Three South Florida LGBT Groups Share Final Thoughts on the Election

Being a regional newspaper with our territory stretching from West Palm Beach to Key West it makes it difficult to cover the multitude of elections taking place across South Florida. Since SFGN does not generally endorse local candidates we still want to make sure our readers are as informed as possible, so that’s why we’ve reached out to three prominent LGBT organizations to weigh in on this year’s elections. SAVE Dade, Equality Florida and the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council are three groups dedicated to ensuring equality for all LGBT people in the state of Florida.

Here is what they have to say:

By Rand Hoch:

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters’ Alliance (PBCHRCVA) Get-Out-The-Vote campaign is well underway.  Our work is to ensure that every LGBT and allied voter in Palm Beach County casts a ballot to re-elect President Obama.

Since two current strongly LGBT-supportive members of Congress from West Palm Beach  - Ted Deutch and Alcee Hastings - will win their races by landslides, PBCHRCVA has been focusing on the two other congressional races being conducted in Palm Beach County.

We have the opportunity to elect to Congress one of our most effective and outspoken supporters – Lois Frankel.  Since the mid-1980s, we have worked with Lois as a legislator and as the Mayor of West Palm Beach.  No one who has ever served in public office in Florida can match Lois Frankel’s record on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.  No one.  We have never had to lobby Lois, because she fully understands – and advocates for – our issues.  In Congress, Lois Frankel will be a strong voice on LGBT, HIV/AIDS and women’s issues.

Some Palm Beach County voters also have the opportunity to rid the U.S. Congress of one of its most embarrassing (and homophobic) members of Congress – Allen West.  Moreover, we get to replace him with a solid supporter of LGBT rights – Patrick Murphy.  While this change will not tip the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives or even the outcome of any legislation, it will send a strong message that the divisive politics of hate will no longer be tolerated.

It is critical that Floridians vote to retain Florida Supreme Court Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince, and Fred Levin.  If Governor Rick Scott is given the opportunity to pack the Florida Supreme Court, all Floridians will be in big trouble.

Regarding the races for the Florida Legislature, since the far-right Republicans will remain in solid control, no matter who is elected nothing is likely to change for the better for LGBT Floridians for the foreseeable future.  That having been said, re-electing State Representatives Mark Pafford and Lori Berman will serve our community well.

Similarly, whomever is elected to replace our LGBT-supportive public officials serving on the County Commission and the School Board will not have much of an impact, if any, on LGBT issues.  Fortunately, the County and School Board have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies and offer domestic partnership benefits to their employees.  In addition, the Palm Beach County School District has one of the strongest LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policies in the nation.

By Nadine Smith

Florida is Changing. We Can’t Stop Now

It feels like every election cycle we are told “This is it! This is the most important election of your life!” and you know what? This is it. 2012 is the most important election of your life.

As an LGBT person the stakes have never been higher. We have reached a critical point in our struggle for equality, and this election cycle decides if we continue to push ahead or if the clock gets reset.

Over the last four years we have seen a tremendous change in the political landscape for LGBT people both here in Florida and across the country. Nationally, we have seen marriage equality pass in more states; the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’; the passage of the hate crimes bill; the President making history by declaring his support for marriage equality and increased support for women and LGBT people abroad.

The Sunshine State has also changed a lot in the last four years. Florida has ended its discriminatory ban on gay adoption. We have elected the first out, gay person to serve in the Florida legislature and elected LGBT people to more local offices than ever before. The majority of Floridians now live in a place that provides both non-discrimination protections and domestic partner benefits, including in the so-called “red” counties.

One of the most encouraging signs of progress has been our allies’ willingness to step up and speak out in more ways than ever before. Elected officials, candidates for office, business and religious leaders are engaging more deeply in our work because its the right thing to do for LGBT people, and it’s the right thing to do for their communities.

While we are winning the public education battle, our political strength is growing as well. During the 2012 primary, Equality Florida Action PAC endorsed Katherine Leech, a Republican appointed candidate for re-election to the Broward County School Board. Katherine had also been endorsed by the local Tea Party. When the Tea Party heard that Equality Florida endorsed Katherine, they demanded she reject our endorsement. In the end, she chose to stand by our endorsement and the Tea Party rescinded theirs. Katherine handily won her election in the first round. While it is true that most of our champions are Democrats, the fight for equality requires bipartisan leadership and every day we are finding strong allies on both sides of the aisle stand with us.

It is truly remarkable to think about all that has changed in the 15 years since Equality Florida formed and yet there is so much more to be done. This election is so important because we are at a crossroads. We can either move ahead and finish the work that needs to be done, or stall and further delay equality. Go vote. You must vote all the way down the ballot because the Presidential race is not the only race that is important to LGBT people. Many laws concerning our rights are decided here in Florida by our state legislature.

Our state legislature decides if statewide we are protected from employment discrimination or if LGBT students are included in anti-bullying programs. The state legislature can grant statewide domestic partner benefits and they choose funding levels for HIV/AIDS patients waiting for life-saving medication. Be sure to educate yourself on where your state and local candidates are on issues important to the LGBT community.

On the 2012 ballot there are also 11 proposed changes to Florida’s constitution. Equality Florida Action PAC is asking voters to vote NO on amendments 5, 6 and 8. Each of these amendments are bad for LGBT Floridians. Amendment 5 gives the Florida legislature undue influence over the judicial branch, upsetting the balance of power. Amendment 6 limits a woman’s ability to make private medical decisions with her doctor and sets a dangerous legal precedent by undermining the right to privacy for all Floridians. Amendment 8 eliminates the law that prevents taxpayer money from going to religious organizations, including those that discriminate against LGBT people.

There is so much at stake for our country in this election. For the LGBT community we may spend election night lamenting a tragic reversal of fortunes for our families or celebrating the moment when full equality is not just in sight but within reach.

For more information about where the candidates stand on LGBT equality and about the proposed constitutional amendments, please visit www.eqflpac.org.

By CJ Ortuno:

SAVE Dade is dedicated to being your local LGBT political advocacy organization. Each election cycle SAVE Dade is ensuring it takes a lead role in electing pro-equality candidates – this year is no different.

2012 is of particular importance because we elect a President. Additionally there are eleven constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the legislature. There are judicial retention questions and local races to consider. In the midst of a presidential election, it’s difficult to get folks to focus on anything other than the names on the top of the ballot. But this year more than ever, it is crucial that voters get informed and get ready to vote all the way down the ballot. Every race is important this year; every amendment is significant; every judge and county commissioner has some role to play in the future of our community. If we want to see a future that is closer to achieving full-equality for LGBT people, then every single one of us has the responsibility to let their voice be heard all the way down the ballot.

SAVE Dade has reviewed all of the races and has issued endorsements for your consideration. Our process is one of the most thorough and fair of any advocacy organization in the state. We start off with a two to four page questionnaire touching on a wide array of LGBT issues for each race. The candidates are invited to attend an interview panel with SAVE Dade board members, donors, volunteers, and staff to answer questions about their campaign, their history, where they stand on LGBT issues, and what they see for the future of our community. The panel then votes to recommend one of the candidates and the full SAVE Dade board votes to endorse.

The process by which our endorsements are selected is important because we strive to give you more detailed information for your consideration so you can make an honest choice about the future of our community. We feel confident that the slate we have recommended is one that you can trust.

We have also targeted certain races that are important to our community. In addition to an endorsement, we help get out the vote, recruit volunteers to canvass, hold multiple phone banks, and even raise money. A SAVE Dade endorsement means the candidates stand with us and our community.

Our process is working. This year SAVE Dade recruited and helped elect the first openly gay state legislator David Richardson. We’re proud to report that 78 percent of our endorsed candidates won their August elections.

For this year’s general election, SAVE Dade has an exciting list of endorsed candidates. One of our local priority races is Greer Wallace for Miami-Dade County Court Judge against an incumbent. Mrs. Wallace stands with the LGBT community and is outspoken about her support, while her opponent has accepted the endorsement of an anti-gay advocacy group. SAVE is also proud to endorse Jose Javier Rodriguez (112), Ian Whitney (120), and Dr. Jeffrey Solomon (115) for State Representatives – all of which were interviewed and selected based on their support for LGBT issues over their opponents. For State Senate, SAVE Dade is proud endorse former Senate President and long-time LGBT advocate Gwen Margolis (35) as well as current State Representative Dwight Bullard running for state senate seat 39.

Your job is to vote! We can screen the candidates and ensure our advocacy. However, we do not have a vote. By electing our slate, you amplify our ability to fight for LGBT equality. For a full listing of our endorsed candidates go towww.savedade.org/2012.

Equality means Vote!


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