Houston ISD Trustee Manuel Rodriguez under fire for campaign flyer called 'homophobic'
By Mike Cronin
Some Houston residents are calling for the resignation of Manuel Rodriguez from the Houston school board after the incumbent distributed a campaign flyer to his constituents earlier this week that included language critical of gay people.
“His records show he spent years advocating for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender rights… not kids,” the campaign brochure says about Ramiro Fonseca, Rodriguez’s opponent in Tuesday’s election for the District III seat of Houston school system’s Board of Trustees.
The flyer states Fonseca has received the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, “the South’s oldest civil rights organization dedicated solely to the advancement of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.” (The underlined words are underlined in the flyer.)
Fonseca, an administrator for Houston Community College, could not be reached immediately today for comment.
Rodriguez said today that the brochure isn’t anti-gay.
“It’s the truth,” Rodriguez said during a phone interview, adding that he is not anti-gay. “I am not bashing gay people.”
Rodriguez said that the flyer emphasized the endorsement of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus to “indicate who (Fonseca) represents.”
The incumbent said he underlined the words, ‘gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights’ “to make sure parents know who’s going to make policy for their children.”
Noel A. Freeman, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus called the Rodriguez brochure “trash politics at its worst.” The flyer also describes Fonseca as being 54 with no children and having a male partner.
“A homophobic bigot like this has no business making decisions that affect our children,” Freeman said.
Rodriguez should step down and officials from the Houston Independent School District should investigate him, said Art Pronin, president of the Meyerland Area Democrats Club.
“This is nauseating that a sitting public official would do this. He should be held to a higher standard than that,” said Pronin, who added that during the between 25 and 30 campaigns he’s worked on, he hadn’t seen anything like this.
“It’s inexcusable that a member of the school board would do the same thing that many students to do gay students,” Pronin said. “The flyer is vicious. It specifically makes it sound like it’s perverted to be gay and highlights multiple times that being gay is not ‘normal.’”
Worse, Pronin said, is that the HISD school board recently strengthened its anti-bullying policy.
“Now Rodriguez is doing it,” Pronin said. “What’s it saying to parents who have a gay child? He has to go.”
HISD board members approved a stronger anti-discrimination and bullying policy prior to the current academic year. It protects district students and employees from harassment due to gender identity or expression.
District policy states that unacceptable behavior includes any verbal abuse or bullying because of a person’s sexual orientation.
HISD spokesman Jason Spencer declined on Saturday to comment on Rodriguez’s brochure.
Rodriguez said he voted for the stricter anti-bullying policy and that he maintains and respects the rights of all children. To those who are parents of gay children, he said, “I’m sure they’re advocates.”
He chose the language to describe Fonseca in the brochure to show voters that, unlike Fonseca, Rodriguez has been married and is a parent – so people could elect someone more like themselves.
“I am a father,” Rodriguez said. “I have been able to raise children of my own and grandchildren of my own.”
Freeman said that “right now, a GLBT youth is 12-times more likely to be bullied, five-times more likely to commit suicide and eight-times more likely to be homeless than a straight youth.”
Freeman said caucus officials hadn’t yet decided whether to call for Rodriguez’s resignation. UPDATE, 8 a.m. Sunday morning: The caucus has formally asked the Houston Chronicle to rescind its endorsement of Rodriguez, Freeman said.
“Regardless, it’s our mission to get him out of office,” Freeman said. “We’re working as we hard as we can to get Ramiro Fonseca elected.”
Pronin said that Rodriguez’s anti-gay tactics “show how desperate the man is.” He described those tactics as "outrageous in a city with an openly gay mayor. It demonizes her, too."
Jessica Michan, press secretary for Houston Mayor Annise Parker, declined to comment today.
Contact Mike Cronin at email@example.com or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at@michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.
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Saturday, 11/05/2011 - 05:26PM
Who is behind Rodriguez's hate mail? TEAM HISD! Terry Grier is desperate to save his job, and he knows Manuel Rodriguez and Paula Harris have got to win. Both races are extremely tight.
When Terry Grier and Jason Spencer talk about anti-discrimination policies in HISD, remember their role behind the scenes in creating negative campaign literature for both Harris and Rodriguez. It is no coincidence that both campaigns sent out literature this week with vicious attacks their opponents. What other gutter acts does TEAM HISD have in store for us before Tuesday?
If you live in District III, cast your vote for real change in HISD - vote for Ramiro Fonseca. If you live in District IV, vote for Davetta Daniels who will not use your schools as financial opportunities for contractors and charter school owners as Ms. Harris has done.
Editor's note: Mr. Bingle has said in additional comments below that his contention that Terry Grier and Jason Spencer had a role in the controversial Manuel Rodriguez campaign flyer is inaccurate. Mr. Bingle has apologized for his claim.
Saturday, 11/05/2011 - 11:29PM
As an educator for the district and having witnessed numerous children bullied for their perceived sexual orientation, it bothers me terribly that one of the district's trustees has decided to promote this bigoted point of view in order to gain votes without considering the long-term effect on our children's lives.
Please sign and forward the petition asking the Houston Chronicle to rescind its endorsement of Mr. Rodriguez.
Saturday, 11/05/2011 - 11:45PM
We are closing schools, laying people off. Families are being foreclosed on and being put out in the streets. And all this man can talk about is who is Gay. We need to start looking at what is best for the country. We are not in high school any more. Hello!!! It is a good way to raise money. I think he may a have a “gay agenda”, more than the gay community has. They have nothing to say, so they go for the gay!
Sunday, 11/06/2011 - 12:37AM
Judd Bingle, what source do you have that there are machniations from HISD central to have this particular poster made?
Sunday, 11/06/2011 - 01:45AM
I don't know whether Manuel Rodriguez is anti-gay or not. He wants so badly, though, to win this election that he abandons any scruples or moral integrity and resorts to personal attacks and fear-mongering.
I hear the hollow ambition and greed in Rodriguez's insinuations, and feel the judgment in the bitter words he chose. This community of voters and Houstonians needs to protect all our children from this man's hate-filled self-interest.
Sunday, 11/06/2011 - 02:25AM
HISD's interference in this election began this summer when Terry Grier established TV shows for Paula Harris and Manuel Rodriguez but no other board members.
It continued on the final day to file for this election when, mysteriously, Art Huerta was told he couldn't run in District IV weeks after he was told he could.
Look at the way HISD drew the map for District IV - the top northern border is not clearly identified by street. That omission gave HISD an easy out if a challenger opted not to file suit against the school district.
HISD had ghost writers attack Parent Visionaries. Parent Visionaries dares to challenge the Almighty Grier.
HISD's P.R. staff, which costs taxpayers $10 million a year, added a key person from the Houston Chronicle the week before the deadline to file, and when the behind-closed-doors meetings were held to determine how to "announce" Huerta's disqualification, key P.R. staff attended the meeting.
HISD set up Parents for Public Schools as an HISD tool - in other words, co-opted the organization and moved it to the Hatie Mae White building. There are few Parents for Public Schools members - that's why there were all of 3 parents from PPS in the audience at the Ripley House debates.
Grier used Roland Martin's appearance at Yates as a pep rally for Paula Harris. Attack ads written by HISD went out this week.
Grier derves to have his butt run out of Houston, but, of course, HISD officials are not going to sign off on all the ways they have interfered. They are not stupid.
Believe me, I have been to all the campaign events staged in the past month and I have many sources who choose not to be publicly identified.
Read Texas Watchdog and houstonisdwatch.com to stay informed.
Sunday, 11/06/2011 - 09:46AM
While the hateful attack on Fonseca is disgusting and further solidifies my vote against Rodriguez, there is not a shred of evidence that HISD staff are behind it. Mr. Bingle's blanket smears against all central office staff again undermine his credibility and shed light on his own personal axe-grinding campaign. I am part of "Team HISD" and I find the letter offensive. I had nothing to do with it. To lump me in with his blanket accusation is just as offensive. He sees conspiracy everywhere like the right wing kooks he sometimes rails against himself. The letter stands on its own as an indictment. Don't paint with such a broad brush that you include innocent people in your blanket insinuations. Shame on Mr. Bingle, but even more so on Mr. Rodriguez and his hateful little bit of homophobia.
Monday, 11/07/2011 - 12:05PM
Jason Spencer contacted houstonisdwatch.com to say he had nothing to do with Rodriguez's mailer. houstonisdwatch.com apologizes to Mr. Spencer for comments associating him with the campaign literature that is in violation of HISD's non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies. The source providing the linkage was wrong. The good news is HISD's commitment to enforce its anti-discrimination policies at all levels of its organization. Thank you, Mr. Spencer, for your correction
Monday, 11/07/2011 - 12:32PM
Please add Dr. Grier to my retraction. houstonisdwatch.com has learned he had nothing to do with the Rodriguez's mailer.
Monday, 11/07/2011 - 10:58PM
Why is it that the Gay community see the flyer as hatred. If your status is gay than you are just gay, why not proud of being gay. If you are single you are single, if you are married you are married. Even on tax filling status and all legal documents we have to disclose our status. Where is the equality when we mentioned your status as gay consider as hatred....insane and disturbance. The difference between the Mayor and Mr. Ramirez is that she is honest and forefront about who she is and let the voters make that decision Vs. being ashamed of who you are and play a racist card. Also, she also has a bunch of experience in public service where as Mr. Ramirez his lacks of experience also count as the flyer stated. Therefore, he just gonna play the racist and hatred card instead.
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