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The head of the LGBTQ Victory Institute took the media to task Friday amid a flurry of media reports Pete Buttigieg isn’t faring well in the South because black voters are reluctant to support a gay presidential candidate.
Annise Parker, CEO of the Victory Institute, made the remarks in her “State of Victory” speech at the annual LGBTQ International Leaders Conference, which the organization hosted this year in D.C. at the JW Marriott Hotel.
Parker, who before serving as Houston’s first lesbian mayor was an LGBTQ activist in the 1970s, said the media reports echoed earlier whisper campaigns against openly gay and lesbian candidates decades ago.
“But what was once whispers are now New York Times stories, and Washington Post columns,” Parker said. “Right now, some pundits and opposition candidates are pushing the lie that black voters will not a for an LGBTQ candidates. It is wrong.”
Late last month, The State, a South Carolina-based newspaper, published a memo on internal Buttigieg campaign focus groups indicating black voters in South Carolina find the candidate’s sexual orientation a barrier to supporting him. Additional stories were published in Politico and the New York Times to the same effect.
Repudiating these stories, Parker laid out the case for the many levels why the notion black voters won’t support LGBTQ candidates isn’t right.
“It is wrong factually, according to opinion polls,” Parker said to extended applause. “It is wrong morally, because it treats the black community as monolithic and ignores LGBTQ black voices, like those in the room. And it is wrong empirically because we see LGBTQ candidates winning the hearts and minds of black voters across this nation.”
Parker cited the recent wins of LGBTQ candidates as evidence the narrative is incorrect. Among them Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who’s both the city’s first openly lesbian mayor and first black woman to serve as mayor. Lightfoot, Parker said, won by 73 percent of the vote and carried a majority in each of Chicago’s 50 wards.
Other candidates cited by Parker were Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, who’s won an election as a gay black man despite the distribution of homophobic flyers in his district; and Alabama State Rep. Neil Raffery, who won a majority black district and became the only openly gay elected official in his entire state.
“Real harm is done by these narratives, it can discourage us from running in certain communities, religious, racial, ethnic or otherwise, allowing these myths to fester even further,” Parker said. “It is the elected officials in the room, and those we need to run in the future, who will eventually dispel these myths.”
It wasn’t the only time during her speech Parker criticized the media for coverage of LGBTQ leaders.
In the aftermath of U.S. Rep. Katie Hill’s (D-Calif.) resignation amid “revenge porn” posts on conservative websites and a House Ethics Committee investigation into whether she had an improper relationship with a legislative staffer, Parker slammed “right-wing media outlets determined to take her down.”
“They put forward — and her opponents grabbed and — a message, photos and a storyline driven by biphobia and sexism condemning her for actions that straight, cisgender congressman have so often gotten away with in the past,” Parker said.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.