Kristen M. Capps: The Conscience of the Community
‘Now that she is not here, it is up to us to do a little better’
By Kim Hogstrom
On the morning of Friday, May 19, the Houston LGBTQ community lost one of its dearest and most dedicated advocates, with the sudden passing of Kristen Michele Capps.
Capps, who’ll be remembered for her compassion, intelligence and vitality, died from a heart attack in her home at 49.
Born in Houston, Capps was a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston Law Center. Her law degree served as a valuable complement to her indefatigable passion for civic activism in the pursuit of human rights.
“Kristen loved generously, worked for great causes, and fought fairly on behalf of those who are most vulnerable among us,” said Capps’ longtime partner, University of Houston professor Maria Gonzalez. “She may have had a short time on this planet, but Kristen lived it to the fullest.”
Gonzalez, a former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, added that Capps “represented the highest of ethical standards” and “lived a life that was fully honest.”
“She challenged many of us to do better and did it with a love that was absolutely sincere,” Gonzalez said. “Now that she is not here, it is up to us to do a little better: to give a little more, and love a little deeper. That is all she wanted from all of us.”
Capps, who identified as bisexual, was the mother of four children. She won many friends while performing the often thankless work required to advance the interests of groups including the GLBT Political Caucus, the Texas Democratic Party, and the American Association of University Women.
“I’m deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Kristen,“ Houston Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen told OutSmart. “I’ve known her for many years and have appreciated her strong advocacy for LGBTQ rights and human rights in general. Kristen was a force of nature and her passing is a loss for all Houstonians.”
Jack Valinski, director of operations for the GLBT Political Caucus, worked side-by-side with Capps for more than 10 years.
“Kristen was the conscience of the Caucus,” Valinski said, adding that Capps was “tireless in the quest for equality” and “always did the right thing.”
“She was a person of principles,” Valinski said. “She also took on the sort of work no one else likes, the things that aren’t sexy such as writing by-laws. She was not flashy or attention-seeking, choosing instead to maintain a low-profile, but she had tremendous impact in every effort she undertook. Kristen is irreplaceable and will be missed.”
On the day of Capps’ death, the Texas House adjourned for one hour in her memory. Representative Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, introduced the motion on the floor, and it was approved unanimously.
“The passing of Kristen Capps has devastated many in the Houston area,” Farrar said later. “Kristen was a persistent voice for the equality of women, the GLBTQ community, and people of color. Many don’t know, but she was also passionate about promoting the compassionate treatment of animals.
“In fact, Kristen’s comforting words and acts were a salve to anyone in need,” Farrar added. “These are the concerns that defined her life, which revolved around service. Her memory will act as inspiration for others to follow in the pursuit of equality and justice.”
A memorial service honoring Capps is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 1, in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center at the University of Houston. All are welcome.