New film commemorates Paul Broussard's murder

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Twenty-five years after the brutal slaying of a gay man in Montrose, Houston Public Media has released a documentary commemorating the murder's effect on the city.

Paul Broussard, a 27-year-old banker, was beaten to death outside a Montrose nightclub in 1991. His murder spurred the largest gay rights protests in Houston history after activists grew frustrated with slow police progress on the case. A group of Woodlands teenagers pleaded guilty to killing Broussard and told prosecutors they had visited the heavily gay neighborhood to attack a stranger.

This spring, Houston Public Media created A Murder in Montrose: The Paul Broussard Legacy. Rather than examine the crime itself, producers sought to explore how the killing changed the city. Producer Ernie Manouse said the protests contributed to the defeat of Mayor Kathryn Whitmire by Bob Lanier in 1991.

“Local politics changed that way,” Manouse said. “It galvanized the gay and lesbian community in a unique way.”

Manouse said the crime helped inspire the Texas Legislature to pass a hate crime bill later in the decade, and also reformed the criminal justice system in Harris County. Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, became the first family member of a victim to speak during a sentencing hearing, a practice that has since become common.

The 39-minute documentary premiered Thursday, days before Houston celebrated its annual gay pride parade. Manouse said the film’s message is especially timely in the wake of the June 12 mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where a gunman killed 49 people. 

Manouse said the public’s reaction to Broussard’s murder was among the first times gay and straight Houston residents came together for a single cause. He said widespread grief across the United States after the Orlando attack illustrates how far Americans have come in accepting the LGBT community.

“It wasn’t a gay crime; it was a crime and people came together,” Manouse said.

The film includes interviews with gay rights advocates and public officials, including Annise Parker, Houston's first openly gay mayor. View the documentary online at Houston Public Media for free here.

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