As Space City heads into its next municipal election, a new LGBTQ advocacy group wants to inform citizens about where the candidates stand on the issues.
Pride Forum, a collaboration of queer-led Houston organizations, formed earlier this year to engage local candidates in discussions about how their policy proposals would impact the city’s LGBTQ community. Pride Forum’s inaugural conference, which occurs June 13 at the Council on Recovery, invites City Council District C candidates to answer questions, discuss their history of involvement with the queer community, and outline their plans to address LGBTQ challenges.
“We want to gauge candidates’ support or opposition to policies that matter to the LGBTQ community,” Pride Forum founder Brad Pritchett says. “And for candidates who make pledges [and then] go on to get elected, Pride Forum plans to get these folks on record and hold them accountable.”
A handful of leaders from Houston’s LGBTQ community, including Fran Watson and Emmett Schelling, have helped Pritchett organize Pride Forum. So far, nine of Houston’s LGBTQ groups have committed to joining.
The Faith Leaders Coalition of Houston, Greater Houston LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, Houston GLBT Political Caucus, Lambda NextGen, OutSmart Magazine, Spectrum South, Transform Houston, and the Transgender Education Network of Texas will all help promote future forums, craft questions for candidates, and provide moderators or participants to represent their organizations.
“The reason Pride Forum reached out to other organizations is because we wanted to open up a larger community discussion,” Pritchett says.
Pritchett notes that when singer and right-wing activist Anita Bryant brought her anti-LGBTQ bigotry to Houston in 1977, she inadvertently sparked the city’s modern LGBTQ movement by giving queer Houstonians a reason to become visible and engaged beyond the Montrose gayborhood.
“For the first time, [the general public] saw how many LGBTQ folks there were in Houston,” Pritchett says. “LGBTQ people started to realize that if we banded together and did more activism, we could make Houston a place that was more welcoming to all.”
Unfortunately, the Trump administration has set its sights on robbing LGBTQ people of their right to healthcare, freedom from discrimination, and even the right to serve in the military. The Texas Legislature followed a similar strategy during their last session, where LGBTQ advocates including Pritchett repeatedly testified against bills designed to allow businesses and healthcare providers to discriminate based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Houston’s queer community continues to be at greater risk of suffering from anti-LGBTQ inequality because the city lacks a nondiscrimination ordinance. Pritchett believes that the next municipal election will reveal whether Houston wants a mayor and city council who are pro-LGBTQ, or who share an agenda that correlates with President Trump’s.
Queer people make up approximately 4.1 percent of the total population in Texas, according to the Williams Institute. In Houston, there are nearly 100,000 individuals who identify as LGBTQ. Throughout the years, politicians have learned that the LGBTQ community can be a strong voting bloc whenever they unite for a common cause, Pritchett notes.
“Our votes are powerful,” he says, “especially when we vote together.”
Pride Forum aims to present three events before the November 2019 election. Following the June 16 discussion with City Council District C candidates, Pride Forum plans to host a conference with Houston mayoral candidates and also meet with other local or national candidates, depending on their availability.
Each Pride Forum will be moderated by Houston’s LGBTQ leaders, and community questions will be solicited prior to each event.
This article appears in the June 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.