Allies of the LGBT community, including local leaders and nonprofit organizations, came out to support the fight against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill recently passed by the Florida Senate. 

A coalition of organizations — including Safe Schools South Florida, SAVE, Pridelines, Unity Coalition|Coalicíon Unida and more — held a rally Sunday afternoon in Miami Beach to “say gay anyway.” The gathering took place at Pride Park at the intersection of Harvey Milk Way and Convention Center Drive.

Several individuals — among them high school students, Karla Mats, president of United Teachers of Dade, Fedrick Ingram, secretary/treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber — gave impassioned speeches calling out Florida Gov. Ron Desantis and the senate for passing the bill. Florida’s Senate bill, which passed on March 8, reads, “A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels,” according to the text.

“The reason why we wanted this rally, and I want to be very clear, is all of us were really inspired when we watched students, teachers, parents travel to Tallahassee to try to convince a wrong-headed legislature that they were wrong in passing this poorly intended bill,” Mayor Gelber said. “We asked them not to do it, but they did it anyway. So, we’re having this rally to let people know they don’t speak for us. This is our community, and there are people who think differently.”

Gelber added, “there’s a lot more work to do. This journey is not over. It’s up to us to respond to contemptuous, objectionable and irresponsible behavior with contempt and with outrage. We are not the legislature, we are not the governor, we are the People and we want people to know, especially the teachers, the parents and the allies of the world that absolutely no one should be marginalized because of who they are.”

Javier Gomez, a 17-year-old high school senior who emceed the event, said “to see [his] community, allies and anyone that is opposed to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation all in one place” filled him “with eternal glee.”

“When I was little, I thought I was alone in this really vast world. I didn’t have anyone to relate to. I felt alone. I had no role models, I had nothing,” Javier said. “But as I grew older, I found my space, like we all find our spaces, and with the help of teachers and counselors, I knew it was my time to step out of the closet and into the world of opportunities. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”

Javier added “our voices might be constantly silenced and shunned but we are so strong in the sense that we create change despite our odds. We are not going anywhere, not now, not tomorrow and not in a million years. Thank you to everyone who has come out in support of the LGBTQ+ community. United we stand, divided we fall. They can rain on our parade but like a phoenix, we rise from the ashes, no matter the circumstance.”

The rally drew out several leaders of the community including former Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Góngora, current Miami Beach Commissioners David Richardson and Alex Fernandez and North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin — all gay politicians.

“Our message to everybody now is to not give up. Keep fighting. This is going to be a long battle,” Councilman Galvin said. “Just because the law has been passed doesn’t mean the fight is over. So keep pushing, keep rallying, keep up the fight because we’re all going to need to band together for this.”


Courtesy of Miami Gay News.

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