While their two-year marriage may not be recognized on a Federal level, Joan Waitkevicz and Shirley Herman use that discrimination to fuel their fight for LGBT and Women’s rights.
Together for 39 years, Waitkevicz and Herman moved to Florida in 2001 from New York. Waitkevicz’s parents lived here in a retirement home and the two would spend hours driving around the state when not spending time with Waitkevicz’s parents.
“The first thing we used to do when we’d get to town is grab your [Express] news paper to see what was going on with the community,” Waitkevicz said about SFGN’s predecessor the Express Gay News. “The lower cost of living and the gay community is what made us want to move here.”
Waitkevicz and Herman, who are a part of the National Organization for Women and board members for Compass, want people to know the specifics as to why they’re voting for President Obama from a woman’s and a gay couple’s perspective. As precinct leaders in West Palm Beach, their jobs are to get people out to vote and to energize them.
Waitkevicz said that she and Herman “work with Women for Obama to ensure women know what each candidate stands for as far as women’s and LGBT rights goes. Women need to know how to vote on key amendments like Proposition 8 and 6. Proposition 8 would allow religious institutions to receive public funding. Proposition 6, known as the Florida Abortion Law, seeks to prohibit the use of public funds for abortions except as required by federal law and to save the mother's life. Additionally, the measure stipulates that the state constitution cannot be interpreted to include broader rights to abortion than those contained in the United States Constitution.”
The couple also wanted to stress the importance of the reason they’re voting and encouraging others to re-elect President Obama. Herman, who is on Medicare and Social Security, said it is very important to keep these two programs intact.
“We have friends who are younger who are going to depend on it in the future,” they said.
Herman and Waitkevicz had a meeting with six friends who used to be married and had come out later in life.
“Many of these women will only have their Social Security to retire on. We don’t want women or anyone to lose their retirement because Romney considers being old a preexisting condition,” they said.
When asked about Mitt Romney wanting to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act, Herman said that would be devastating to her and Waitkevicz.
“I was working when we retired here to Florida. My Cobra insurance from my previous job ran out and Cobra wanted too much money. Waitkevicz’s job insured me for a fee that we had to pay. President Obama’s health care act takes the high price sting away so people don’t have to rely on the decency of employers to extend them benefits.”
It’s not hard to see why these two love President Obama.
“The fact that the President would put my equal rights out there no matter the criticism, that means a lot to people like me,” Waitkevicz said.
Waitkevicz is convinced the Palm Beach County is where the key to this election lies.
“We’re organizing; we’re working to bring in the victory. We’ll have the victory eventually but I want it now. If we deliver Palm Beach we’ll deliver the Country,” they said.
When asked what has led to that conclusion, Waitkevicz continued saying that she believes “most people are appalled at the other side, their anti-views, not just anti-gay. They find it so despicable.”
Herman added that “more and more will say, ‘I don’t hate the poor, or women.’ Climate has changed for gay people; people aren’t that mean that they would vote for someone who aren’t like themselves.”
While professing her faith in the President, Herman choked up a little on the phone.
“I feel a part of the process to have a President that stands up for me. What he’s done has come from who he is.”
Emphatically Waitkevicz added, “Yeah, he’s got my vote.”