LGBT activists squeezed into a banquet area of a Fort Lauderdale Beach resort to share shock and grief from an election that, for the most part, did not go their way.
“We’re grieving because there is uncertainty about how far back this person wants to push us,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director.
Smith spoke to attendees of Equality Florida’s annual Broward Gala held Sunday evening at the B Ocean Resort. A longtime activist for LGBT rights, Smith attempted to ease the pain of last week’s election victories by Republicans, who now control all three branches of the United States government.
“I’m not hiding under the comforter with some Häagen-Dazs and hoping all goes right,” Smith said. “This is a different day. We are not helpless. We are out. We are proud. We are married. We have children that we will fight for. We will do no less to defend our families. You can count on that.”
As Smith spoke, protesters marched through downtown Fort Lauderdale declaring their distain for President-elect Donald J. Trump. Several South Florida cities saw anti-Trump protests over the weekend. In Miami, more than 400 people took to the streets eventually causing a shutdown of Interstate 95.
A crowd estimated at 550 jammed into Equality Florida’s Broward Gala to hear from the state’s largest LGBT civil rights organization. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova received the “Voice of Equality” award and used her time at the podium to blast Trump’s election.
“You know why the polls were wrong?,” Navratilova asked. “Because people were in the fucking closet. They were not saying they were going to vote for Trump. What does that tell you? If you cannot say who you are supporting, perhaps you are not to support them.”
Despite Trump’s victory, the election results were not a total loss for liberals and progressives. In Orlando, Carlos Guillermo Smith was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. Guillermo Smith becomes the first openly LGBT Latino legislator in Florida history.
“The QLatinx community now has a seat at the table in state government after being shut out and ignored for too long!,” Guillermo Smith said. “I’m ready to fight, to serve and ready to get to work for all of us.”
In Tallahassee Guillermo Smith said he would wear a rainbow ribbon on his jacket lapel in honor of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. During the gala, Equality Florida unveiled a new video tribute featuring survivors of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
“There’s no small part of Carlos’ victory that isn’t a reflection of how Orlando responded with compassion, love and rejected fear all the way,” said Nadine Smith.
NBC6 reporter Jaime Guirola emceed the gala, now in its 14th year. Fort Lauderdale activist Nate Klarfeld was recognized for his organizational efforts in raising more than two million dollars for Equality Florida.
Navratilova attended with her wife, Julia Lemigova, and rallied the faithful with a strong message.
“We will not stop and we will not be quiet,” Navratilova said. “We’re just going to keep fighting until this guy is out of there and until we get full and equal protection under the law for everybody.”