Good for Texas. Good for Jalen McKee-Rodriguez.
Jalen McKee-Rodriguez just became Texas’s first openly gay Black man to hold elected office. Even better, he won in a landslide against a former boss who discriminated against him. Specifically, McKee-Rodriguez won the District 2 city council seat in San Antonio, Texas. He won against incumbent city councilwoman Jada Andrews-Sullivan. According to the San Antonio Express-News, McKee-Rodriguez, a math teacher at James Madison High School, previously worked as Andrews-Sullivan’s communications director.
But after working with her between January 2019 and December 2019, McKee-Rodriguez quit. This was after he filed a complaint with the city against Andrews-Sullivan’s chief of staff, Lou Miller, in October 2019. Prior to that, McKee-Rodriguez was experiencing harassment and discrimination. He says Miller took photos of his outfits without consent, told McKee-Rodriguez to “tone [his] outfits down,” and told him to change his hair color despite female staff members having the same hair color. Miller also allegedly made comments about McKee-Rodriguez’s feminity.
“I feel Mr. Miller’s enforcement of the dress code discriminates against me, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, in that the code is gender specific as enforced,” McKee-Rodriguez stated.
District 2 City Council frontrunner Jalen Mckee-Rodriguez hugs his husband Nathan at his runoff election watch party. He still has 62% of the vote as Election Day returns trickle in. @TPRNews pic.twitter.com/sb0aO6ToQe
— Joey Palacios – Texas Public Radio (@Joeycules) June 6, 2021
But Jalen McKree-Rodriguez says filing the complaint led to “retaliation,” such as receiving “unrealistic and impossible expectations and deadlines” and “an increasingly hostile environment which involved isolation and prohibition from doing duties necessary to my job.”
After the complaint went public, Jada Andrews-Sullivan admitted to the mismanagement and discrimination, but denied any involvement or that it was based on McKee-Rodriguez’s identity. Le Reta Gatlin-McDavid, the former director of community outreach for District 2, refuted Andrews-Sullivan’s stance, however.
“I have witnessed the Chief of Staff and the Councilwoman treat Jalen differently from other staff members,” Gatlin-McDavid said in her own written complaint. “Miller had a double standard when it came to Jalen.”
William “Frankie” Trynoski, a former District 2 director of policy, said in a draft affidavit that he overheard Andrews-Sullivan joke that she “may not have a communications director soon” while McKee-Rodriguez worked for her.
“Jalen, despite performing his duties at adequate levels would frequently have his work ethic questioned or commented on by the Chief of Staff and/or the Councilwoman, especially when he was not around,” Trynoski wrote.
HISTORY MADE! Our Spotlight Candidate Jalen McKee-Rodriguez (@theloserteacher) just became the first out gay Black man elected to any office in the state of Texas. Congratulations, Jalen! #Pride2021 pic.twitter.com/allv8l5Sob
— LGBTQ+ Victory Fund (@VictoryFund) June 6, 2021
Again, this all eventually led to Jalen McKee-Rodriguez leaving the job. But, karma has a way of coming around when most needed. ABC Affiliate KSAT.com reports that McKee-Rodriguez won the runoff election for the District 2 city council seat by a landslide.
The Victory Fund, celebrated McKee-Rodriguez’s victory with a statement from President & CEO Annise Parker.
“Jalen shattered a lavender ceiling in Texas, and it came as right-wing state legislators target LGBTQ people and people of color with bigoted policies aimed at rallying their extremist political base.”
“We need more people of color, young people and LGBTQ people in state and local government who will ensure politicians look to improve the lives of Texans, not further marginalize them. Jalen’s victory is a rejection of the homophobic and racist politicking so fashionable in Austin and it will inspire more LGBTQ Black leaders to run and win.”