SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week: Who do you feel is an unsung champion for equality within the last 20 years? Below are some of their answers:
I’d like to highlight Luigi Ferrer. Luigi is an experienced bisexual activist. He was one of six incorporating board members of BiNet USA and served as National Coordinator for three years. He is the former Executive Director of the Bisexual Foundation. As a Latino, bilingual, bisexual HIV plus male, Luigi remains engaged on many fronts. As a result, he is a nationally-recognized AIDS activist and healthcare consultant. As one of the founding members of the South Florida Bisexual Network, Luigi helped establish a thriving bisexual community in Miami and co-facilitated its bisexual support group for six years.
Luigi worked for a leading AIDS service organization in Miami implementing HIV prevention programs for Latino MSM. He is a board member of the Bisexual Resource Center and President of BiNet USA. For the last seven years, Luigi has served as the Director of Program and Grant Development, and most recently as the new Director of Health Services at Pridelines, South Florida’s oldest LGBTQ service agency, where he dedicates each day to supporting, educating and empowering South Florida’s LGBTQ youth and the community at large in safe and diverse environments through affirming programs and services to promote dialogue, wellness and foster social change.
— Victor Diaz-Herman, Executive Director, Pridelines Youth Services
The unsung hero over the last 20 years is anyone who came out to his or her family and friends and helped to create the network of straight allies whose firsthand experience with LGBT individuals changed the landscape of our struggle for equality. The onslaught of young people who took this brave step helped to create a very different world than the one I came out in during the 1980s and we owe them a great debt of gratitude.
— David Jobin, executive director of The Stonewall National Museum & Archives
I am proud to say that Metropolitan Community Churches is the first thought that came to my mind when I considered this question. MCC performed the very first public same-gender wedding in 1969, and that same year, the founder of MCC, Rev. Troy Perry, filed the very first lawsuit on behalf of a lesbian couple seeking legal recognition of their marriage. We have been fighting for marriage equality everywhere ever since.
Beyond marriage equality, hundreds of MCC congregations globally are working on the front lines every day, from Pakistan to Jamaica, from Eastern Europe and to the U.S., to secure equal rights for LGBT people. We have been doing this work for 47 years, and will proudly continue to be a "human-rights church" for as long as it takes for our world to be the way we believe God would have it to be for all people.
— Lea Brown, Senior Pastor, MCC of the Palm Beaches
Former State Representative Tracy Stafford (D-Wilton Manors) who was sponsoring anti-discrimination legislation including removing Florida's ban on gay adoption back when doing so was not popular or favorable. Pioneers and allies of equality such as Rep. Stafford are among those we should remember and to whom be grateful.
— Justin S. Flippen, J.D., Wilton Manors City Commissioner
Unsung champions are every plaintiff at Lambda Legal and other organizations who exposed their personal lives in public to challenge the courts on issues of equality. Their bravery affects the lives of future LGBTQ generations.
— Anthony Timiraos, CEO/President, OUR Fund
Champion for equality is Rev Nancy Wilson, Moderator of MCC Churches. She's spearheaded an international religious institution with a focus on social justice from an LGBT view. She's unassuming yet powerful in her messages and actions
— R. J. Hadley, community activist and blogger
Let's celebrate the extraordinary contributions to our movement for equality of the heads of our non-profits who have to scrounge for money to provide us free services, of the heterosexual and cis-gender spouses of gay and transgender people who keep their families together when their husbands or wives come out, and of all the invisible people in the Obama Administration who have worked hard to move us forward in the past seven years.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist