We all focused so much on President Obama's re-election, we have underplayed the significance of two newly elected congressional leaders from South Florida.
One is young and male, the other older and female. One has a track record, and the other looks like he could run track, but both have something in common. They are incredibly supportive of LGBT issues, and both campaigned vigorously advocating for gay rights equality.
First, let's congratulate Patrick Murphy, who challenged and conquered Allen West. Murphy's initial foray into politics has been based on principles and policies and a passion to do good. From the very earliest days of his candidacy, he openly embraced the gay community, publicly censuring Congressman West's offensive and Neanderthal comments about our lives and status as citizens.
Challenging the well-funded West, a key tea party figure, took courage, commitment, and cash. Few people were willing to dare undertake such an effort against formidable odds. Murphy dared to, and working day and night, speaking frankly and from the heart, he swayed the electorate by virtue of his tenacity and trust. Good for him and great for us.
At 28-years-old, Murphy brings youth and vision to the table, along with a promise to act frugally and fight for environmental issues vigorously. One of his first appointments was to make a local gay man, Eric Johnson, his chief of staff and another respected local gay leader, Michael Kenney, will assume the role of District Director.
Lois Frankel's congressional election culminates a distinguished career as a liberal activist, during her tenures in the Florida state legislature and as a mayor in West Palm Beach. She's from my hometown of Brooklyn, and at 62-years-old, integrates a history rich enough to understand the dangers of foolish foreign wars such as Vietnam. She may not be able to work an iPhone or computer like Murphy can, but at least Frankel brings breadth and depth into her life experience. Maybe she can talk compromise and conciliation into the blockheaded obstructionists impeding the nation's duties.
For me, I will always admire Frankel as the first person in the Florida legislature, almost 20 years ago, to be an advocate for AIDS patients, sponsoring bills and laws that targeted the disease while protecting the sanctity of patients. At that time and in those days, her stands were professionally honorable and politically risky. If you admire perseverance and dedication, you will come to love Frankel.
So think about it South Florida. We already have in Congress two of the fiercest and most forceful advocates for gay rights in Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Hastings has been a voice for equality since the 1970's. In fact, when he was a Broward County juvenile court judge, he joined with me in fighting for a homeless shelter on the Fort Lauderdale beach for teenage runaways. On April 13, 1978, while I was a young law professor at Florida Atlantic University, it was Alcee Hastings who administered my oath of admission into the Florida Bar.
Add to our congressional mix the zest and relentless energy of Wasserman Schultz, and we have four horsemen who will be by our side from South Beach to Port St. Lucie. Wasserman Schultz and I first met when she was working as a legislative aide for one of my best friends, Peter Deutsch, who would years later serve in the very congressional seat she now holds. Fox News likes to castigate her brutally, but as we have seen, Debbie is a dedicated mom, an outstanding spokeswoman for seniors, the LGBT community, and working families. A cancer survivor, like me and many of your own friends, she understands the importance of fighting for universal health care.
It's scary in a way, seeing all these people you knew as a kid grow up, now running the country. I get to reflect about it passively at home with my laptop , dogs by my side, and 60 inch TVs in front of me. They, on the other hand, all have to go out in the snow and climb fiscal cliffs. When they fall off, we will blame them for it too, because let's face it, no good deed goes unpunished. I wish them luck. It's no easy task.
We are fortunate at least that those representatives who will be speaking for us in D.C. all bring to the table class, concern and conscience. Now if they could also get banks to start loaning Americans money again, that would be nice too. Oh, and also while you are there , stop global warming, legalize cannabis, lower the price of gasoline, make the Earth more green, end all wars, homelessness and laws that discriminate against gays. By noon next Tuesday, if you could.