"You gotta give them hope." Isn’t that what Harvey Milk said?
Elaine Noble, a dear friend of mine, chuckled when I told her the news. Lauren Baer of Palm Beach Gardens won her primary, and proudly accepted the win, with her spouse Emily, smiling at her side, then a kiss.
Lauren Baer, like Noble 44 years ago, is poised to make history if voters send her to Washington in November. She would be the first person to win a seat in Congress as someone in a federally recognized same-sex marriage. She would also be the first open lesbian from Florida to have a seat in the Congress.
But she needs our help. On Thursday in West Palm Beach the Human Right’s Campaign will hold its first ever Equality Action Academy training in Florida.
Elaine Noble made history in 1974 as the first openly gay person to win a bid for a seat in the Massachusetts House. She’s a Floridian now, and was happy to hear history in the making.
“It takes people on the ground, as well as people in high places. It’s not unlike how Murphy won both of his races in that same district.” And she was right, my husband and I saw it firsthand. Voters in District 18 proved Democrat Patrick Murphy could best Allen West by 2,000 votes in the Republican-leaning territory where incumbent West spent $18 million to hold a seat Murphy won with by spending only a quarter as much. He won again against veteran Carl Domino, this time by 50,000 votes in 2014. Lightning strikes twice in the same place all the time, because it’s where conditions are finest – it’s fact; it’s science really. In this case political.
When the Human Rights Campaign reached out to hold the Equality Action Academy training, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council stepped up. PBCHRC is sponsoring the event on Thursday, Sept. 6. Doors open at 5:30 and the training begins at 6 p.m. HRC is using its resources and experienced trainers to educate local citizens and inspire them to become Equality Voters. Their hope is to activate participants and involve them in campaigns, and to meet others Equality Voters who want to do the same.
The City of West Palm Beach, officials and staff, took less than a day to secure a great venue on short notice: he Lake Pavilion - THE premier venue - located at the end of Clematis Street, overlooking the water, just a few miles shy of Lauren Baer’s district. The City’s response was a signal - momentum was mounting and within hours organizations were offering to help. They began spreading word of HRC’s Equality Voter Training to their own supporters. Equality Florida, Compass Community Center, Planned Parenthood, National Organization for Women, the New Leader’s Council, and many others are eager to participate in campaigns, as Equality Voters started sending RSVP’s to join the growing coalition. Those are the actions of people who feel a historic win in the air.
Murphy’s legacy, and lasting gift to the voters of his district was better and bigger than him. He activated voters, he motivated volunteers, he found those willing to work, carry signs, and make phone calls. They knocked on doors, carried signs, re-engaged groups who’d stopped really trying, or fought only by voting even though they didn’t really believe they could win.
Lightning strikes twice - in the same place – where the conditions are most probable for lightning to strike again. Volunteers are gathering, and voters are ready for a representative and they’re shedding past assumptions to shape a district boasting the 8th largest city in Florida, Port St. Lucie, also known as the fastest growing. With the help of organizations signing on to lend a hand the voters in District 18 will have the resources to connect to their representatives, and once they do and know how, they’ll finally have a say, and help mold their District’s future, in their own way.
“Values voters” will take the opportunity to get their voters to focus on the family of Baer’s family, no doubt. But with attendance and interest in the training already exceeding expectations, and three days remaining to recruit more, the biggest winners will be in our community here. A community filled with educated voters, motivated volunteers who will learn - and take part in history - while it’s happening. A coalition of voters inspired to send an open lesbian to U.S. Congress.
IF YOU GO:
PALM BEACH CO. - Thursday, September 6
Co-hosted by the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council
Registration : 5:30 - 6 p.m.
Training: 6-9 p.m.
Food and drinks will be provided
The Lake Pavilion
101 South Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
MIAMI-DADE CO. - Saturday, September 8
Registration & lunch: 11 - 11:30 am
Training: 11:30 am - 3:30 pm
Lunch and snacks will be provided
Miami Shores Community Church - Reception Hall
9823 NE 4th Ave, Miami Shores, FL 33138
BROWARD CO. - Sunday, September 9
Registration & lunch: 12:30 pm - 12:45 pm
Training: 12:45 pm - 4:30 pm
Lunch and snacks will be provided
Pride Center at Equality Park
2040 N Dixie Hwy, Wilton Manors, FL 33305