Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler recently told the Miami Herald that he supports civil unions but refused to take a position on gay marriage, saying he doesn’t believe in discussing “hypothetical issues.”
The mayor has mostly been supportive of gay rights and the local LGBT community. But with prominent political figures recently coming out in support of marriage equality, from Hillary Clinton to a plethora of U.S. senators in the last month, including Florida’s own Bill Nelson and even two republican U.S. senators, the issue of gay marriage is once again heating up.
Regarding Seiler’s position, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Dean Trantalis said it’s better to support equality.
“No leader in a free society should condone discrimination,” Trantalis, who is openly gay, said. “It’s best to treat people the same, otherwise, you may be next.”
The national Mayors for Marriage campaign, which asks mayors around the country to sign a pledge supporting marriage equality, has signed up 28 current or former mayors in Florida, with 14 of them being in Broward County, including Broward Mayor Kristin Jacobs.
Other Broward mayors include Peter Bober of Hollywood; Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach; Pam Donovan of Margate; Marilyn Gerber of Coconut Creek; Ashira Mohammed of Pembroke Park; Lori Moseley of Miramar; Frank Ortis of Pembroke Pines; Judy Paul of Davie; Gary Resnick of Wilton Manors; Michael Ryan of Sunrise; Anne Sallee of Oakland Park and Michael Udine of Parkland.
Democrat activist Michael Rajner applauded Seiler’s previous support of the LGBT community, but questioned his recent comments.
“Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler has been supportive of our community’s call to extend benefits to city employee domestic partners. Mayor Seiler’s position to support civil unions over civil marriage is in fact creating special rights to mitigate for the loss of surrendering some of our most basic human rights,” he said.
“While perhaps a positive step, Seiler’s position on same sex marriage measures well under 100 percent supportive. If the Mayor’s position is one that fully supports LGBT people, he would make certain his city is doing its fare share, and it’s not. There remains an inequity in pension benefits and a host of other areas.”
For his part, Seiler told The Miami Herald he’s rather apathetic on the issue:
“I don’t have any position on it. Right now it is outlawed in Florida. I haven’t bothered to spend any time on it. ... I don’t debate and discuss issues I can’t have a vote on. ... I don’t sit and discuss hypothetical issues. If an issue comes up and I have a chance to impact the outcome, I’ll take a position.”
Seiler also said that the reason he didn’t sign onto the Mayors for Marriage campaign is because he doesn’t sign petitions unless he is the organizer.
While Seiler has been generally supportive of the gay community the relationship hasn’t always been smooth.
In 2011 former Pride South Florida chair, Jacqui Charvet, blasted Seiler after he agreed to attend the St. Patrick’s Day parade but not show up at PrideFest.
Public Policy Polling recently conducted a poll on gay marriage and found that 38 percent of Florida support gay marriage, while 37 percent support civil unions. The rest were either unsure or against both options.
According to the Herald, Seiler is weighing an option to run for governor in 2014.
Local openly gay Republican-turned-Democrat Scott Herman invited him to a sit down discussion on marriage equality.
“I humbly respect Mayor Seiler’s convictions on his current thoughts about equality, however I would be glad to sit down with him and have a mutual and respectable discussion on this grave concern that involves our mutual constituents and makes great business practice to retain and keep and recruit valuable employees and better compete with other areas for employers.”