So very often, we want to believe nice things about people, or believe the nice things they say to us are truly reflections of their feelings at all times. But Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
For 55 years there has been a mayoral prayer breakfast organized by a group autonomous from the mayor's government offices. This year will be no exception, but it has been widely publicized that Jim Daly from the virulently anti-gay Focus on the Family will be a featured attendee. Daly's anti-gay rhetoric is both vast and deep. As an ordained minister I completely disagree with his erroneous take on the bible and will continually publicly say so.
When Fort Lauderdale's current mayor, Jack Seiler, is campaigning, he is friendly with the LGBTQ community. He welcomes gay dollars, just not LGBTQ rights. Seiler voted against a resolution calling for marriage equality when we were fighting that battle, yet he was re-elected with a war chest that included money from our community. Now, after repeated calls for him to take a stand publicly in support of our community he dives, dodges, deflects, and refuses.
The mayor was very responsive last week when I emailed him about the problem with featuring Daly at the prayer breakfast. While we have met on several occasions, we are nothing more than “fundraising acquaintances” seeing each other rarely at charity and Democratic events.
So when his first response seemed like boiler plate, I emailed back asking for him to directly respond to what I wrote in the first email. He did. We emailed six different times over the course of two days. Seiler absolutely gets kudos for engaging in dialogue, and being quickly responsive to a constituent he barely knows, if at all.
Content, however, was the problem. Seiler claims he can do nothing because he didn't organize the breakfast, cannot refuse to attend every event during which he may disagree with another speaker, and claimed to be a long-time friend of the LGBT community. While the first two points seem reasonable, the third cannot be believed in light of his refusal to support marriage equality.
Politics. It's true, compromises must be made, so I requested an easy compromise in the next email. He could attend, if he must, and not even ask for the homophobic Daly to be removed:
“Thank you so much for continuing to engage with me in conversation. This is very upsetting to people in the community and to everyone who believes in faith as a vehicle of unity rather than condemnation. Jack, it is frustratingly evident that you are consistently refusing to stand up for the LGBTQ community. Daly is a mouthpiece for a virulently anti-gay organization, Focus on the Family. He consistently berates, belittles, and condemns LGBTQ people. If you are consistent, then let's break this down to one simple question: Do you condemn Daly's anti-gay rhetoric?”
“You can listen to my remarks at the breakfast. I have a long history of supporting LGBT rights (domestic partnerships, gay adoptions, supporting non-discrimination language in Florida law, LGBT employment protections, LGBT opportunities, etc.) Just because I haven't supported every issue doesn't make me anti-LGBT. As stated before, I am truly amazed by any individual or group that takes an intolerant and disrespectful position of criticism, condemnation, and constant complaints, while attacking another individual or group for being intolerant or disrespectful. Again, Happy Easter.”
I asked the mayor if he would attend a prayer breakfast where the featured speaker was a known leader of the KKK, because, hey: tolerance. He did not respond to that question.
I will tolerate someone's right to be homophobic, racist, sexist, et al, but when those views begin to infringe on the rights of others they have reached a line they cannot cross. When justice and legal protections are not equal, and when hate-speech (and its speakers) are given a public platform and given false equivalency to a level of respectable discourse, it is time to turn off the microphone. Believe what you like, but your privilege does not give you the right to oppress others. Tolerance is not a magic word that gives every bigot or misogynist a pass to vomit anything they believe into the world; tolerance is able to respect the humanity of all while demanding justice for all.
We are asking for one simple statement unequivocally supporting our community and condemning Daly's homophobic hate-speech. But Seiler's tolerance of the intolerable tells us everything we need to know. He is not a friend of the LGBTQ community if he will not take a public stand in support of us.