At a recent commission meeting in my home town of Oakland Park, Florida, I became aware of an issue that affects so many families in the LGBT community. During a discussion about possibly limiting short term rentals in the city, I discovered that single family homes were limited to no more than three unrelated people living together.
Specifically, the city's code says that single family homes cannot include "more than three individuals unrelated by blood, marriage, or adoption."
The problems with this outdated law are obvious. For example, in Florida, LGBT people cannot marry. We also cannot adopt. Our families don't fit into this narrow mold and are thus breaking this law.
After some research, I discovered that this is the case in numerous municipalities around the country. At a time when our families are under attack from so many different directions, this provides a dangerous tool for those that would discriminate against us. Even if these laws are never enforced, simply having them on the books implies that our families are valued less than others and not worthy of respect and protections.
I have been with my partner, Waymon, for six years. We received a civil union in Vermont almost five years ago and are registered domestic partners here in Broward County. He even announced on this blog recently that we are going to California to get married. We also recently had a foster son live with us, who is a part of our family that still comes home to visit us regularly from college.
The sad reality is that if we had two foster children in our home at the same time, we would have been violating the law!
That is wrong.
I am afraid that there are so many other unmarried couples (both straight and gay) with children who are violating Oakland Park's law and laws like it around the country. There also are other families that are not related by blood or marriage that violate this ordinance, including seniors who live with and support each other. In fact, under this law the Golden Girls would be prevented from living in a single family home in Oakland Park!
"Thank you for being a friend"? Hardly.
This law is outdated and needs to be changed. A few cities across the country have already changed their laws, and Oakland Park could be a leader here in South Florida. This is an issue all cities need to look closely at and change. We should be strengthening our families, not creating more legal hurdles for them.
The reality is that our families and households come in every shape and size- and they all need to be respected and protected. Last week I asked the city to modernize this ordinance to reflect the wonderfully diverse nature of our city and of communities like ours around the country.
Cities should take actions that make our communities more inclusive and welcoming, and changing this ordinance is another small step in that direction.
For more information on Anthony's Campaign and for updates on this issue, visit www.Anthony09.com.