On Sunday, Mar 23, between 150 and 200 people gathered at the front steps of Lake Worth City Hall to encourage state legislators to overturn anti-gay legislation and a constitutional amendment denying same sex couples the right to marry in Florida.
Orchestrated by gay Lake Worth City Commissioner, Andy Amoroso (Dist. 3), Mayor Pam Triolo read a proclamation declaring March 23, 2014, a day to commemorate Marriage Equality. The proclamation had passed unanimously.
In her opening remarks Mayor Triolo noted that it wasn’t so long ago that women didn’t have the vote and not so long ago that bi-racial marriages were illegal, and that she is only the third woman to hold the mayor’s office in Lake Worth’s one hundred year history. She called on Florida to learn from history and not continue to repeat it.
Other city officials in attendance on Sunday were Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell and City Manager Michael Bornstein. Newly hired events coordinator Dottie Carson was also there helping out and providing a “wedding cake” inscribed “Marry Me Florida.”
“We want Tallahassee to understand that it’s bad business to deny gay Floridians the right to marry in their own state,” Amoroso said. “We’ve got a beautiful beach and a great party facility that lots of straight couples can use for weddings but our gay couples have to go elsewhere to spend their money.”
In addition to a lot of behind the scenes preparation work, Amoroso took center stage as the emcee for the afternoon’s event, opening with the announcement, “I’m Andy Amoroso and am proud to say I’m the first openly gay city commissioner ever elected in Palm Beach County,” to which the crowd erupted with cheers and applause.
Later in the program, Amoroso called attention to his own sister’s situation. “These issues are close to home for me,” he said. “Not just because I’m gay, but because my own sister, who is also gay, and who has worked for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for 23 years can’t leave her pension to her wife whom she married in Canada because Florida doesn’t recognize marriages performed elsewhere, either.”
In contrast, Amoroso noted that the City of Lake Worth has been a leader in supporting gay employees with a partner’s benefits program for many years. He went on to say that the city is now establishing a domestic partnership registry and has voted to reimburse same sex partners of city employees for the taxes levied on unmarried beneficiaries — a savings to the employee of about $500 a year.
The organizers provided markers and paper for attendees to display the amount of money they spent and the place where they spent it. Signs displayed amounts from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. When the speakers were done, sign holders assembled on the steps of City Hall to show the amounts of money that left the state because of its anti-gay policies.
Tony Plakas, President and CEO of Compass Gay & Lesbian Community Center, raised a point to the crowd of his 2011 marriage in Cambridge, MA, to long-term partner Jamie Todd Foreman, saying, “When I tried to put the numbers together, I couldn’t account for all the family members who couldn’t accompany us.”
Several more speakers came to the microphone during the afternoon to talk about different perspectives on the issue of marriage equality.
Speakers included Mary Lindsey, president of the Neighborhood Association Presidents’ Council, representatives from Congresswoman Lois Frankel’s office (Fl Dist 22) and West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio’s office, Julie Seaver, Center Director at Compass who read an endorsement from State Senator Jeff Clemens (Dist 27), County Commissioner Shelley Vana (Dist 3), Tony Plakas, Rand Hoch, Founder and President of Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, and Rev. Dr. Lea Brown, Senior Pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches who was loudly applauded when she said “Millions of people around the world are done with having ‘sacred’ defined in an exclusionary manner.”
During his closing remarks, Amoroso said, “Many others elected supporters would have liked to come to support the City’s objectives for marriage equality. “Unfortunately, they are in session right now and couldn’t make it.”
Amoroso also invited everyone to participate at the upcoming PrideFest of the Palm Beaches at Bryant Park in Lake Worth and to march as a group in the parade on Sunday.