Born January 27, 1950
City Council President
Elected November 1997
Elected City Council President in 2003 by the council
Louis Escobar’s career has included being a teacher, forensics counselor, probation officer and a mental health and addiction counselor. In his first year on the Council, the members voted unanimously to include sexual orientation in the city’s non-discrimination policy.
Interview with Louis Escobar for Out and Elected in the USA
Q: Your first career choice was to be a Priest. How did that come about?
A: I wanted to be a Priest ever since I was a little kid. I went to a Catholic school. In fact my entire education including college and graduate school were all Catholic. It was primarily that background, and stories I would hear about my grandfather whom I was named after. He was apparently kind of rough on his own family, yet was very kind to other people. Stories like that influenced me. As I’ve always said, I want to help people.
Q: How did you reconcile these two directions in your life – the Priesthood and recognizing you were gay? Did you identify as a gay person at that point?
A: No. When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s I never even heard the word. I didn’t even know the concept existed, that there was such an option. Reflecting back now I remember in high school one time my mother, who worked as a nurses aide, coming home and talking about some people with a patient and she said they were “kind of funny.” That was her term. Now I think I know what she was saying back then, but at the time I had no clue. I didn’t come across the concept until I was in college. I didn’t have any trouble reconciling my own same-sex attractions because the idea with the Priesthood is that you are celibate whether you were gay or not gay. For me that never was a real big issue. Any kind of sexual activity didn’t occur until I was in college. In the seminary in fact. I probably listened more to the scriptures with regard to God’s loving everyone and not condemning them, being a forgiving God, a God that didn’t make mistakes in his creation. I was still in school when Pope Paul VI wrote his encyclical or letter on Humana Vite. In there he talks about gays. He says being gay is not a choice a person makes but rather it’s determined by God through heredity or genetics. I find it interesting the Pope went that far, but at the same time stated that while God made you gay, you couldn’t act upon being gay. That always made me question if God was schizophrenic or what. But, I had some pretty liberal professors who also questioned that type of teaching and I know the present Pope and the teachings of the church are trying to back-track. They say that, yes, God may have made you gay, but to act out in any way is intrinsically evil which, again, is inconsistent.
Q: How does that faith background play out in your life now?
A: It is still very, very strong. But I also recognize that if you thoroughly understand Catholic Christian teaching, that ultimately a well informed and developed conscience makes the decision. And I believe I do have well informed and developed conscience. Finally, as an adult, I see myself as wanting to make a difference and having the kinds of characteristics and personality traits that can do that. That is what I am about. I consider myself a very spiritual person. I still identify myself as Roman Catholic.
Q: What characteristics do you think play out most strongly in your political life – your Mexican American heritage or your being gay?
A: I think all of them. They all have a unique part to play in it. As far as my decision to run for the Council, that’s the Mexican heritage piece. I was working on the ’96 presidential campaign and volunteered to drive people to the polls. When I got there I realized there were a substantial number of African-Americans and Caucasians and a real small handful of Latinos. I went up to a friend of mine very much involved in the party and asked, “Where are all the Mexicans?!” He said it was very hard to get to get them involved. Then I said, “As a matter of fact, why don’t we have a Mexican-American on Council?” And he said, “Well, why don’t you run?”
So, that was how it began. In ’97 the party was committed to bringing on more diversity and wanted to support a Latino candidate. About 25 Latinos were invited to the headquarters to talk about going about doing this. Through the conversation, I and another person said that we were interested in running. I made it clear that I was gay, though I assumed most people knew since there was an article in the paper a few years earlier about my being gay. But just in case, I made it clear at that point to the Latino community and to the party that I was gay and that I did not want it to be an issue. And since then and while in office, I’ve not had a negative experience. In the beginning a reporter asked if I wanted to be known as the gay candidate or the Mexican candidate or what, and I said, “What about ‘the candidate.’” To me, those aspects all mingle together to make me who I am.
For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at firstname.lastname@example.org.