Those of you who have been to south Florida may know me as a senior features correspondent (along with Tony Adams) for South Florida Gay News (SFGN), the area's leading LGBT publication. Recently SFGN honored "The Out 50:" the 50 most influential people in south Florida's LGBT community.
Missing from the list was SFGN publisher (and fellow Bilerico Project contributor) Norm Kent. This is understandable; as it would not be proper for Norm to "honor" himself in his own paper. However, as a freelance contributor, I do not have similar restraints.
In my humble opinion, Norman Elliott Kent's contributions to our community have earned him a place among our best and brightest.
I first met Norm Kent in the early 1980's, when I was involved with another gay attorney, the late Stephen Jerome. Norm was already famous as a lawyer when he decided to try his hand at gay journalism by starting The Express (1999).
At the time, I was writing for The Weekly News (twn), a survivor from the 1970s that was already showing signs of stagnation. Norm's Express shook up south Florida's journalistic establishment and improved the competition (twn included) by its example. Norm sold The Express to Window Media in 2003 but came back, bigger and better, with SFGN (2009).
If Norm Kent's contributions to our community were limited to his publishing endeavors, they would have earned him a place among our greats. But Norm's résumé goes further than that.
Many of us enjoyed his morning drive radio talk show, broadcast on WFTL-1400 AM from 1989 to 1997 and on WFTL-850 AM from 2002 to 2005. For much of that time, Norm broadcast his show from a window-side table at the Floridian Restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard; which allowed Fort Lauderdale personalities to drop by for a chat and the masses to watch him at work from the sidewalk.
But it is an attorney and an activist that Norm Kent will be most remembered. He has successfully defended many clients, including gay men who were falsely accused of breaking Florida's "lewd and lascivious offenses" law. He has sued local governments in Florida on behalf of his clients' civil rights. Norm's work for LGBT rights and equality is well-known; and needs not be repeated here.
Less known is Norm's years of work on behalf of marijuana law reform. He has chaired the board of directors of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and defended clients' use of medical marijuana. The decriminalization of marijuana, once considered to be a pipe dream, is now closer to reality than ever before. Twenty states now allow for the medical use of cannabis, and conservative Florida might join that number if the voters approve a state constitutional amendment this November.
In addition to his SFGN articles, Norm Kent is the author of "The Pot Warriors Manifesto". He also contributes to counterpunch.org. Those who are interested in Norm the lawyer should check out browardlawblog.com, where he shares his wisdom about legal (and other) matters.
(This article originally appeared in SFGN's "Out 50" issue.)