Each year the Texas Progressive Alliance names a Texan of the Year. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. I’m glad to report that the blog you’re reading is a TPA member blog. Below is the press release for our 2010 Texan of the Year. Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns is this year’s winner. Mr. Burns made a speech at a council session in 2010 where he addressed being bullied as a teen because he is gay. I’m glad we have selected Mr. Burns. I believe that the rights of all people are connected, and that rights for gay folks are an important civil rights question. I do, however, wish that GLBT political groups across the country would make greater outreach to other groups in our society that are also fighting for social justice. I am concerned that GLBT political orginizations do not always see economic justice as an issue that merits attention. I wonder sometimes if many quite vocal Republicans would stop condemning gay folks to eternal hell, if some number of gays would not then bolt the Democratic Party so they could get lower taxes. I hope that humanity shown by Mr. Burns in his brave remarks will remind all freedom loving Americans that when justice is denied for one, it is denied for all.
Included in the release below is the full list of nominees. Congratulations to Mr. Burns and to all who work to make Texas and our nation a more just place. Progress is always possible.
The Texas Progressive Alliance (has) named Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns as its 2010 Texan of the Year.
Burns, who represents Fort Worth’s District 9, received international attention and acclaim in October of this year after delivering a speech at a Forth Worth city council meeting concerning suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better”campaign.In his speech, Burns spoke eloquently and emotionally about his own experiences as a teen facing bullying in Crowley because of his sexual orientation. Burns’ speech, which became an internet sensation, resulted in interviews on CNN, NPR’s All Things Considered, an in-studio interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“Joel Burns’ speech did more to raise awareness of the difficulties LGBT youth in Texas face on a daily basis perhaps more than anything else this year,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. “His courageous action in delivering this speech was worthy of recognition, and progressives everywhere should salute him,” Leibowitz continued.
TPA Vice Chair Charles Kuffner of Houston echoed these sentiments. “As progressives, we stand for equality for all people. It is rare that public officials have the courage to do what Joel Burns did,” he noted.
Burns, the first openly gay municipal elected official in Tarrant County, was first elected in 2007.
Burns joins past TPA Texans of the year including Houston Mayor Annise Parker (2009); the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign (2008); the House Democratic Leadership Team of State Rep. Jim Dunnam, State Rep. Garnet Coleman, and State Rep. Pete Gallego (2007); and Carolyn Boyle and Texas Parent PAC (2006).
Armendariz was recognized for cracking down on polluters in Texas in spite of immense political pressure from state leaders and corporations. Armendariz issued the first Emergency Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order against a natural gas operator in Parker County which caused high levels of methane in private water wells.
The Texas DREAMers — students and activists involved in supporting the DREAM Act through peaceful protest and other means — were recognized for their work in Texas which has included everything from organizing phone banks to call and persuade U.S. Senators, to staging sit-ins and demonstrations at the offices of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The group has even staged hunger strikes in support of its efforts.
The Texas Progressive Alliance is a coalition of more than 50 of Texas’ most prominent netroots activists, blogs, and bloggers united to help further the progressive movement in Texas. Founded in 2006, the TPA is the largest state-based coalition of netroots activists in the United States and was instrumental in bringing Netroots Nation to Texas in 2008.
In a difficult year for Texas progressives, these individuals and organizations stood out for standing up to the onslaught of extreme conservatism the state of Texas and the nation weathered. They will no doubt continue to be under fire for expressing their views and championing their causes in the year ahead, and the TPA both salutes and stands with them.