Saluting One Life, Censuring the Next
The purpose of starting a new gay and lesbian newspaper for South Florida this year was to insure that our history would still be recorded, online and in print. SFGN has delivered that to you in a professional, newsworthy, crisp, and aesthetic fashion. We are proud of what we achieved thus far, and we are even pushing our way through the long hard ‘mean season’ of summer in South Florida.
Much of our success is because so many gay and lesbian lawyers have helped sustain our paper with their ads. We thank them. Bear with me, and let me tell you why that matters today.
One of the features we have been running is an occasional photo by ‘Pompano Bill,’ entitled ‘Flashback,’ capturing the life of someone no longer with us, who was there with us when it counted. The person we share with you today deserves more than a photo. Attorney and University of Miami law professor Bruce J. Winick deserves his own editorial. Our straight ally died of cancer last week, just days before his 66th birthday.
Thirty years ago, as a young lawyer, working as an ACLU attorney, he helped draft legislation protecting gays from discrimination in Miami-Dade County, adding sexual orientation to race and religion under protections in the county’s 1977 human rights ordinance. It was unprecedented at the time, and opened the door to the Anita Bryant campaign.
Bruce Winick followed up that noble cause by becoming counsel of record in one of the most historic cases for gay citizens in the history of the State of Florida. You see, in a Florida Supreme Court case in 1978, Winick and then-wife Terry L. DeMeo represented the ACLU and helped overturn the Florida Bar’s rule forbidding openly gay attorneys from being licensed in Florida.
Forget that you see my friend George Castrataro in many ads on TV today. Thirty years ago, he could have been denied the right to be a lawyer in this state because he’s gay. That’s right, in 1978, being gay meant you were ‘morally unfit’ to practice law.
It took an appeal to the Supreme Court of the State of Florida in the case of Florida Bar applicant Robert Eimers to allow a gay person to practice law. Take pause, and think about that now. Tomorrow, nearly 40 gay and lesbian lawyers will be holding their monthly luncheon at the Tower Club. Hopefully, they will toast Mr. Winick posthumously.
Every gay lawyer in Florida owes Bruce Winick thanks, but all of us owe him appreciation for living a life that was willing to buck the tide and challenge the status quo.
Perhaps those words can inspire our own present day young lawyers groups, so they can be more than cocktail parties and business promulgators. Perhaps these lawyers will become leaders in advancing our rights, protecting our interests, and advocating our causes; helping make a difference today so our lives will be enriched tomorrow.
One person who has not enriched our lives is the hypocrite that is Kenneth Mehlman. The former chair of the Republican National Committee came out as a gay man last week, to a big brouhaha in the national press. But his secret was no secret.
He was outed years ago, in many venues, including by TV host Bill Maher, whose remarks were censored by CNN at the time. While defending straight marriage and lambasting gay activism, Mehlman was going home to his Chelsea condo with a gay man. He denied it all, protecting for self-gain his stature and role in the Grand Old Party, which is more and more appearing to have been a Gay Old Party.
Today, however, we are delighted that his journey has brought him to the town of Honesty and the state of Self-Awareness. Mr. Mehlman, was so hostile to our cause for so long, he deserves no applause today though- only our pity. He could have helped so many gay lives by illuminating his own. Instead, he fought against us.
Welcome to the sunlight, Mr. Mehlman. May it disinfect who you have been and allow you to become who you are.