Texas – yes, Texas – just elected its first ever openly gay Black officeholder

Josh Milton June 6, 2021
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Jalen McKee-Rodriguez smiles in a blue button-up shirt

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez. (Facebook/McKee-Rodriguez campaign)

Jalen McKee-Rodriguez became on Saturday (5 June) the first openly gay Black man to hold elected office in Texas – and he beat the incumbent in a landslide.

Following a tense runoff, McKee-Rodriguez was elected by San Antonio voters to join the city council. In doing so, he triumphantly ousted Jada Andrews-Sullivan in the second district.

With all votes counted, he netted a thumping 63 per cent of the votes compared to just 37 per cent for Andrews-Sullivan.

The councillor-elect in fact worked under Andrew-Sullivan as a communications assistant but quit in 2019 after allegedly suffering anti-gay harassment and discrimination. 

He faced off against what he described as a “hostile environment” and “retaliation” from Andrew-Sullivan’s chief of staff, Lou Miller.

Andrew-Sullivan denied that the problems in her office were due to McKee-Rodriguez’s sexuality. 

Years on, and McKee-Rodriguez shattered what activists called the “lavender ceiling” as he became the first Black gay man ever elected in the state of Texas

Black gay man obliterates ‘lavender ceiling’ in historic Texas vote

“I swear to be a hard-working leader every day,” the 25-year-old told ABC affiliate KSAT.

A former maths teacher, McKee-Rodriguez said his victory is a watershed moment in how many in his district simply shrugged off his candidacy. The area, critics said, wasn’t ready for a Black gay official.

They were wrong.

“Many people have said that District Two isn’t ready to accept candidates like me. Is District Two ready to accept young gay candidates?” he said.

“Are young gay black men ready to be chosen for any position, wherever they are? And what we have proved, and what the community has proved, is everyone worthy of representation.

“And if you have the right motives, the right passion, and a good listener, people will trust it.”

San Antonio LGBT+ advocates praised McKee-Rodriguez’s success which they see as a striking repudiation of the wave of anti-LGBT+ legislation being bulldozed by right-wing state lawmakers

As an above-the-fray, out-of-the-box candidate, former Houston mayor and president of LGBT+ Victory Fund Annise Parker said McKee-Rodriguez’s victory gives him – and Texas – renewed hope.

“Jalen shattered a lavender ceiling in Texas, and it came as right-wing state legislators target LGBT+ people and people of colour with bigoted policies aimed at rallying their extremist political base,” he told the Los Angeles Blade.

“We need more people of colour, young people and LGBT+ people in state and local government who will ensure politicians look to improve the lives of Texans, not further marginalize them.

“Jalen’s victory is a rejection of the homophobic and racist politicking so fashionable in Austin and it will inspire more LGBT+ Black leaders to run and win.”

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