Give us a Reason to Believe Charlie

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The LGBT community could become very depressed or shockingly surprised about this year's gubernatorial race in Florida.

The likely candidates are an incumbent who does not support us, and a former governor who never did, and never has.

So why is there maybe a sliver of light in this nightmare?

Let's for a moment disregard the rumors or the realities of Charlie Crist's personal life. Let's just respect a zone of privacy. Let's just look at the professional politician's track record and history on all issues gay.

Mr. Crist comes to the table having served in the Florida Senate, as the state education commissioner, attorney general and governor. He served in all these offices as LGBT issues emerged in the news politically. Office holders were called upon to articulate their stands on gay adoption, gays in the military, domestic partnership ordinances, and now, gay marriages.

In both 2006 and 2008, Crist supported the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in Florida, and supported the current ban on adoption by homosexual prospective parents – saying that a "traditional family provides the best environment for children." He refused interviews from gay journalists and spent a long decade circumventing and denying the rumors swirling around him that he is gay.

Often considered more expedient than principled, Crist is nevertheless moving progressively forward on equal rights issues. He was the first Republican governor to accept an invitation to address a statewide convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 2010, he stated that he no longer supported Florida's ban on same-sex adoption.

On May 9, 2013, Crist announced that he supports same-sex marriage; “I most certainly support marriage equality in Florida and look forward to the day it happens here, " he stated.

Although he has not yet publicly addressed the issue, he is presently employed by a law firm supporting a constitutional amendment to provide Floridians with medical marijuana.

One of the first things he can do as a candidate, which he now is – would be to announce that he will support same sex benefits for members of the Florida National Guard, and put our state in line with Pentagon policy. It would also be appropriate for Crist to finally stop declining interviews with the gay press.

When Crist took the national podium to endorse Barack Obama's re-election campaign, we all saw what was coming. Well, it's here now. It's early in a race where a popular local politician, Nan Rich, is also running. She has an admirable track record on issues of importance to our community. She also has an uphill battle against a popular centrist former governor seeking to bear the Democratic standard.

Whether or not Mr. Crist gains the support of the LGBT community will turn, not on whom rumors say he may have slept with yesterday, but the positions he takes on social issues today. After all, it is an old axiom that politics make strange bedfellows. Let’s hope Mr. Crist becomes ours.

Florida needs a progressive governor, able to integrate international populations from South Florida with still conservative communities in Tallahassee. We need a candidate, who is not a politician, not parochial, but a global, world citizen. Mr. Crist has shown all the signs that he can reach that stature.

Give us a reason to believe Charlie. Give us a reason to believe.


Greg Kabel

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