Queer is the new normal in politics. It is no longer fashionable to beat up on the gay community. In fact, it's downright stupid. We have a place at the table. We have respect and clout- and voices, straight and gay, speaking out for us.

The first thing we all have to remember is that we don't have to apologize for who we are. It needs no explaining. It's our time, and it's about time. We were second class citizens for too long. We do not need or have to ask for the tolerance or acceptance of others. If others can't deal with the fact that homosexual lives are as valid as heterosexual lives, it is their problem, not yours.

Marriage equality is a fundamental right you should have always had, not one you should plead for in front of a city commission. Politicians who do not understand that have no business serving in public office. They are a disgrace to the emerging rule of law and moral principles of the 21st century.

Mayors like Fort Lauderdale's Jack Seiler simply have to be replaced over time. South Florida is an epicenter of national gay tourism. Nice guys who don't support your rights should not be community leaders. They need to be voted out of office, not tolerated and excused.

Similarly, in an election year like 2014, not a single gay dollar should be spent endorsing or underwriting a single politician who does not openly and outwardly support ending employment discrimination in the workplace for the LGBT community. Keep that in kind when you vote for local, state or federal candidates

With principles as simple and fundamental as this at the core of our beliefs, it is correspondingly understandable why this newspaper supports Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. For whatever he did in the past, he has come around in the present. He supports us. We should support him.

More than just on marriage equality, Crist impresses us as a candidate who communicates and does not condescend. One gets the feeling he will welcome the gay community to his administration, not lecture us on how he believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

Gay Floridians deserve a supportive voice in Tallahassee. Early voting has begun. Our present governor has thwarted even that effort. Let's move in a new direction, but not just in the state Capitol. Let's make sure all candidates understand that the LGBT community is not just a voting bloc, but a block of citizens caring, committed, and concerned about our community.

Let our voices be heard affirmatively on Amendment 1, which enhances state environmental protections. Let's similarly endorse Amendment 2, which allows marijuana use to be a decision between you and your physician, not some street cop. Let's support the Democratic candidate for attorney general, George Sheldon, who will support marriage equality in the courts, not fight it.

Locally, let's elect some gay voices, like Ken Keechl, the former Mayor, running for the Broward County Commission and Scott Herman, running for Florida House District 93. As SunServe executive director Mark Ketcham advocated in an op-ed a week ago here in SFGN, let's enthusiastically support re-funding for the Children's Services Council.

We are lucky in South Florida. Legislatively, we have many voices speaking for us, including a slate of Democratic congressional leaders who embrace the LGBT community. So look beyond our newspaper's borders and help ensure that Congressman Patrick Murphy wins his first re-election campaign. The man who beat Allen West should not be forgotten.

The goal of a newspaper should not be necessarily to tell you who to vote for, though we have certain preferences, of course. Our duty is to make you care and understand that your voice and vote count. Your duty as a citizen is to make your voice heard. Some choose to do it in the privacy of a voting booth, and some by standing on a soapbox or writing letters to the editor.

Unfortunately, we use the freedoms of our society to disparage and demean ourselves all too often. We have campaign committees that are conspiratorial and vicious. We have campaign financing that is scandalous and corrupt . We have campaign advertising that is misleading and malevolent. It just turns you off to politics. Public service? It's more like a toxic elixir!

Ultimately, though, we all create the world we live in by each and every choice we make every day. As Americans, we are blessed that we still have the opportunity to make these choices freely and openly, with ballots instead of bullets. Too many times, we have screwed up along the way. Democracy is no small achievement. We have to work to make it work. Do your part.