A group of around 30 LGBT activists and supporters carried picket signs with pictures of hate crimes victims and bearing placards that called for an end to hate speech by public officials outside of the March 13 prayer breakfast hosted by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle. The protest was organized by the activist groups Fight OUT Loud and Gay American Heroes.
The keynote speaker at the prayer breakfast was Jim Daly, president of the ultra right-wing religious organization Focus on the Family. FOTF is among the most aggressive opponents of the gay rights movement and one of the primary backers of an expansive anti-gay marriage amendment that goes before voters this November in Florida.
Activists from Fight Out Loud and Gay American Heroes, as well as supporters from several Fort Lauderdale churches, said Daly's appearance at the breakfast is an example of how Naugle is using his office to inflame hatred and violence towards the gay community. All of this comes only weeks after a string of anti-gay violent crimes in Fort Lauderdale.
Naugle has yet to speak out against these acts of violence in South Florida, including the murder of 19 year old gay youth Simmie Williams and the brutal gay-bashing of a couple at a popular tourist hot spot. The mayor has remained silent on these acts and continued to inflame anti-gay hatred.
Instead of trying to diffuse the dangerous atmosphere that many see as building in Fort Lauderdale, Naugle has time and time again tried to paint the local gay community as predators, disease carriers, and a danger to children. His most recent push was when he used the city newsletter to spread his message of hate. The group Fight OUT Loud responded immediately and his mayor's message was permanently stripped from the newsletter. Now he has invited Focus on the Family to come and spread their hate in the city as well.
Our community must continue to stand up against bigots like Naugle and Sally Kern. We cannot allow their virulent anti-gay rhetoric to go unchallenged and further create an atmosphere of hate and violence in our communities. It was an honor to stand in the picket line and fight back against this kind of mindless hate.
I hope you all join me on the front lines in this fight.