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.
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.