Residents Seek Recall of Gay Texas Official, Citing ‘Moral Standards’

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Councilman Cross Coburn was outed when his Grindr photos were sent to Groves City Hall. 

By Lourdes Zavaleta

GROVES — City Councilman Cross Coburn says a petition to recall him that was launched last week is rooted in homophobia.

Residents in the Beaumont suburb launched the petition after Coburn was outed in February when an anonymous mailer sent his nude photos from the gay dating app Grindr to City Hall.

The petitioners have until May 23 to collect 953 signatures, representing 10 percent of Grove’s registered voters, to force a vote on recalling Coburn, 19, who was elected to the City Council in November.

“My team and I have concluded that the petition is about my sexuality,” Coburn told OutSmart on Wednesday, May 9. “A supporter of the petition recently told a news organization that I don’t align with my city’s morals. That screamed homophobia to me.”

Petition supporter Mark McAdams told the Beaumont Enterprise, “I just don’t think that he fits the moral standards … we want and need in the City of Groves. That’s all it has to do with, just the photos that were sent to City Hall.”

Groves resident William L. Howlett announced the petition during a City Council meeting April 30, saying Coburn’s conduct was “unbecoming of a public official, compromising the integrity of his office, and fracturing the trust of the citizens of Groves.”

If the petition is found to be sufficient, Coburn would have five days to resign or face a recall election November 6.

Coburn said he does not plan to resign because has done nothing wrong.

“Had I done something wrong, I would have resigned right there,” Coburn said. “I take responsibility for what I did. However, I was just having a conversation with someone who I thought was my friend.”

Coburn said a recall election would be a waste of time and resources, especially since Groves is still recovering from Tropical Storm Harvey. Instead of dwelling on the petition, he plans to remain focused on serving his constituents.

“I’m going to continue helping the people of Groves,” Coburn says. “I’m concentrated on fixing our roads and cleaning up the debris left by Harvey. I’m want my constituents to know that I’m still here for them.”

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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