way to go to managing these drugs rather than simply saying, ‘Don’t do it’ or ‘We are going to treat all illegal drugs the same." Parker then went on to elaborate on these comments by stating, "What you see again in America is beginning to have an adult conversation in many places about marijuana and once that works its way through the justice system across America, through our state legislatures and I think that ... well, it’s not going to happen quickly ... I think, too, that public opinion is going to shift on marijuana and then it will be decriminalized in most states. There are still lots and lots of drugs out there that…Kush, for example, is one where if you are considering pot you are not likely to go out and disturb other people. The first time you indulge in “potpourri” or Kush or so-called synthetic marijuana you could very well go out in a psychotic state and injure yourself or others and you have to make a distinction between different types of drugs and the impact they have on people."
Parker was re-elected as Mayor of Houston on November 5, 2013.
In May 2014, the city of Houston, with Mayor Parker’s backing, passed an ordinance in an eleven-to-six vote known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender "in city employment, city services, city contracting practices, housing, public accommodations, and private employment." The ordinance exempted religious institutions and organizations from compliance. Violators could face a maximum fine of up to $5000.00.
Shortly thereafter, opponents of HERO drafted a petition and began gathering signatures to add a ballot measure to the November 2014 ballot to repeal the ordinance. While city law requires 17,296 signatures from registered Houston voters for a measure to make it onto the ballot, opponents of HERO presented approximately 50,000 signatures to the Houston City Secretary’s Office in early July. The City Attorney’s Office, however, ruled many of the signatures invalid and dismissed the petition. In reaction, the groups pushing for the repeal filed suit against the city.
Attorneys representing the city of Houston responded to the lawsuit by issuing subpoenas for the sermons of five local pastors, who are not party to the lawsuit against the city but were involved with gathering signatures for the repeal measure. The subpoenas requested, amongst other things, "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity."
The subpoenas attracted national attention. Several public figures and media outlets called them attacks on religious liberty. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, said, "the City of Houston’s subpoenas demanding that pastors provide the government with copies of their sermons is both shocking and shameful. For far too long, the federal government has led an assault against religious liberty, and now, sadly, my hometown of Houston is joining the fight. This is wrong. It’s unbefitting of Texans, and it’s un-American." In a similar vein, Breitbart.com covered the story with the headline: "Religious Liberty under attack as City of Houston subpoenas Church Summons."
Houston City Attorney David Feldman, on the other hand, defended the subpoenas, saying, "We’re certainly entitled to inquire about the communications that took place in the churches regarding the ordinance and the petitions because that’s where they chose to do it. It’s relevant to know what representations and instructions were given regarding these petitions." Carlos Maza of MediaMatters.org echoed Feldman, saying, "claims that religious liberty should keep the pastors' public addresses secret ignores the fact that subpoenas of parties relevant to a lawsuit are a typical part of the legal discovery process."
Initially, Mayor Parker, too, argued that the subpoenas were fully justified. In a tweet from October 15, 2014, she said, "If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?" But two days later, she called the original language of the subpoenas "broad" and noted, "We don't need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners. We don't want their sermons, we want the instructions on the petition process. That's always what we wanted and, again, they knew that's what we wanted because that's the subject of the lawsuit."
In mid-October, at Parker’s urging, the city narrowed the language and scope of the subpoenas by removing the word "sermons" and requesting documents and/or materials relevant to the gathering of signatures only. This was followed by Parker's decision to drop the subpoenas entirely on October 29, 2014.
The lawsuit went to trial on January, 19 2015.
Feldman announced on December 19, 2014, his plans to resign from his position as Houston City Attorney shortly before the trial began. He said that the primary reason for his resignation was a desire to return to private practice. He also noted, however, that his decision to resign was related to the lawsuit as well, saying, "Being on the outside, I'm going to be a lot freer to tell the story and to explain it to people and to debunk the myth. There's also the question of the process that was followed. These guys are saying we somehow interfered and didn't have the right do it. I need to explain what it means to be city attorney and the ethical obligation I have to the city to make sure the ordinance is enforced." As reported by the Houston Chronicle, Feldman noted, too, that if he testified in the trial as the City Attorney, it would prohibit other attorneys from the city's legal department from serving as counsel for the city.
On February 13, 2015, a jury issued a verdict saying that while the petitions did not contain instances of fraud, they did contain forgeries and instances of failure to follow proper procedure. District Judge Robert Schaffer then initiated a recounting process through which he will decide whether or not opponents of HERO gathered enough valid signatures to satisfy the 17,296 threshold.
Following the verdict, both sides claimed victory. A definitive answer, however, will not emerge until Judge Schaffer's ruling. As of March 27, 2015, petitioners were still 3,000 signatures short, but 8,500 were still pending review for authenticity.
Parker is married to Kathy Hubbard with whom she has three daughters and a son.
This section displays the most recent stories in a google news search for the term "Annise + Parker + Houston"
- All stories may not be relevant due to the nature of the search engine.
- City of Houston, "Office of the Mayor: About," accessed on August 5, 2014.
- Rice University: News, "Rice Alumna Annise Parker elected Houston Mayor," December 13, 2009
- Chron, "Annise Parker: Time to rethink drug laws," October 14, 2014
- Harris County Elections, "Cumulative Report - General Election - November 5, 2013"
- The Houston Chronicle, "Council passes equal right ordinance," May 28, 2014
- City of Houston, "Equal Rights Ordinance," accessed on December 11, 2014
- Houston Chronicle, "Equal rights law opponents deliver signatures seeking repeal," July 3, 2014
- Vox, "Houston Mayor scales back controversial subpoena of local pastors’ sermons," October 16, 2014
- Washington Post, "Houston subpoenas pastors’ sermons in gay rights ordinance case," October 15, 2014
- Alliance Defending Freedom Media, "Woodfill Subpoena Request 2014-44974," accessed on December 11, 2014
- CBS Houston, "Cruz: 'Government has no Business asking Pastors to turn over Sermons," October 16, 2014
- Breitbart.com, "Religious Liberty under attack as City of Houston subpoenas Church Summons," October 15, 2014
- Media Matters, "No, The City Of Houston Isn't Bullying Anti-Gay Pastors - This Is Basic Lawyering," October 16, 2014
- NPR, "Houston Narrows The Scope Of Controversial Subpoena Of Pastors' Sermons," October 17, 2014
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- Houston Chronicle, "Mayor Parker revises, narrows sermon subpoena request," October 17, 2014
- Houston Chronicle, "Mayor's decision to drop subpoenas fails to quell criticism," October 29, 2014
- Houston Chronicle, "City attorney cites equal rights ordinance in decision to resign," December 19, 2014
- Houston Chronicle, "After mixed verdict, city confident judge in ERO suit will rule in its favor," February 13, 2015
- Houston Press, "Judge: Anti-HERO Signatures Shy of Referendum, But There Are Still More to Count," March 27, 2015
- World Mayor Project, "Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, Canada awarded the 2014 World Mayor Prize," February 3, 2015
- Houston Business Journal, "Houston's Annise Parker in the running for World's Best Mayor," September 25, 2014
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