LGBT leaders gathered Monday evening in Fort Lauderdale to discuss strategy in what has been both a historic and difficult year for the movement.
Summer’s Supreme Court victory for same-sex marriage in America has been followed by the Kim Davis controversy in Kentucky and a defeat of anti-discrimination protections in Houston.
“The backlash is real,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida.
Smith sat on a panel that included Rea Carey, executive director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lambda Legal and Washington, D.C. lawyer Paul Smith held inside the Horvitz Auditorium at the NSU Museum of Art. The panel was moderated by philanthropist Mona Pittenger and presented by Our Fund.
Carey urged those attending the forum to remain ever vigilant.
“This is not the time to slow down,” Carey said.
When asked about the defeat of the anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston, Carey said the Task Force did not have the proper time or scale to confront the issue head-on. She said the opposition used an old, but effective argument to turn out its base.
“It’s the exact same argument we’ve been dealing with for 40 years,” Carey said. “They called us child molesters in the 1970s and said we were coming after their children in the 1980s and now it’s about men dressing up as women to get into bathrooms.”
Carey said it’s important for the forces of equality to present a sustained, persuasive argument over a long period of time to defeat the anti-LGBT groups. She said it was important to not cede any ground in the faith based community.
“We have to educate faith leaders in the United States that LGBT are people of faith too,” Carey said.
For Cathcart, defending the Affordable Care Act is essential. He said if the legislation, commonly known as ObamaCare, is dismantled it would be catastrophic for those living with HIV/AIDS.
“I’m not sure if we have gone as far as we should in letting people know what is available to them,” Cathcart said of the ACA.
In Florida, Smith said activists should be aware of a bill working its way through the halls of Tallahassee that would allow doctors to refuse to treat gay people. The bill, HB 401, was filed by Representative Julio Gonzalez (R-Sarasota).
“We hope that this is a horrible overreach like we saw in Indiana,” Smith said.