Back in 2011, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings stood at the podium to deliver the keynote address for the Broward County observance of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Although he arrived with prepared remarks by one of his amazing DC-based LGBT staff members, he paid a brief tribute to that staff member and said he needed to speak from his heart and didn’t want to read from a piece of paper.
He didn’t shy away from when Democrats controlled both houses of the U.S. Congress in the late ‘80s and impeached and removed him as a federal judge. He shared that one of his proudest moments as a federal judge was when a transgender inmate of the federal prison system had a case before him where the federal correctional facility refused to allow the individual to complete the final of three gender confirmation surgeries. The individual had completed the first two surgeries before being incarcerated and the third was already scheduled prior to incarceration and was able to afford the surgery herself.
Hastings, a federal judge back then, ordered the correction facility to not only permit the surgery to take place, but for the system to pay for it.
He spoke about how that individual wrote to him after she was released from prison and thanked him for affirming her for being her authentic self.
After his removal from the federal bench, Hastings campaigned and won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and throughout his years he has been a tireless champion on issues of civil rights, but never shied away to stand up and fight for LGBT equality and needs of the HIV/AIDS community.
While in Congress with Barney Frank, they teamed up to whip the vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and challenged Democrats and Republicans alike when he held them accountable to support the LGBT community.
When Allen West, my own member of congress refused to meet with me on HIV/AIDS issues, Alcee reminded me that congressional offices belong to the people in that district and not the members. He proudly pointed out to me a sign which proclaimed that on his office door.
In 2010, the HIV/AIDS community was suffering through historic waiting lists for access to HIV medications due to a funding shortage of AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, I emailed his office on that matter and he called me and invited me to come to Washington D.C. and he would give a floor speech to call on Congress and former President Obama to allocate $25 million in emergency funds for the program — Hastings not only gave the speech, but he teamed up with Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and delivered on the $25 million.
One of my personal heroes has passed, but his contributions and the legacy he leaves behind for our community should never be forgotten.
May you rest in peace, my friend.