Houston Chronicle Endorses Local Homophobe for School Board

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Does homophobia have a statute of limitations? Maybe the Houston Chronicle can shed some light on the question.

In 2011, Houston’s newspaper endorsed Manuel Rodriguez a few weeks before election day in a Houston Independent School Board trustee race.

Rodriguez then sent out a mailer attacking his challenger, Ramiro Fonseco, as being unfit to serve because of his sexual orientation.

The Chronicle yanked their endorsement on the Sunday before election day, and spelled out very clearly that the revocation was due to the homophobic mailer:

Earlier this campaign season, we endorsed Manuel Rodriguez Jr. for another term on the board of the Houston Independent School District. We now retract that endorsement in the race for HISD Position III trustee.

A last-minute campaign flier for Rodriguez displays appalling homophobia. The flier urges recipients not just to vote for Rodriguez, but to vote against his opponent, Ramiro Fonseca, because he has been endorsed by theHouston GLBT Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” The flier further states that Fonseca has “spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights … not kids,” and winds up with a pair of bullet points noting that he’s 54 years old with no children and has a male partner.

That’s obvious gay-bashing, of the kind that HISD rightly prohibits on the playground. It has no place on HISD’s board.

Advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights is advocating for kids. GLBT kids are among those who most need adult protection and support.

Rodriguez won, but Fonseco has returned this year to challenge him again.

And the Houston Chronicle has endorsed … Manuel Rodriguez. Of the homophobic mailer.

The endorsement is hardly compelling:

Our choice for this important position, Manuel Rodriguez, was first elected in 2003 and then re-elected in 2007 . . . Rodriguez has been involved for more than 30 years in HISD schools and knows the district well. Even so, longtime district observers say his aloof style and lack of consistent physical presence in District III make it difficult to ascertain where he stands on issues. Ideally, members of the HISD community should make the effort to attend school board meetings, but they also have every right to expect school board members to take the initiative to disseminate important information to the communities they represent. Rodriguez’s challengers, Ramiro Fonseca and Jose Leal, bring a refreshing passion to the race. Still, Rodriguez appears more knowledgeable on the issues and better able than his opponents to respond to the challenges that HISD is facing at this time. Our advice to Rodriguez: Don’t take this position for granted. Our advice to the challengers: Participate in district issues and run again.

NB that this year’s endorsement does not mention last election’s endorsement retraction. Oddly, it mentions only his election to the office in 2003 and 2007, but not 2011. Surely they remember that election.

What happened to “GLBT kids are among those who need most adult protection and support?” If Rodriguez has had an epiphany, or addressed his role in the homophobic mailer during his meeting with the editorial board, the Chronicle needs to share that with the readers.

The paper always has the option of endorsing no one in a race, which certainly seems preferable to a lukewarm endorsement for a candidate willing to poison the district with a bigoted, hateful ad hominem attacks.

We have almost a month until election day. Houston’s mailboxes are already full of homophobic mailers about Proposition 1. For everyone’s sake, especially the kids HISD serves, let’s hope Rodriguez has seen the error of his ways and evolved beyond his prejudice.

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About Author

Andrea Greer

Andrea, an activist, fundraiser, feminist, writer, and baker, is not as tall as you think she is. She's been at this a long time, and wants to know what you are doing to make the pie higher and raise more hell. Her mother would like you to know she's got a law degree.

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