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From Proposition 8 to Maine and John Perez to Annise Parker, it's an uneven year for gay politics

December 12, 2009 | 10:16 pm

Houston's new mayor

It's been a topsy-turvy year for gay rights and political empowerment. For those who support gay marriage or gay candidates, every advance seems to be countered by a setback — or the sting of every defeat relieved a bit by a victory.

In May the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, the voter-approved measure that banned gay marriage in the Golden State. And in November, voters in Maine overturned a state law that would have allowed gay marriage there. But on the same day Mainers went to the polls, voters in Kalamazoo -- yes, Kalamazoo, Mich. -- voted to strengthen legal protections for the city’s gay citizens.

John Perez And now, as The Ticket reported earlier tonight, voters in Houston elected Annise Parker as their mayor. Parker, the 53-year-old city controller, becomes the first openly gay mayor of such a large American city. Houston, with 2.2 million residents, is the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Two days earlier, Democrats who control California’s Assembly unanimously picked John A. Perez of Los Angeles to be their speaker. He will be the first openly gay lawmaker to hold the powerful post once held by Antonio Villaraigosa (now L.A. mayor) and the famously quotable Willie Brown.

This month also saw New York lawmakers reject legislation that would have made their state the sixth to allow gay marriage.

But again, as part of the topsy-turvy pattern, the District of Columbia Council this month took a step toward legalizing gay marriage in the nation’s capital. As our colleague Alexander C. Hart in Washington recently reported:

"In order to legalize same-sex marriage, the council must vote again to pass the bill, which is expected to occur Dec. 15. Once it is signed into law by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty as expected, it will be sent to Congress for review. If Congress takes no action to block the law within 30 legislative days, same-sex marriage would become legal."

But even if the measure goes down in defeat, gay rights groups can take heart with the arrival of the new year. A law making same-sex marriage legal in New Hampshire takes effect Jan. 1.

-- Steve Padilla

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Top photo: Parker, right, and her partner, Kathy Hubbard, celebrate on election night. Bottom photo: John A. Perez. Credit: Associated Press.