Heather Moraitis is known for being the conservative voice on the Fort Lauderdale City Commission. But despite the vice mayor’s ideology she’s often voted with the LGBT community — most notably in 2019 when she voted in favor of banning discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations in the city.
That ordinance also established domestic partnership protections and a ban on conversion therapy for minors.
But that was then.
Six weeks ago Moraitis brought forth a proclamation honoring her church Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the school she formerly worked at, Westminster Academy. Both institutions were celebrating milestone anniversaries, 60 and 50 years respectively. Proclamations, normally benign city affairs, erupted in controversy when Commissioner Steve Glassman pointed out the anti-LGBT history of the church and school.
While the proclamation may have been brought forth at Moraitis’ suggestion it would be Trantalis who became the focal point of the controversy within the LGBT community in the following weeks because of his support of it.
Meanwhile, Moraitis got a pass.
At that time she told the Sun Sentinel, “I’m not here to judge anybody. There’s enough hate in this world, and I don’t want to have a part of that.”
During the public debate over the proclamation she also noted her grandfather is gay.
“I’ve loved many other gay men and women, including you, Steve, and you, Dean, and it’s a privilege to serve with you,” she said. “Today, I'm just speaking from a point of love and recognition.”
After the furor broke out she later told the Sun Sentinel, “I understand if there’s still some mistrust and reservations about Coral Ridge. We need to come together and work alongside one another. I do want to make this the best city for the LGBTQ community to live and thrive. I do believe we can work alongside each other.”
But that love and tolerance do not appear to extend to the trans community. Five weeks later Moraitis was singing a different tune when Glassman, a gay man, asked the commission to stand up for trans rights. He brought forth a resolution condemning the anti-trans bills making their way through the state legislature. Those bills would have banned trans girls from playing in girls’ sports. The house bill was especially egregious – it would have allowed a school to conduct invasive examinations of a child’s genitals just to “prove” they’re allowed to play on the team.
Moraitis forcefully opposed the resolution — even going so far as to ask that her name be removed from it. In Fort Lauderdale, Commissioners’ names are not typically listed on resolutions — only the city.
“To me this is about women's rights and women's equity in athletics. I will not be supporting it,” she said during the meeting.
Glassman skewered Moraitis’ position.
“These bills have nothing to do with women's rights and women's rights in sports, that is such a mischaracterization of these bills,” he said. “Everyone knows why these bills have surfaced in the United States, it has nothing, nothing to do with women's rights [...] I'm actually offended by that interpretation of these bills, because it's so far from the truth. These bills do nothing but demean and also marginalize young people who are already marginalized and demeaned enough in our society.”
Moraitis shot back at her fellow commissioner saying she felt personally attacked by him and was offended.
“I do believe this is an attack on women's rights and women's opportunities in sports, and that's my interpretation,” she said. “I'm entitled to my feelings in my position, and I represent a lot of people that feel the same way.”
The final vote ended up being 3-1. Commissioner Robert L. McKinzie expressed support for Moraitis’ position, but then left the meeting before the vote was called.
Equality Florida blasted Moraitis.
“Commissioner Moraitis’ vote against this resolution and endorsement of the anti-trans youth sports ban is both hurtful and harmful,” said Senior Political Director and Former State Lawmaker Joe Saunders. “For nearly a decade, schools across Florida have had policies that protect transgender youth and ensure a level playing field for all students — and they’re working.”
Later Moraitis doubled down on her anti-trans stance on Twitter and in her newsletter attempting to continue to cast herself as a champion of women’s rights.
“Women have had to work hard for equity and fairness in sports and that's why this week I voted to protect traditional women's sports,” she wrote in her newsletter. “There are already limited opportunities to make the team, start on the team and get scholarships to play at the next level. That is why I voted against the resolution introduced at the city commission meeting this week opposing HB 1475 and SB 2012.”
Glassman pushed back on that narrative, telling SFGN, “Supporters of the transgender student-athlete ban do not realize, or recognize, that trans women are women. Women’s rights are trans women’s rights. Period.”
The trans community has become a frequent target of politicians across the U.S. in recent months. Photo via Adobe.
Before Moraitis won her seat on the city commission she cast herself as someone who stood up for marginalized communities.
“I’m a fighter for the underdog. It’s kind of how I’m wired. I want to defend people when someone’s bullying them,” she said, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Transgender individuals are one of the most marginalized communities in the U.S.
“Transgender youths experience the most bullying and marginalization and are the least understood,” Saunders said. “They need love and support, not coordinated, far-right political attacks on their identity.”
LGBT activist Michael Rajner wasn’t surprised at how Moraitis voted on the resolution. He said she’s harbored an anti-trans stance for years.
He said they first met in 2017. He gave her credit for having a discussion with him at that time over LGBT rights and equality, but also remembered her anti-trans views.
“She shared her experience of being in the locker room at LA Fitness and repeatedly misgendered a transgender person — even after I attempted to correct her,” he recalled. “She demonstrated zero tolerance or understanding of transgender individuals as she went on to describe her locker room encounter. What she didn’t realize is I knew the person she was discussing, whom she robbed of any dignity.”
Rajner went on to claim Moraitis has made little effort to reach out to the LGBT community.
“She has not exercised any effort to meet our community to better understand how issues impact our lives,” Rajner said. “She stands at one side of a mountain and refuses to cross that proverbial bridge Mayor Trantalis speaks about so often. As an elected official who has LGBTQ residents in her district, she has continually failed to show up in our community.”
Today Moraitis frames herself as a champion of women’s rights but it was just a few years ago when she opposed changing Florida’s laws to ban child marriage in the state. The National Organization for Women is strongly opposed to child marriage writing, “Child marriage is not a practice unique to one region, faith, or community. It is instead an issue based on controlling women that permeate across borders, classes, and ideologies. Our foreign policy has categorically demonstrated an intentional and deep recognition of the harms of child marriage, but legislators have simultaneously turned their backs on the young girls at home suffering from the same abuse.”
Before 2018 in Florida girls under 18 could get married if they were pregnant — as long as a judge approved. There was at least one documented case of a 13-year-old that got married in the state since 2012.
Moraitis opposed the effort to change Florida’s law, according to the Sun Sentinel. Her husband George, a Republican representative in the state House at the time, did not believe the law needed to change either. The final vote in the house was 109-1 with George the only no vote.
“George was speaking on behalf of people like my parents who got married at 16 when my mom was pregnant with me. Thankful for their marriage and my brothers,” the Sun Sentinel quoted Heather as saying. “Wasn’t quite ready to share that, but there is hope if you are 16 and pregnant, and yes, marriage should be an option.”
Eventually the state did change the law that year, but still provided an exception to allow 17-year-olds to get married as long as their partner was not more than two years older, and the minors would also need parental consent.
Moraitis did not respond to an email from SFGN asking for comment.