The local LGBT community is mourning the death of Alcee Hastings, a longtime Democratic member of the House of Representatives, and champion of civil rights and advocate for those living with HIV. He was 84.
“Rep. Hastings was always a fiery advocate for the underdog. He was an early supporter of LGBTQ equality supporting non-discrimination legislation throughout his career,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “He was bold and fearless and an ally through and through.”
Hastings was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2019. He’s served in the U.S. House since 1993.
Shevrin Jones, Florida’s first LGBT state senator, was particularly close to the former representative.
“Above all else though, I was proud to call Alcee a friend and mentor. Alcee would often tell people he was my god dad, something that gave my family great delight,” Jones said in a prepared statement. “He was one of the only elected officials to endorse my first campaign for state house when others wouldn’t return my calls. That was the kind of person he was — always rooting for and lifting up the underdog.”
Another such underdog, who considered Hastings a friend is Elijah Manley, a 22-year-old queer Black activist. He called him his “hero” and his “icon.”
“He led a life of service to our community, and was a stalwart champion of LGBTQ+ issues,” Manley said. “Congressman Hastings represents the best of Broward, a servant who always mentored and advised young Black up-and-coming people like me.”
Manley fondly remembered when Hastings invited him to Washington D.C. to experience the Capitol for the first time when Manley was still just in high school.
“He has always been a phone call away,” he said. “I will very deeply miss the congressman.”
Manley recently announced a long-shot bid for the state House District 94, which includes a large portion of Wilton Manors.
Before Hastings was a public servant he was an attorney and civil rights activist. In 1979 former President Jimmy Carter appointed him as a federal judge where he became the first African American Federal Judge in the State of Florida. Two years later though he was charged with bribery in a federal sting operation. The House impeached him and the Senate removed him from office. Three years after that he was elected to Congress, becoming the first Black man to represent Florida in Congress since 1877. To many though he was always known as “Judge.”
“Congressman Hastings was a dynamic speaker and amazing supporter of all civil rights, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Julie Seaver, executive director of Compass. “He personally reached out to Compass over the years offering letters of support for state and federal grant applications to help fund LGBT issues and HIV services. He was an amazing ally, accomplished many great things for the communities he served and will be greatly missed.”
Hastings represented a majority Black district spanning the Western parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, which also included slices of West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
Hastings was a strong advocate for HIV funding.
“Shortly after he was elected to Congress in the early 1990s, Alcee Hastings became an ardent supporter for people living with HIV/AIDS,” recalled Rand Hoch, the president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “While other Black elected officials dodged the need to address the healthcare needs of people with HIV/AIDS for decades, Alcee Hasting stood — practically alone — as a vocal and effective advocate.”
According to his official biography Hastings was born in Altamonte Springs, and graduated in 1958 from Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee. He then earned his law degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
The Rusty Gordon LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus of Palm Beach County also released a statement mourning the loss of Hastings.
“He has long been a champion of LGBTQ+ rights, including his long support of marriage equality, his promotion of LGBTQ+ human rights overseas, and his tireless advocacy for the Equality Act,” the statement reads. “He also pushed for greater funding on HIV/AIDS testing and access to health care. In Alcee’s eyes, leadership meant fighting for human rights no matter what, and for that our community will always be thankful. We have lost an equality champion today.”
From Equality Florida: Hastings’ Record on Equality
– Voted YES on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (Nov. 2007)
– Voted NO on constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (July 2006)
– Voted NO on banning gay adoptions in D.C. (July 1999)
– Ending racial profiling is part of the fight for justice. (Jan. 2001)
– Constitutional Amendment for equal rights by gender. (March 2001)
– Rated 86% by the ACLU, indicating a pro-civil rights voting record. (Dec. 2002)
– Rated 100% by the HRC, indicating a pro-gay-rights stance. (Dec. 2006)
– ENDA: Prohibit employment discrimination for gays. (June 2009)
– Prohibit sexual identity discrimination at schools. (March 2011)
– Enforce against anti-gay discrimination in public schools. (April 2013)
– Enforce against wage discrimination based on gender. (Jan. 2013)
– Protect LGBT families from illegal immigrant deportation. (Sept. 2011)
– Let states recognize same-sex marriage. (Jan. 2015)
– Reintroduce the Equal Rights Amendment. (March 2007)
– Reinforce anti-discrimination and equal-pay requirements. (Jan. 2008)
– Give domestic partnership benefits to Federal employees. (May 2009)
– Recognize the 40th anniversary of Stonewall. (May 2009)