Rudy Molinet
Saturday, March 24, 2012
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Equality Florida fighting the good fight for gay and lesbian civil rights

The New Hampshire Legislature just debated whether to allow Jews to continue to marry in their state; in North Carolina, the rights of African-Americans to marry will be on the November ballot and right here in the state of Florida, Hispanics will not be able to marry the person they love simply because of who they are since the state Constitution was amended to discriminate against them.

How can this be the case in the United States of America? This is outrageous, unconstitutional and simply un-American.

Of course, this is not happening in our country, but all you need to do is change the word Jews, or African-Americans or Hispanics to "gay and lesbian" and there you have it, the absurdity and disgusting nature of these initiatives are exposed for what they are -- immoral and unconstitutional attempts to remove rights from Americans simply because we are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).

In this time and age, in the new millennium, we should not have to worry that a government would allow voters to determine what rights people may enjoy. If the civil rights acts of the 1960s had been put to a plebiscite in the South, does anyone really believe they would have passed? If not for the courageous work of pioneers, both black and white, our president would be riding in the back of the bus and he would most certainly not be president. People took a stand, they organized, they raised awareness and they made their cause a just and noble cause, one that would change the course of history.

Such is the work of Equality Florida, the pioneering LGBT civil rights organization whose tireless efforts have created change and which, through its advocacy and education, continues to strive for a Florida where all citizens secure the blessings of liberty.

Equality is something we Americans pride ourselves on. Our national identity is wrapped around this concept of equality and we constantly work to achieve this ideal. Yet in the state of Florida, equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens is virtually nonexistent in the eyes of state law. You can be fired from your job in our state simply because you are gay; your marriage to your loved one is invalidated if you are of the same gender; if your husband or wife dies, you have no right to be involved in their funeral, one of the most intimate and personal moments of a person's life.

This is not the America that our nation should tolerate, and through the efforts of Equality Florida and dozens of state organizations like them, the tide is turning. More Americans than ever support equal employment rights for the LGBT community, marriage equality is now favored by the majority of our citizens, openly gay men and women serve with honor in our armed forces and over a dozen states allow same-sex marriage or civil unions.

These results happened because people took a stand; they worked hard, they changed minds and hearts -- and they changed laws. The pioneers of our movement have been many and they continue to make their presence known. Many of these pioneers are LGBT, but many are also what we call our "straight allies."

Much like Jewish-Americans and other whites came to the South to register African-Americans to vote during the 1960s, so now does our movement have many straight allies. In all levels of government, religion and society, our straight allies work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of gays and lesbians.

In our community we have many heroes for equality, and this year Equality Florida honors one of them, Key West City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley. I will have the honor of presenting Jimmy with a "Voice for Equality Award" this evening at the annual Equality Florida Key West Gala at The Gardens Hotel in Old Town Key West. This annual gala is free and open to all who want to show support for Equality in our state. Weekley has been an ardent supporter of equality for decades, including his time as mayor of our city. Please come out to support Jimmy and express your gratitude for his efforts to our community. The event is tonight from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

Kate Miano, the owner of The Gardens Hotel, is another of our straight allies and heroes for Equality. She was honored earlier in the year by Equality Florida for her ongoing support. Kate and her staff put on a great party at The Gardens and donate all the wonderful food and drinks, as well as the wonderful spirit and beauty of her elegant hotel property to celebrate Equality and to raise awareness of our cause.

Please join us this evening and be sure to thank all our supporters -- especially our straight allies -- who through their love and support will help gays and lesbians reach the Promised Land of Equality that we call America.

Rudy Molinet is a real estate broker, co-owner of Marquis Properties Realty in Key West and a community and human rights activist. He lives in Old Town with Harry Hoehn, his husband of 19 years. Contact him at rudy@rudymolinet.com.