As Florida's August Democratic primary for the 2014 gubernatorial election approaches, Florida's LGBT voters hope to elect a leader with a solid record as a champion for equality and one who is capable of solving Florida's many challenges. Whoever is elected as Florida's governor will also likely have the opportunity to choose the next Supreme Court justices.
The State of Florida offers little warmth or sunshine to LGBT families. Our governor and his allies fail to provide us even the most basic of civil protections, and Florida youth are often denied a safe learning environment in which to achieve academic success.
Over several years, our community's battles have not been won in the Florida state legislature or in the Supreme Court. The conversation is slowly changing with the election of two openly gay state representatives serving in Tallahassee. But last year, Republicans balked at an amendment that would have provided protections for LGBT youth in the foster care system saying it was "too political."
Our dream of electing an equality-minded governor is possible. It cannot be accomplished without the backing of the LGBT community, and here is why we must stand with Nan for governor.
Former State Senator Nan Rich has always supported marriage equality. For years, and mostly without popular or political support, this has been her position. Never has she wavered or flip-flopped or apologized for her stance on the equality of all Floridians to marry the person they love.
She also opposed the ban on gay adoption. As early as 2007, Rich sponsored legislation to allow gay parents to adopt children. She fought against Anita Bryant's campaign that discriminated against gay parents and Florida children.
Rich leads the fight to safeguard women's reproductive rights. As a former state representative and Senate minority leader, she understands that women should not have to wait 24 hours to see a doctor before having an abortion. She knows that women should not be denied access to healthcare centers that provide comprehensive life saving cancer screenings, birth control and STI testing.
Rich knows that Florida ranks 3rd in the nation for new HIV infections and AIDS cases. Miami and Fort Lauderdale are first and second in the nation, respectively, in the number of new HIV infections. Rich successfully fought for increased funding to ease the burden for those on the wait list for lifesaving medications provided by the Florida AIDS Drug Assistance Program. The governor at the time ignored Florida's crisis, the worst in the nation.
She is a proponent of public education and understands that we should have a comprehensive sex education plan in our public schools in order to reduce the number of unplanned teen pregnancies and cases of STIs and HIV. She sponsored the Healthy Teens Act and opposed abstinence-only sex education.
Rich is and has been a constant protector of our children and the many diverse families that compose Florida's tapestry. She has never wavered in her support of the LGBT community. Whether at our sides in the struggle for equality, or watching our backs when others have tried to ambush our dreams, she is a loyal and constant companion.
Senator Rich is a public servant whose actions are historically consistent with our Democratic principles. Her loyalty to the LGBT community and her commitment to causes that are important to us are what we have always hoped for in a governor. Think about what it would mean to have Nan in Tallahassee, for a change, for the future!
Note: This post initially published in the March 19, 2014 issue of South Florida Gay News and was co-authored by Wilton Manors Vice Mayor Julie Carson. Carson was the first out Lesbian elected to public office in Broward County. Vice Mayor Carson serves as the Region 6 Director of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus; is the immediate past Vice President of the Dolphin Democrats; and is the LGBT Representative of the Broward Democratic Party Executive Committee.