Serena Freewomyn

Better Know a Contributor: Anthony Niedwiecki

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | October 12, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality, Site News, Weekly Reader
Tags: Amendment 2, Anthony Niedwiecki, Bilerico Florida, Nova Southeastern University, Oakland Park

Editor's Note: You've seen Steven Colbert's "Better Know a Lobbyist," but our version is so much gayer! Each weekend, we spotlight a different TBP contributor. In case you've missed any of our previous interviews, I've got links at the end of the post.

In conjunction with this week's launch of BP-Florida, we're highlighting one of our local contributors, Anthony Niedwiecki. (Try saying that name after a few drinks!) Anthony is a longtime LGBT community activist, law professor, and lawyer. He is currently a professor and administrator at Nova Southeastern University, where he directs and teaches in the Lawyering Skills & Values Program. He also teaches labor and employment law, discrimination law, LGBT issues in the law, and advanced rhetoric. He also happens to be the husband of Bilerico Editor Waymon Hudson - aren't they just the cutest pair!

Anthony is also running for Oakland Park City Commission in March 2009, so be sure to stop by his website and throw some support his way! And make sure you check out his blog series on Bilerico-Florida about the real impact of Florida's Amendment 2, which analyzes the potential legal meaning and impact of the language "substantial equivalent" to marriage in that amendment, as well details how similar language in other state marriage amendments has been treated legally and politically. Sounds brainy!

Follow me after the jump to learn more about Anthony!

1. How did you get involved in TBP?

My husband Waymon has been writing for Bilerico for a while now and I have written some guest posts. Recently, he encouraged me to be a contributor. By "encourage", I mean he told me to do it. That is pretty much how our marriage works. LOL...

Seriously, I had been a long time reader of Bilerico. I love the site and the way everyone interacts. I have learned so much from everyone, and I am glad to be a part of the family. I became even more excited and interested in TBP after meeting Bil this summer during our trip to Indiana.

2. What was your coming out experience like?

I came out pretty late in life. I was 27 years old when I first told a friend. I knew that I was gay at a very young age, but tried to avoid it. In fact, I remember having a big crush on a guy in my calculus class. Now that I think about it, that crush might have something to do with why I majored in mathematics in college!

I never really dealt with my sexuality until after college. I tried fighting the idea in my mind, but it never went away, so I started telling some friends in my second year of law school. I just got tired of not being honest with everyone, including myself. The first family member I told was my brother. I planned on telling him last because he always called me a "fag" and he was such a big "macho guy". One day, he told me on the phone to quit being "so gay," so I told him- I was gay. The next day he called me and told me that I must be the toughest person he knows because of how hard it was for me to come out. Since that day, he has been so supportive. The process of coming out really did bring me closer to many friends and family.

3. When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

Since I could talk. I was always argumentative as a child, correcting my parent's English and arguing about politics. In fact, my family has called me "Professor" since I was five. I didn't finally decide to go to law school until I was 25 years old. After college, I taught high school mathematics. After teaching for a few years, I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school because I knew I wasn't done learning and I loved politics and the law. After starting law school, I missed teaching. It was then that I started planning my future as a law professor so I could tie my love for teaching with my love for law and politics.

4. What prompted you to run for public office?

Waymon and I bought our first house together almost five years ago. The city of Oakland Park (a city that is next to Fort Lauderdale, Florida) annexed our neighborhood shortly after we bought our house, and I have been involved in city politics and government since that time. My involvement increased almost two years ago when Waymon and I heard the anti-gay announcement over the Fort Lauderdale Airport and complained to county officials. It was our openly gay county commissioner, Ken Keechl, who was the most helpful. Through his pushing the police and airport officials, they were able to find the person who made the announcement.

A few months later, we saw the worst of government when Mayor Naugle of Fort Lauderdale made a series of comments that demonized and demeaned our community. Waymon and I were some of the first to protest the mayor by handing out flyers at the next city commission meeting telling the community that bigoted words can lead to violent actions and that they must stop. That became the sad reality with the killing of Simmie Williams in the streets of Fort Lauderdale, and the violent bashing of a gay couple on Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. My activism continued during that summer when we were two of the principle organizers for a unity rally that brought over 1000 people to the steps of city hall. I also worked closely with the county commission (especially Vice Mayor Stacy Ritter) in getting Naugle removed from the Broward County Tourism Development Council, which the commission did by a vote of 9-0.

All of these events led me to one conclusion- we can't sit around and let people get elected who are going to hurt us and our communities. Instead I want to stand up and run to make sure that Oakland Park and the South Florida region deal with the real and difficult issues we must face, and not some made up problem based in bigotry and hate. While the city was facing severe budget issues, beatings against the homeless, and the lowering of our property values, Naugle decided to manufacture a non-existent problem to demonize the LGBT community. What we saw was how one person can foster an environment that is dangerous for all LGBT individuals. We witnessed the damage that only ONE city official can do our community and our reputation as a gay-friendly place to live and visit.

I decided that the only way that I could really prevent someone like Naugle from becoming a commissioner in my city was to run myself. I knew I would work on the real problems of the city and not create new ones. So that is where I am today, working hard on addressing the real issues facing our city and continuing the fight for equality in our community.

5. How do you like to spend your weekends?

To be honest, the weekends are family time. I like to spend time with my hubby Waymon relaxing or doing work around the house. It's all very boring and domestic, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We like to do anything that allows us to spend time together and just clear our minds. This is becoming increasingly more difficult as we get closer to the election, but we still make time for those important moments together.

6. Who's your pick to win this season of "Project Runway?"

Korto. No question. She has been my favorite throughout the entire show. She has such a great and unique aesthetic that you rarely see in fashion. She is incredible!

Check out previous interviews with TBP Contributors
Alex Blaze
Don Sherfick
Sara Whitman
Brent Hartinger
Jessica Hoffman
Cathy Renna
Waymon Hudson
Kate Clinton
Bruce Parker
Jerame Davis
Mercedes Allen
Monica Roberts
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Steve Ralls
Nancy Polikoff
Marti Abernathey
Nina Smith
Eric Marcus
Rev. Irene Monroe
Jason Tseng
Michael Crawford
Brynn Craffey
Tobi Hill-Meyer

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I know I may be biased (I mean, he is my husband), but we are so lucky to have Anthony as part of the Bilerico Family.

I am so excited about his upcoming blog series on Florida's Amendment 2. I've seen some of it already and it is fascinating, informative stuff!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | October 13, 2008 5:15 AM

Anthony, I would like to wish you every success in the upcoming election and your continued academic career. It must be hard. I am sure Waymon doesn't leave much room in the closets does he? And now he makes you write for Bilerico? It must be love.

And we Poles know how to love. That's right, I can pronounce your name in that Mama was a Yagelski!

I have enjoyed and will look forward to your future postings and I hope Waymon clears some space for your shoes. :)

I became even more excited and interested in TBP after meeting Bil this summer during our trip to Indiana.

Awww... *blushes*

(But I thought we weren't telling Waymon about when you got "excited" during the Indy trip? Now the secret is out! Argh!) :)

Ah, a comrade in arms! Professors of the world unite! I am looking forward to your legal explanation of Amendment 2 with great anticipation.

Go Waymon!

Er, um, I mean, welcome to the team, Anthony.