WILTON MANORS— A business group's plan to host U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, at a public meeting is drawing fire from the state Democratic Party's gay caucus.
Michael Rajner, legislative director of the Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Caucus, is demanding that the Wilton Manors Business Association President Celeste Ellich withdraw the invitation.
Failure to do so, Rajner warned in a letter Wednesday, would prompt gay "community leaders and other social justice advocates" to call for Ellich's resignation and launch a "boycott [of] any and all businesses" that are members of the business association.
Wilton Manors has a large gay and lesbian population, which to Rajner makes West's appearance especially troubling. "Bullies and opportunists like West have actively worked against the advancement of social justice for GLBT-people and others."
West opposes gay marriage, arguing it's an "oxymoron, because marriage is a union, a bond between a man and a woman to do one simple thing: the furtherance of a society by procreation, through creating a human life."
A retired Army lieutenant colonel, he also opposed repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on gays serving openly in the military, which he said amounted to Democrats catering to a special interest.
Ellich said social issues have nothing to do with West's appearance. "We're a business association. He's coming to talk to us about the debt and the economy."
Late Wednesday, West wrote Ellich saying he still wants to participate. "I am concerned about individuals or organizations that would call upon a boycott and try to hurt hard-working small business owners only because an association wants to be better informed on business related issues that are taking place in Washington, D.C."
The event is set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at Hagen Park, 2020 Wilton Drive.
Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick declined to offer a view on the Democratic caucus' call for a boycott of business association members if the invitation isn't withdrawn.
"I'm not going to comment on that right now," he said. "As a practical matter I don't know how that [a boycott] would be possible."
Resnick said he doesn't agree with West's views on issues such as the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But, the mayor said, "he still is our member of Congress." When he's lobbied on behalf of the city in Washington, D.C., Resnick said he has met with West, and other lawmakers from both parties.
"It's kind of hard to say that there should be no communication with our member of Congress. I think that's a little childish," he said.
The city has two members of Congress: West and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
Ellich, a real estate agent who became president of the non-partisan business association in May, is a Republican who's supported the campaigns of many gay politicians. She narrowly lost a 2010 race for City Commission.
Commissioner Julie Carson, who defeated Ellich, said she'd welcome West to the city, but said its residents "know that Allen West's anti-gay, misogynist, and disreputable rhetoric have no place in proper civil or political discourse."