The co-founder of the Rio Grande Valley's chapter of the Stonewall Democrats will now lead his organization's statewide efforts.
Three years after helping found the local chapter for the group that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, Eli Olivarez was elected president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus at the state convention this weekend. On the same weekend that Texas Democrats elected Mission native Gilberto Hinojosa as the party's first Hispanic chairman, Olivarez was also selected as the first Hispanic to lead its LGBT caucus.
"Because of the momentum of Latinos, you're starting to see more Hispanics being elected to state positions," Olivarez said. "Texas is growing, evolving and becoming more inclusive. The Democratic Party is open to these new types of leadership."
Olivarez has served as president of the Valley's Stonewall Democrats chapter since he helped found it in 2009 and directed its growth into the third-largest one in the state. But he's also become more involved in party politics as a whole, gaining election in 2010 to a seat on the State Democratic Executive Committee.
He replaces Daniel Graney as president of the caucus that promotes pro-LGBT interests in the Texas Democratic Party and works to extend the organization's network of chapters. Graney, who served in the role since 2008, said Olivarez is a "born leader" who will "take our caucus to a new level."
"(The Valley's Stonewall Democrat chapter) has done a lot to raise the awareness of the LGBT issue in the Valley," Graney said. "They've had influence not only politically but in terms of creating a social environment for LGBT people in the Valley."
Olivarez said the increasing involvement of the caucus in party politics has emboldened more LGBT people to get involved.
At the state convention, Democrats selected a record number of LGBT delegates to the national convention. The state party also added a plank to its platform calling for same sex marriages to become valid and legal in America.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's backing of gay marriage created movement to add marriage equality to the party's platform, Olivarez said. But with the Texas GOP adopting a platform this weekend that opposes same-sex marriage, Olivarez said there is a "lot of work ahead of us" in a state dominated by Republicans.
"We're going to have to educate the community at large about the LGBT community itself," Olivarez said. "My hope is that our brand continues to grow so that the Stonewall Democrats become more relevant in Texas' political and social arenas.
"This is the only way that we're going to get the rights that we deserve when they see we're no different."
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