LGBT Activists Gather In Houston For National Equality Conference

The nation's longest-running LGBT conference is in Houston for the first time. Organizers say 2013 was a watershed year for the LGBT community — but there's much more to be accomplished.

Texas may not have seemed like the obvious choice for one of the nation's largest LGBT conferences.

A.J. Mistretta is the public relations manager for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says bringing the conference to Houston is an opportunity to break down some negative perceptions.

"People are surprised when they come here that we are so welcoming. But they leave here with a very good sense of Houston and they're going to go back home and tell their friends and family and more people are going to come to the city. And that's what we want, we want more people to engage in Houston and to think of us as a destination, not only for meetings and conventions like this, but also to bring their family and come back and enjoy it."

While marriage equality has been the main rallying cry in the LGBT community, Russell Roybal with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force says there are many other issues they're working to address.

"In 2014, we want to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act at the federal level so that LGBT people are protected in their workplaces from being fired. In 29 states it's still legal to fire someone if they're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. And the other focus we have at the conference this year is around HIV and AIDS. It has been a scourge that has torn through our community since the early '80s. We believe we can end the epidemic in our lifetime."

The conference is the oldest LGBT gathering in the nation. It started in 1988 in Washington D.C. with 300 participants.

More than 4,000 people are attending the conference in Houston, the most in the event's history.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...