Waymon Hudson

LGBTs in Florida: A New Year for Political Change

Filed By Waymon Hudson | January 09, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: election 2008, Florida, LGBT, Naugle, politics, Ryan Skipper

It seems the current buzz word in politics this election cycle is change. Presidential candidates from both parties are rolling out the message of change and hope, energizing the electorate. The voter turnouts and new registrations across the country are the biggest in years, especially among young voters.

I will admit it. I have been bitten by the “change and hope” bug. So please indulge me a bit and let me do a positive post (for once) about where my home state of Florida might be heading.

I actually think that 2008 looks to be a year where LGBT people can hope for a better state, as well as better representation and rights for our community.

I hear the scoffing already. After a disastrous year for LGBT Floridians in 2007, how can there be any hope for this too often red state? Let’s take a look…

The year that was…

Our state was indeed hit hard last year with many anti-LGBT incidents.

We had the firing of City Manager Susan Stanton in Largo when she began her transition. Then there was the horrific murder of Ryan Skipper, who was brutally killed because he was gay. Not long after, we had toilet-crazy Mayor Jim Naugle, saying gays where unhappy, “chemically unbalanced,” “deviants,” and the cause of every disease under the Fort Lauderdale sun. There were anti-gay death threats played over airport intercoms and LGBT activists being wrestled to the ground by police for speaking out.

Not exactly a banner year for the LGBT rights movement.

But maybe all of these negative setbacks have finally sparked a political fire in Florida’s LGBT community.

With a lot of work, 2008 may just be the year the LGBT community finally steps up.

Hope and action in a new year…

As we move into this election cycle, the LGBT community is poised to fight back in Florida.

After a year of being demeaned and attacked, we amazingly see a record number of openly LGBT people step up and run for office in Florida, on every level. From local municipalities all the way up to the state legislature, our community is demanding representation and a voice.

On a local level, there are numerous openly gay and lesbian people running for office. We have LGBT’s running to be City Commissioners and Mayors (such as my husband, Anthony Niedwiecki, running in Oakland Park), County Commissioners (like Kevin Beckner, running a great race in the very conservative Hillsbourgh County), and Election Supervisors (like the amazing community activist Adriane Reesey in Broward County). And these are just a few of the many members of our community standing up (And please excuse the plugs, but the members of our community putting themselves on the line deserve our support and recognition). Because of people like them, we are seeing our community come forward to lead like never before.

These local positions have huge potential for influence and positive change for our community. It’s at these levels that many LGBT non-discrimination policies and domestic partnership rights are passed in our state.

We even have the historic chance to elect our first openly gay member to the State House with the amazingly qualified candidate Mark LaFontaine. To have a gay man as a representative in a state that won’t even allow gays and lesbians to adopt would be a huge victory for our community. Never again could our conservative legislature pass anti-gay measures without our voice being heard.

Our community does face a big challenge in the form of a rights-stripping, anti-gay “marriage protection amendment” to our constitution in November. But even this is being fought back with amazing strength and zeal from the LGBT community and its allies. The two organizations fighting the effort, Florida Red and Blue and Fairness for All Families, have amassed huge amounts of money and bipartisan support to defeat the amendment.

Moving Forward…

This next election cycle can truly be a moment that tips the scales in Florida. The new voter registrations, youth outreach, get-out-the vote efforts, and community education campaigns are already in full swing here. Absentee ballot requests are pouring in, as well as money to fund our fights and races.

Out of a rough and turbulent year, our community has emerged energized and ready to fight for their rights.

I know my post may seem a little overly optimistic. Don’t worry; I’m sure I’ll be griping about something again soon. After all, we still have presidential politics to cover.

But for now, for the first time in years here in Florida, I can see the very real possibility for change.

And that gives me hope.

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KeaponLaffin | January 9, 2008 4:42 PM

As a straight Floridian, I gotta say. I agree.
I thought it was great when the local PD offered 'civil union' benefits to couples. Although I have heard it's been revoked or people are trying to revoke it. Florida politics, like any other, fill me with joy and dread in equal quantities.

Seriously everyone. It's the 21st century. I vote conservative, so does my Mom and she's Baptist, her Catholic husband has a gay son. So really, what's the big deal? People should have rights as people, end of story. And there are not a few numbers of conservative voters that are 'socially liberal' in this sense.

Just a heads-up for those who may despair. I'm an Atheist Conservative who would NEVER vote for denying LGBT's their rights. Even if that means voting Democrat. ;)

"People should have rights as people, end of story."

You give me more hope, my friend!

I actually think Florida has many more voters just like you than people give our state credit for.

So make sure you get all of your friends and neighbors out to vote this cycle to help keep the positive changes moving in Florida!

I liked how you worked in your experience and Nadine's as well. Two of our contributors made the news in Florida last year! Now if it were just for more positive stories! Keep up the hard work, guys. We're counting on you.

Good, maybe you can hope enough for the both of us, for I still remain skeptical about this "positive" future you see in the lovely state that singularly banned gay couples from adopting as a result of a successful campaign that depicted us as pedophiles. The fact that such an abomination of a legislative piece has not been repealed yet only reinforces my feelings that perhaps it is time to leave Florida, taking into consideration all the negatives, such as one of the worst educational settings and poor budget management.

Bil~ Thanks for the encouragement. With fighters like Nadine and many other dedicated activists in this state, we finally stand a chance to make some change.

Lucrece~ What I am hoping for is a start for positive change. Florida has for too long been a bastion of anti-gay sentiment precisely for the reasons you listed. We were the start of Anita Bryant, for goodness sake!

I do think, however, that our state might be a tipping point where LGBT issues can finally start to be heard and recognized. It is not only hope, but the courageous way many in our state’s LGBT community have stood up to fight back like never before.

Is it a forgone conclusion? Absolutely not. It could go either way. But I prefer to at least hope and work for a better future for this state and the nation.