Looking back on 2012 it was an astonishing year for the LGBT Community. Nationally, President Obama expressing support for marriage equality received the most coverage, and had the most effect on LGBT issues. Such expression was predicted by many political pundits that it would cost him the election, but it turned lukewarm support in the Gay community into a feverish get out the vote mentality throughout gaydom, even in Central Florida. In addition, election night brought numerous victories including for the first time, successful voter referendums in support of marriage equality in Maine, Washington State and Maryland. Victories by gay allies in Central Florida dominated the news on election night, including the election of the first two openly gay state legislators in Florida. The International AIDS Conference was held for the first time in the US, days after the US Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. And after numerous Federal Courts had declared parts of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, and the Prop 8 case had finally been appealed to the Supreme Court, Roberts and The Supremes granted certiorari to hear these landmark cases, with a decision due in either late March on standing issues, or June on the merits.
Locally, 2012 brought us Domestic Partner Registry for both the City of Orlando and Orange County. This success led a domino effect for passage across Central Florida, from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic. The Board of Education of Orange County also addressed some controversial issues, resolving them in favor of protections for teachers, staff and students from being discriminated due to either sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This is has been called a watershed year for LGBT Community. Hell, I call it a Tidal Wave.
As historic as 2012 was, it appears 2013 will be the Year of the Gay. Momentum is on our side. For example, we have already had a record number of visitors to The Center for the month of January, attributed to the presentation of several programs, most notably the Open House held on January 22nd and the Reception in Celebration of 2012 Victories that was held on January 31st. The Open House was a combination of the introduction of new members of the Board of Directors, the re-dedication of the David Bohnett Cyber Center, and the introduction of numerous organizations to the patrons of The Center. This allowed new friendships and alliances to be bonded, while allowing members of our community to find out the programs and services that are offered at The Center and throughout Central Florida.
We had over 175 guest attend the Celebration Reception at the end of the month who were able to listen to many elected dignitaries applaud the LGBT Community for its efforts in getting out the vote which resulted in victories for most of the elected officials in attendance. It was pointed out that not so long ago many local elected officials ran from gay support. Today, not only did we elect one of our own to the state legislature and re-elected our openly gay City Commissioner, Patty Sheehan, but the gay vote was clearly the deciding factor in the majority of local elections. We expressed the fact that the LGBT Community now expects a seat at the table when ALL decisions are being made. We are no longer a one issue community but have opinions and interests in a variety of issues including job creation, health care, crime, child care, property taxes and numerous topics that were not typically gay issues, but they are today. Today we are more than just a one string banjo.
Two days later The Center hosted a Town Hall Meeting for Seniors addressing Aging and the LGBT Community. Joined by representatives from ACLU of Florida, Equality Florida and the state Ombudsman on Health Matters, The Center presented an educational and important program for some of the most venerable in our Community. This is just the beginning on numerous programs to improve the quality of life for our senior citizens.
Tonight we received word that Tavares, a city located in the midst of conservative Lake County, just adopted a Domestic Partner Registry. Who knows … maybe the Villages will be our next conquest? While we are celebrating our victories, we also recognize we have a way to go. We stand by our brothers and sisters in Hillsborough County after the one vote defeat in the application of Domestic Partner Registry last month . And we are disappointed, though not surprised at the delay of the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America in lifting the ban of gay scouts and leaders.
However, bigger and greater things lay ahead. There is still pressure to include the acceptance of same-sex couples in the proposed Immigration Law. We are also eagerly awaiting the March and possible June rulings by the Supreme Court which legal experts fully expect the high court to strike down most if not all of the Defense of Marriage Act and will rule in favor of striking down Prop 8 in California, opening us marriage equality in the largest state. Such ruling will make 2013 the most important year in gay history, even surpassing Stonewall. Maybe tidal wave is not a strong enough descriptive term…..it’s more like a Tsunami.
Randy Stephens, Executive Director
946 North Mills Ave, Orlando, Florida 32803
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