HOUSTON -- Only the ring on her finger tells you Houston s mayor is a newlywed.

It s a garnet, Mayor Annise Parker said, sitting back at her desk in City Hall. It s a red garnet. Kathy has the same ring with a green garnet. As I said to her when I gave it to her, I bought these rings. It s the same stone, but with a different heart.

The mayor of America s fourth largest city returned to work Monday, four days after marrying her longtime companion, Kathy Hubbard, in a ceremony that s illegal in their home state. Following a brief honeymoon in Palm Springs, California, Houston s first couple came home to their two daughters, an impending tax season for Hubbard s private tax practice and two final years in office for Parker s mayoral administration.

And as they returned home, they heard questions about the motives behind their marriage.

Within hours of the nuptials in the backyard of a private home halfway across the country, some local Republican leaders here blasted Parker for what the headline over one news release described as her California wedding. State Sen. Dan Patrick, a conservative talk radio host fighting a tough GOP primary campaign for lieutenant governor, issued a statement condemning the mayor s marriage.

I am not shocked that Mayor Parker decided to elope to California for a marriage that is unconstitutional in Texas, said the statement issued by Patrick s campaign. This is obviously part of a larger strategy of hers to turn Texas into California.

Asked about Patrick s criticism in an interview with KHOU 11 News, Parker paused as though she was choosing her words carefully.

Dan Patrick s running a political campaign, she said. And he wants to make the gay community a whipping boy in that political campaign. And he thought I was an appropriate target. He doesn t know what he s talking about. And I don t think that s unusual.

The mayor s jibe was so pointed, a press aide cleared her throat, an obvious signal the boss should tone down her comments. But it seemed Parker didn t care. Asked about Harris Co. Republican Chairman Jared Woodfill s accusation that she s trying to bring California values to Texas, Parker chuckled.

Mr. Woodfill is a little like a windup doll, Parker said. I say something and he goes on TV and says this is something I planned. It s part of my grand agenda to promote gay rights.

Critics have questioned the wedding s timing, pointing out that it happened less than a month after she took office for her final term. Parker responded that she and Hubbard had agreed they would marry some year on January 16, the date when they privately committed themselves to each other.

I took four days off, Parker said. I had to leave my home state and make a little wedge of time to marry the woman I love. They can get over it.

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