Lesbian Couple Lobbies Florida Lawmakers

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Joan Waitkevicz, left, and Shirley Herman, right, met with legislative assistant Shawn Jamison Hall, center, on Tuesday in Tallahassee. Hall is an aide to Rep. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Boynton Beach). Photo by John McDonald.

Shirley and Joan are women on a mission. In Tallahassee this week they met with state lawmakers representing Palm Beach County on a number of issues and concerns.

“There is no most important,” Joan told South Florida Gay News on Monday afternoon when asked her most pressing concern.  

She went on to describe her advocacy efforts.

“When we visit our legislators we visit in a group,” Joan said. “We look at their records and each of us that does lobbying speaks to the issue that we know best and to their (legislator’s) voting record or record of bills introduced.”

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H. Joan Waitkevicz is the President of the Democratic Women’s Club of Palm Beach County. A native of New Jersey, Waitkevicz moved to Florida with her partner of 44 years, Shirley Y. Herman, in 2001. The women worked professionally for many years in Manhattan, N.Y.

Shirley, a short, white-haired “senior” stands in the hallway of the Four Points by Sheraton Tallahassee Downtown. She speaks to SFGN while waiting for her boxed lunch provided by the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida.

“Basically there’s an attack on the whole reasonable infrastructure for poor people,” said Herman. “The public schools, the health care… and then guns! Guns everywhere!!  The answer is okay, guns in the airport. We’re searched and asked to take off our shoes but you can bring guns to the airport.  Now things like open carry, now things like Stand Your Ground where in fact you don’t even have to prove that you were threatened. The prosecutors have to prove that you weren’t threatened. Everything seems to be turned on its head.”

Herman said she wrote a poem titled “I Want My Country Back.” She described her writing as an “affirmation.”

“There’s an attack on everything decent and everything reasonable and the reason for it is to save money for the very rich who are now obscenely rich. It’s insane.”

In her affirmation poem, Herman writes how she wants clean water and clean air and “no more environmental degradation.”

“These same very, very rich people have to breathe the same air and drink the same water and live on the same earth so what’s to gain if we destroy it all?” she said.

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On Tuesday midday, Herman and Waitkevicz joined other women in the rotunda of Florida’s capitol building. It was a rally for equal pay asking for $15 an hour minimum wage.

“If we can all earn well and secure our retirement and a little bit of peace of mind in our working life we can all grow and we can all benefit,” Waitkevicz said.

After the rally, the couple joined a group of six to lobby Representatives Matt Willhite, Joseph Abruzzo and Senator Bobby Powell.

“I am a lesbian, physician and abortion provider,” Waitkevicz said. “I am very concerned with Floridians having cutbacks to their healthcare. It would be a great achievement if by 2018 Floridians didn’t lose anything we now have. It’s going to be a terrible fight to retain what we now have.”

The Democratic Women’s Club of Florida held its annual “Tally Days” at the downtown circular-style hotel. The conference brought together women from all parts of the Sunshine State and addressed many topics.

“We’re not experts in all of them so we have to speak in areas of our expertise,” said Waitkevicz. “If all of the Democratic Women do that we’ll have an effective lobbying day.”