The first truly fabulous float of Albuquerque’s June 13 Pridefest parade could only be described as a cabanamobile: a long flatbed outfitted with a canopy of faux palm leaves and tiki masks. More than a dozen supporters wearing rainbow-printed T-shirts waved from the float to the crowds lining Central Avenue.
Ten years ago, it was unheard of for a politician to sponsor a pride float. This year, the cabanamobile belonged to Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez. Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, who is running for governor, wasn’t far behind, waving from a convertible and trailing a flock of happy supporters (including a dachshund and a pug). Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Bernalillo, who would like Denish’s current job, also booked himself a car in the parade.
After the 2004 presidential election, many observers concluded that anti-gay-marriage ballot measures mobilized far-right, religious, conservative voters across the nation. However, as public opinion turns in favor of gay rights, a pro-LGBT stance may be a strong asset.
“The fact of the matter is virtually every single supporter of the bill won [re-election in 2008],” McSorley says. “It was only opponents of the bill that lost.”
In 2008, the only openly gay candidate for the Legislature, Victor Raigoza, lost his bid for the state Senate in the primaries. So far, no openly gay individual has announced his or her candidacy for office, but former Republican Michael Huerta says he is considering a bid in Las Cruces in 2012.
“I think we need to have a focused effort in 2010 and 2012 to elect openly gay people—from both parties—to office, with a focus on the Legislature,” Huerta, who defected to the Democratic Party after coming out, says. Huerta later became Democratic state Rep. Harry Teague’s campaign press secretary and a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. “We need to get legislators [who vote against LGBT rights] sitting next to a gay legislator and see that he doesn’t bite, that maybe he’s actually conservative on taxes,” he says.
Siegle, who as a Santa Fe Community College board member is one of five openly gay elected officials in Santa Fe, agrees. Her partner, current Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, was elected as the first openly gay member of the state Legislature in 1992.
“Before that, in the Senate, they would say the most vile, disgusting things about people who are gay, just uncontrolled stuff about pedophiles and worse,” Siegle says. ‘The fact that Liz was on the floor of the Senate really toned down the hate rhetoric. It didn’t change people’s votes, but it might’ve over time.”
Before the LGBT community can even consider running a candidate, first it must rev itself up. On the federal level, the Obama administration has disappointed many members of the community from day one, when he chose an anti-gay pastor to lead the inauguration convocation. Since then, Obama has not yet repealed the “don’t ask don’t tell” ban on gays in the military and has made only the barest concessions on health care issues for gay federal employees.
To make matters worse, on the eve of Albuquerque Pridefest, the US Justice Department filed a brief defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which likened homosexuality to sexual deviancy (Obama has since denounced DOMA as a discriminatory law that should be repealed).
“During Pride, I didn’t hear a word about the brief,” Pridefest board member Danny Hernandez says. “But there were reverberations the next two days on email and Facebook…What I’m hearing is people are becoming more radicalized. Where domestic partnership was OK during the last session, now they want to hold elected officials to a higher standard, which is marriage.”
Perusing the Albuquerque Pridefest archives, it becomes clear that, like any grassroots movement, the LGBT community’s history has been periodically fractured by infighting and disagreements. In 1981, for example, it was a group of men defecting from the Gay Co-op because they were “frustrated with inaction.” They formed Common Bond New Mexico Foundation, an organization still in operation among the dozens of other groups in the state.
Now, in 2009, a new group, Just New Mexico, has splintered from EQNM to focus solely on gay marriage.
“We are really supportive of domestic partnerships…and I wouldn’t say we want one or the other,” founding member Norma Vazquez de Houdek says. She and her partner, Mary, were among the “Sandoval 64,” couples who were issued marriage licenses in 2004 by Sandoval County Clerk Victoria Dunlap before a court injunction shut it down.
“What we’re trying to do is gain full civil rights for all people,” Vazquez de Houdek says. “We’re focusing on marriage and that’s our ultimate goal.”
And they’re here to recruit you. SFR