Despite what you may have been reading, the gay community is not out to censor Allen West. We are out to censure him. The maturing gay citizenry in South Florida recognizes we help create the social and economic fabric of our community. We understand our businesses have helped small cities like Wilton Manors grow into a nationally recognized LGBT destination.

Our goal is not to be bullies. It is not to be bullied. We will simply be silent no longer when public officials disparage us recklessly, demean us routinely, and denigrate us wantonly. We will not allow public officials, whether in a business association or a congressional seat, to belittle our lives and ignore our aspirations. We will be a part of government, not apart from it. Therefore, we will not allow a legislative leader to go unchallenged when he says gays will lead to the moral decline of the military. Tell that to Leonard Matlovich, the gay soldier whose tombstone reads “They gave me a medal for killing two men, but threw me out of the Armed Forces for loving one.”

LGBT businessmen and women have put their heart and soul, as well as their pocketbooks, into developing an environment, which is welcoming and warm for everyone. We have fought hard to find gay allies in leadership positions in government, and have found a dedicated partner in Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We will simply not stand by silently as another congressman calls her ‘vile’ and ‘despicable.’ This is a congresswoman who has done more to protect and defend the rights of the LGBT community than almost anyone before her. You stand up for your friends, and we call out Mr. West, because it is only his words, which were vile and despicable, and not worthy of the stature of a congressman.

This is the same congressman who fired one of his volunteer interns because he dared to post a tweet responding to an anti gay rant by a public figure. Who was shutting up who? This is the same man who went to the conservative Eagle Forum and told its leadership that gay marriage “is an oxymoron” and warned that if gay marriage becomes legal, “it just becomes a matter of time before we don’t have society.”

Congressman West is demonstrating anew each week an irrational fear of the gay and lesbian community, with insulting and irreverent quips that border on bigotry. They certainly are no less than hate speech itself. None of us can afford to look the other way or turn the other cheek.

West said he would be willing to speak in Wilton Manors only if the Wilton Manors Business Association addressed those issues on which he sought to focus on. He insisted that only members of the association be allowed in for the address. The Congressman sought to draw a narrow line that defined the breadth of his talk. As an elected leader, he must not restrict the rights of any, but secure the rights of all. Public officials should embrace diversity, not disengage it.

Any talk to businesses in Wilton Manors would of course include the LGBT owners of multiple professions, from the corner pizza restaurant to the large realtors. Our issues are not unlike other businesses, from the costs of health care to equalizing federal tax benefits to domestic partners. A congressman elected by a bare majority has to respect that the minority who did not support him will challenge him. Once the Wilton Manors Business Association invited him, the congressman authored a letter defining the circumstances under which he would speak and the sole topics he would engage. At that point, the invitation was appropriately withdrawn.

Whether the invitation should ever have been issued is a question for a different day. Certainly, the congressman has a right to speak in venues within the district he represents. But he has no right to expect to speak anywhere or go anywhere without being challenged by the controversy his misogynist, hateful remarks generate. We are not the bullies. We are defending ourselves against one.

The rally being planned for Monday in Wilton Manors is entitled “Allen West- In His Own Words.” We are going to show what the man has said about us and the causes we represent. We are going to show he is a verbal abuser, and will simply no longer stand for that abuse.  The emerging organization, the Coalition for Equality and Fairness will insure that those who make us second-class citizens today finish in second place in elections tomorrow. The Coalition for Equality and Fairness will ensure that the words of Congressman West are given a fair shake in the course of public debate, and we are confident that a prudent and informed citizenry will reject his thinking, and make him a one-term congressman.

Check for further information about the Coalition for Equality and Fairness and Monday’s planned event.