Dear Mayor Curry,
I am a retired 60-year-old white Jewish gay man who emigrated from Orlando to Jacksonville in 1990 to be with my husband, who proposed to me in the gazebo on Lake Virginia at Rollins College, while serving on the USS Tennessee at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay. He since has retired from Naval Air Station-Jax, after more than 20 years of service to our nation. So Jax has always been our home and Tommy Hazouri will always be our mayor.
I read with interest the comments you made regarding your opposition to using the targeted slaughter of LGBTQ victims in Orlando for the purpose of advancing a “political agenda” here in Jax. I’m curious to know which other civil rights protection you consider a political agenda? Is race a political agenda? How about national origin? Age? Sex? Religion? Does our mayor also believe one’s religion is a political agenda, as more than 60 percent of your Republican party believes? It seems that most members of your party regarded all of these civil rights as political agendas at some point. I had hoped you were better than that.
Who exactly do you think would be offended by such a linkage? Do you think any of the 49 slaughtered LGBTQ people would oppose their heinous murder being the catalyst that finally brought equal protection under law to Jacksonville’s LGBTQ community, or any other cities anywhere? Or do you think any of the 53 wounded LGBTQ survivors would oppose their horror and pain being used as a justification for legislating a safer world for their LGBTQ sisters and brothers? Perhaps, Mr. Mayor, your small-mindedness cannot fathom the families and friends of the dead and wounded LGBTQ victims supporting any actions that would make the world a safer, fairer place for all LGBTQ persons.
Or is it that fellow members of your Florida Republican Party’s base would oppose such actions? Is it because we may find a more sympathetic ear or softened heart making HRO passage more likely, following such an unspeakable act, another unspeakable event in a long line of such attacks against our LGBTQ family, friends, coworkers and neighbors.
Need I remind you of the LGBTQ Upstairs Lounge where 32 people, many congregated for a church meeting, were burned alive? Or 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, beaten and tortured into a dripping red raggedy-doll, then strung on a barbed-wire fence to die alone and nearly naked on that cold, clear Laramie night, the stars his only witness. Or San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, my personal hero, shot point-blank five times at work by a homophobic Twinkie-binger, the last two shots fired with the .38 pressed firmly against Milk’s head. Or the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” case involving Petty Officer Allen Schindler who was brutally stomped to death in a public toilet in Nagasaki by a bigoted shipmate, destroying every organ in Schindler’s body including his penis, leaving only a tattoo from which his mother was able to identify her son. Or the bullied 11-year-old Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover who hanged himself with an electrical cord following repeated taunts that he was gay and acted like a girl.
My LGBTQ family are brutalized and murdered nearly every day in nearly every state in the nation. The list of unspeakable acts targeting LGBTQ people goes on and on. Why is it, Mr. Mayor, that Republican state legislatures across America have passed laws either restricting municipalities from passing equal protections for LGBTQ communities, nullifying existing ones or both? Aside from the means, how is their message different from the executioner’s at Pulse?
But all the violent acts against us collectively pale in comparison to the decimation of my gay community caused by the stigma and homophobia about the HIV/AIDS crisis at all levels of American culture: societal, political, governmental and, particularly, religious.
In my world, virtually every gay man over the age of 50 is a walking miracle. The president in office at the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis did not publicly utter the word “AIDS” until the final year of his second term … and for seven critical years the band played on. After more than 30 years of HIV/AIDS in the U.S., more than 650,00 mostly white gay males have lost their lives to the disease; even with today’s advancements in treatment, there are more than 7,500 mostly black gay male deaths every year. That’s more than 20 every day. I know this because I served the last decade of my professional career as the Health Department’s point-person for HIV/AIDS training and technical consulting in Duval and surrounding counties, and have given more than 25 years of volunteer work in the AIDS community.
Complacency, as well as stigma and homophobia, causes deaths. But make no mistake, my LGBTQ community is winning the human and viral wars against us. Every day these challenges make us stronger. Securing our right to marriage equality is a paradigm change that will accelerate the speed at which all our future rights flow. This could have been accomplished only with the support of our strategically nurtured alliances across numerous aisles, fences and walls.
So this is by no means an attempt to paint all Republicans with a broad brush. We stand together with numerous high-minded, big-hearted moderate conservatives who understand we are together in the struggle for a more perfect union. Councilpersons Aaron Bowman, Greg Anderson, and Jim Love are all committed to an inclusive HRO. As are philanthropist Delores Barr Weaver, Jax Chamber Chair Audrey Moran, businessman Preston Haskell and many corporations, to name a few. All these understand one basic truth about the human condition; Love is love is love is love is love. And they understand the most basic principle of our republic, e pluribus unum: out of many, one.
But you, Mayor Curry, have chosen a different path, shameful and void of a moral compass. You have chosen to join with the lowest among us: the rabble-rousers and dog whistlers. You’ve taken up with those who preach completely unsubstantiated fear of public bathrooms. You, the Medicare fraud governor, and the “hate it” senator, are all cut from the same disintegrating cloth. You are now saddled with an orange standard-bearer to lead the destruction of your party. And he’s willing to go it alone. Considering advancements in just the past year, exactly where do you think public opinion on LGBTQ rights will be in 2018? This train has long left you standing in the station, Mr. Mayor. You face the same political fate over the same “political agenda” as your predecessor. Only this time with even more enthusiasm.