OpEd: 2017 SFGN Achievements in Excellence Award - Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Dean Trantalis

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It is the beginning of January, and once again SFGN will be distributing its annual ‘Achievements in Excellence’ awards. 

You are all invited to the ceremonies we will be hosting this year on Thursday evening, January 25, at Hunter’s newly renovated nightclub in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors.

There are three recipients this year, and one of our winners is Fort Lauderdale mayoral candidate Dean Trantalis.

The awards SFGN distributes go beyond a political race in a singular year. They are given to nominees whose careers are marked by dedication and devotion to the LGBT community.

In naming Anderson Cooper the SFGN  2017 ‘Person of the Year’ last week, we went out of our way to point out that we were not looking to glamorize one achievement, but rather trying to reward character and accomplishment over time.

“Excellence,” we wrote, quoting Aristotle, “is not a single act. It is a habit.”

For the South Florida LGBT community, Dean Trantalis represents one the most conscientious and credentialed voices for decades. He has been a leader and spokesperson in the forefront of human rights issues since opening his law practice in Fort Lauderdale 36 years ago, in 1982.

Born and raised in Norwich, Connecticut, Dean graduated Boston University in 1975. It was early in 1990 when Broward County first started to deal with human rights ordinances protecting homosexuals. Dean would become a focal point in that debate, volunteering, organizing and strategizing for the future.

Related: Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s Race Turns Nasty in Debate

In 1993, he became chair of Broward United Against Discrimination, a local chapter of a state-wide effort to defeat the petition drive launched by the American Family Association to enact a law that would have prevented any city or county from enacting gay-rights laws. This effort was also defeated in the Courts, when the Florida Supreme Court found the petition unlawful.

Two years later, in 1995, the LGBT community faced another challenge as opponents of equality sought to overturn the passage of Broward County’s Human Rights Ordinance. The law extended to persons, based on their sexual orientation, protection from discrimination in housing, in employment, and in public accommodations. Broward was the first county in the state to have such a law. 

In 1995, Dean served as co-chair of Americans For Equality. They not only advocated for the law, they had to rise to the challenge of a subsequent petition drive to defeat its repeal. Dean would not be deterred by the challenges. He has spent a career rising to them, organizing, mobilizing and becoming a force for change.

In 1997, Dean helped to coordinate the effort to hold back the passage of the law which banned same-sex marriages here in Florida. He went on to serve on the Board of the Dolphin Democrats and as its president. Five years later, he was elected to represent District 2 as Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay city commissioner. He has been tested by the thread of time, and held up well.

Over the years, Dean has also served the LGBT community with administrative, supervisory and voluntary roles with numerous AIDS agencies, review boards, and chambers of commerce. He has won awards of distinction and recognition from a host of groups and organizations, locally and even nationally. SFGN’s honor this year simply adds another marker to a distinguished career. 

This year, however, Dean’s candidacy for mayor of Fort Lauderdale makes that marker very special. As we have said many times, SFGN is published in four counties from Key West to North Palm Beach, delivered to scores of cities and hundreds of drop off points, extending far beyond the Fort Lauderdale or the limited parameters of the district Dean has represented. Still, home plate IS home plate. 

Whether it has been the Express Gay News or South Florida Gay News recording the history of the gay and lesbian community for the last 19 years, the epicenter of that news operation has been greater Fort Lauderdale and Wilton Manors, the very same-sex centric community where Trantalis has maintained his boutique law practice for years.

Yes, our newspaper reaches many cities in multiple counties but few play as prominent a place in LGBT life in South Florida as Fort Lauderdale. According to the 2012 census, Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of same-sex households in the nation. The voice of its mayor matters.

Related: Anti-Trantalis Ads Result in Accusations of Homophobia

The greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT community has also become known worldwide, not only for its nightlife and hospitality industry, but its international appeal for tourists, its increasing investments for real estates, and its emerging opportunities for business professionals. 

In June of 2014, Dean led the drive for city of Fort Lauderdale commissioners to support a resolution backing same-sex marriage. The sitting mayor opposed it. Imagine a new scenario where the mayor of a major southern city was a proponent of your freedoms instead.

The possibility reasonably exists the voice of that mayor can now become that of a gay man, one of our own, who has advocated for our lives for decades. That matters too, despite having decent opponents- Charlotte Rodstrom and Bruce Roberts- who have been gay supportive in their own careers as well.

Accordingly, Dean’s work is worthy of your acknowledgement and SFGN’s recognition, regardless of whether you agree with him on the city’s infrastructure or position regarding sea turtles. We are celebrating a community voice, not a singular vote.

Dean wins this recognition for a life well lived as a spokesperson for human and LGBT rights. Win or lose this run for mayor, we salute the commitment Dean has brought to the table over many yesterdays.

Straight or gay, having a mayor whose advocacy promotes human rights, tolerance and diversity enhances the lives of every resident driving from the beach to I-95. We all win.

If Dean prevails in his race for mayor, the city will be represented by him with dignity and decency, not defamatory remarks or demeaning posts. That is how he has served the LGBT community in the past and you can expect that is how he will represent all of Fort Lauderdale in the future.

Local elections can be biting and bitter, and already this past week a little flyer purportedly about sewage goes into the gutter about Dean’s candidacy. It features him with red lipstick. Nonsense, if he wins, he would never wear anything but a pink blush.

When and if he does, hopefully on his desk will be a nice trophy and plaque from SFGN noting him as the winner of our ‘Achievements in Excellence’ Award for the calendar year 2017. He has been earning it for 35 years.


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