Editor's Note: This is Michael's speech from today's Rally in Tally.
Good afternoon all ye who Rally in Tally!
My name is Michael Emanuel Rajner; a gay man living with AIDS and Director of HIV/AIDS Education and Policy for the Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Caucus. I am here today as the voice of the statewide GLBT caucus of the Florida Democratic Party. I also have the role and responsibility to acknowledge the courage and great work of many 501c3 organizations that have provided incredible leadership on issues of equality. My role here today is clearly a partisan role. And I want you to know we don't only have friends in the Florida State Legislature, but we have some amazing champions who are willing to stand brave and strong and bring our fight to the floor of the State House and Senate. Some of our champions in the legislature are here today with us at today's rally and I would be remiss to not acknowledge them for their amazing leadership.
As a GLBT community, we need to continue to elect Democrats. It is the Democratic party providing the leadership on equality and social justice for ALL FLORIDIANS. When the Florida State Legislature debated the Anti-Bully legislation, shameful Republicans led the charge to dilute protections for GLBTQ youth who are disproportionally affected with a greater rate of bullying than non-GLBTQ youth. Conservative Republicans have continually been the force to obstruct efforts to ensure protections for communities whose voice is not represented in the State Legislature. As a trained social worker, I am here to say it is the Republican Party who marginalizes people who do not look like them. Their divisive acts are not limited to groups such as GLBTQ people and people with skin darker than mine or those who speak a language other than English.
The Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Caucus salutes the leadership and courage of organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who have been lockstep with the GLBT community in the fight for equality. The African American community has suffered immense oppression and persecution in our society. And now, thanks to God, in Barack Obama, we have the first African American President of the United States of America!
From this platform, I can't begin to share with you how inspiring it is to see the army of my brothers and sisters mobilizing and ready to engage in the battle for equality. Many of us know all too well of the pain and alienation brought about through the systematic disenfranchisement of communities of human lives indoctrinated in our laws.
Before me is an incredible army with awesome courage and leadership. Please, turn to your neighbor, and thank that person for their selfless service and for being active in the movement and being a voice for those unable to come to the table to fight for social justice.
Last night I spoke with Michael Albetta, President of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus. He wanted to make certain that I share with you that he spoke with Senator Eleanor Sobel and Senator Chris Smith, and both agree that "its adoption for all" and a crime that groups who dare use children without a loving home as a divisive tool to advance their ideology of hate that encourages discrimination!
Last week while in San Francisco I was waiting for the N Judah train to visit the National AIDS Memorial Grove, I watch a gay man lovingly hold the hand his child and only as a father can, taught his child how to cross the street and avoid danger. I stirred with anger, pain and frustration as I was haunted with how most Republicans prefer and vote to see children like that child be passed around in group homes and institutionalized when there are loving and nurturing homes to care for these children, the leadership of the Republican Party has placed the needs of our vulnerable society with minimal priority!
The Florida Legislature can save tax-payers money and help children at the same time. End the ban on adoption by gay men and lesbians. Help move children out of foster care and into the homes of loving parents. The vast majority of states have always allowed gay men and lesbians to adopt, so this is not a social experiment. It's good for kids, and it will save taxpayers money - why spend money to support children in foster care when there are many able parents willing to adopt, and why spend tens of thousands of dollars defending constitutional court cases, when the state could be using the same money to actually support children (e.g,. better funding for education, increased access to healthcare or other services for children, or reducing the debt so our children will be less burdened by taxes in the future).
Equality Florida and all their partners are doing an amazing job to mobilize our statewide community and to demand solutions for all people! Keep up the great work and continue to inspire the youthful community members to become involved and be part of the collective voice fighting for equality! Our involvement and organizing must be strategic and at all levels. The time has come to end the apathy and complacency, the time has come to gear up for the great battle before us!
Separate is not equal. As same-sex couples who are legally prohibited to married, we are denied certain tax credits and have fewer rights than any other Floridians.
Today, we stand proud and united as a family. As Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community and allies, we must never allow any group or issue to divide us. There is no equality without the "T".
I must now leave and wish you all well as Nadine Smith and I go into the Governor's office and meet with his executive staff and urge Governor Crist to join the 23 states not accepting federal dollars to promote ineffective "abstinence-only" programs. As an GLBTQ community and single-parent families, sex-education programs focused on "abstinence-only" fail to prepare and protect us. As a gay man living with AIDS, I stand before you as one of the more than 1,200,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in America and 150,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Florida.
Our death is on the hands of this largely morally corrupt Republican-controlled legislature. My elected district representatives Senator Atwater and Representative Bogdanoff will not even return my calls to engage in legislation on HIV/AIDS and comprehensive sex-education.
Florida, we need inclusive and genuine leadership and we need it now! We need to take back our government!