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Annise Parker Plunges Into Her Final Year As Houston Mayor From 14,000 Feet: VIDEO

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Annise Parker plunged into her final year as mayor of Houston from 14,000 feet at 120 mph. 

As a team-building exercise, Parker went skydiving for the first time Sunday with members of her executive team and City Council aides. 

From a press release

Mayor Annise Parker got a jump on the work ahead in 2015 with some extreme team building at Skydive Spaceland near Rosharon. 

The mayor was joined by a group of about 20 that included members of her executive team, City Council aides and others.  This was the mayor's first time skydiving.  She jumped from 14,000 feet, which is 2.6 miles high.  There was an 8,000 foot free fall at 120 MPH before the chute was pulled and she glided to a safe landing. It was a tandem jump done with the assistance of Skydive Spaceland's trained instructor Henry Prewitt.

"Honestly, this wasn't on my bucket list," says Mayor Parker. "My staff had been planning this for awhile and my original intention was to simply be on hand to support them.  As their team leader, though, I couldn't just stand by and watch. If they can do it, I can do it. I'm not sure, however, it is something I'll do again." 

When asked what was the best part of the jump Mayor Parker said, "being back on the ground."

Parker also tweeted about the experience: 

 

Parker2In 2009, Parker became the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a major US city. But her third and final two-year term as Houston mayor has been her most controversial. She's been sued for extending benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees and over an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance passed in 2014. While the same-sex benefits case is on hold pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging Texas' marriage ban, the nondisrimination case is set for trial Jan. 19. 

Later Sunday, after the skydive, Parker reconfirmed her intention to eventually run for higher office. From The Houston Chronicle

“I hope to be able to continue to serve the citizens of this city or this state, but a lot about politics is timing,” she said, noting that many statewide officials were just elected in 2014. “I’m going to need some work to do.”

Parker said she could see herself working for a non-profit and had no interest in returning to the private sector.

Her comments on Sunday came months after she delivered a well-received speech at the Texas Democratic Convention, when she acknowledged her statewide potential in an interview.

“As the CEO of the 4th largest city in America, I could be the governor of Texas,” she said.

For a slideshow from Parker's skydive, go here

Watch Click2Houston.com's video of the mayor's dive, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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Judge Orders Houston to Stop Providing Insurance Benefits to Same-sex Spouses of City Employees

A Texas judge has ordered the city of Houston to stop offering health and life insurance benefits to same-sex spouses of married employees, the Houston Chronicle reports:

ParkerDays after being elected to her third and final term last November, Mayor Annise Parker announced Houston would extend employment benefits to the spouses of all married employees, gay or straight. It would be a liability for the city to enforce an unconstitutional ban on such benefits, she said, following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last summer that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Parker's policy change spurred three lawsuits, including two from conservatives, who argued the policy change violates Houston's city charter, the state's Defense of Marriage Act and the Texas Constitution.

State District Judge Lisa Millard quickly signed an order preventing the city from offering the benefits, but that order was lifted in January after the city moved the case to federal court. [...]

Jared Woodfill, a conservative activist who filed the first lawsuit against the city, filed another lawsuit last week, again asking Millard to stop Parker from issuing benefits to same-sex couples. As she did in January, Millard agreed to issue a temporary injunction Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for Parker said the city is preparing an immediate appeal that would allow the benefits to remain in place. 

The city is also currently embroiled in a legal fight over its non-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT Houstonians from discrimination. 


Ted Cruz Has a Message for Houston's Anti-gay Pastors: VIDEO

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Although Ted Cruz was unable to attend the Family Research Council's anti-gay extravaganza in Houston last night (he was busy campaigning for Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Dan Sullivan in Alaska), the tea party firebrand still managed to record a message for the right-wing pastors in attendance.

Said Cruz:

Just this past week the mayor announced that they would withdraw the subpoenas of the pastors. Praise be to God! What an answer to prayer. By God's great and mighty hand, our faith once again remains free. But these threats are ever-present. They are coming from every direction and we must remain vigilant. If we speak with resounding voice and if we stand for religious liberty, the truth will prevail. Out of the rubble, we will restore the faith that is the rock of this nation.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker Withdraws Subpoenas of Anti-gay Pastors

Following right-wing outrage, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced yesterday that the city would be withdrawing its subpoenas sent to five local pastors for "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."

ParkerThe Houston Chronicle reports:

Parker said she was persuaded, in part, by the demeanor of the clergymen she met with Tuesday, saying they were concerned not about the ordinance or politics but about the subpoenas' impact on the ongoing national discussion of religious freedoms.

"That was the most persuasive argument, because to me it was, 'What is the goal of the subpoenas?' The goal of the subpoenas is to defend against a lawsuit and not to provoke a public debate," Parker said. "I don't want to have a national debate about freedom of religion when my whole purpose is to defend a strong and wonderful and appropriate city ordinance against local attack."

Anti-gay conservatives, meanwhile, are rejoicing.

Said Erik Stanley, Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom:

“The mayor really had no choice but to withdraw these subpoenas, which should never have been served in the first place. The entire nation--voices from every point of the spectrum left to right--recognize the city's action as a gross abuse of power. We are gratified that the First Amendment rights of the pastors have triumphed over government overreach and intimidation. The First Amendment protects the right of pastors to be free from government intimidation and coercion of this sort."

PerkinsAdded FRC President Tony Perkins:

“Standing together across the nation, Christians have sent a strong message to Mayor Parker. While we are encouraged by this evidence that the Mayor is responding to pressure and withdrawing her unconstitutional subpoenas, this is about far more than subpoenas. As we have stated since the beginning of this intrusion into the private affairs of Houston churches; this is not about subpoenas, this is not about sermons, it is not even about biblical teaching on sexual immorality, it is about political intimidation and the bullying by Mayor Parker that continues.

Sunday's anti-gay extravaganza against Mayor Parker and her "radical agenda" is still expected to take place. 


Houston Mayor Annise Parker Meets With Clergymen Over Subpoena Of Church Records: VIDEO

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Houston Mayor Annise Parker met with clergymen from across the nation yesterday to discuss the city's subpoena of church records tied to Houston's recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). KHOU reports:

The mayor juggled her schedule Tuesday afternoon to meet with the church leaders after they staged a news conference and prayed outside City Hall, but the meeting apparently didn't change any minds – at least, not yet.

"I don't think the mayor wanted to do the subpoenas," said Alexander Webster, a Russian Orthodox Church leader from Virginia who attended the meeting. "I think she is looking for a way to get out of the subpoenas and find a more positive, reconciling approach."

The clergymen described the meeting as cordial and took pictures with the mayor, but they were unsure about whether she would change her stance on the subpoenas.

"This is not a local Houston issue exclusively, but an affront to every church and pulpit in America," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a leader of the Christian Defense Coalition, which is organizing opposition to the subpoenas.

The subpoenas in question were issued after anti-gay activists sued Houston over its rejection of petition signatures intended to force a public referendum on HERO. City attorneys then subpoenaed local pastors tied to the lawsuit for "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession." This set off a firestorm among the religious right, drawing the ire of Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Pat Roberston to name just a few. While Parker has stated that original subpoena was too broad and has since amended the subpoena not to include any mention of sermons, as KHOU notes, "the damage was already done" and the wingnuts had their spin in full swing.

Watch a video on Parker's meeting with the clergymen, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Pat Robertson: Gay Rights Advocates 'are Terrorists...Radicals...and Extremists' — VIDEO

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Last week, the right-wing freaked out over subpoenas sent to Houston area pastors for "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."

HERO, is Houston's LGBT-inclusive Equal Rights Ordinance and the subpoenas, which were acknowledged to be too broad by Mayor Annise Parker and were issued by outside attorneys working for the city pro bono, were being used to find out if there were specific instructions from area pastors to their congregations about how to fill out the petitions for putting the ordinance up for public referendum.

Of course this fit well into the right-wing's religious persecution meme, and here's how Robertson reacted (again) on his show today, Right Wing Watch reports:

It’s one thing to want to persuade somebody to believe like you do, that’s what Christianity is about, to bring the Gospel message and say this is good news and we’d like you to accept it. It’s something else to take the arm of the government to force somebody to do something that is against, contrary to their religion, and that’s what these homosexuals are trying to do. They are trying to force people who are Christians to marry them or else face jail, to make cakes honoring them or else go to jail and give their sermons over and divulge their innermost thoughts or go to jail, that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with.

These people are terrorists, they’re radicals and they’re extremists...

Added Pat: "What’s being done in Houston is a gay—the woman they elected is a homosexual, she’s a lesbian, and she’s trying to force pastors to conform to her beliefs."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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