In the midst of all the current political rhetoric, it can be difficult to identify the best candidates in terms of the issues relevant to the LGBT community, along with identifying the true supporters of same. I personally think it is important to make a voting decision based upon a broader spectrum of issues than a candidate’s position on gay issues, but the trend today is to ask “what will you do for me?” before asking “what will you do for us/everyone?”
Since Hillary Rodham Clinton’s eloquent speech about gay rights last year before the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights, a leading issue at every level of elections, federal and state through county and local, is LGBT rights. Our own Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida’s 20th Congressional District, who also chairs the Democratic National Committee, has taken an aggressive stand against any politician seeking to suppress gay rights.
That aside, who is the right person for whom you should cast your vote? Should you vote solely based on that candidate’s positions on gay marriage, or domestic partnerships, or gay adoption? What if the Democratic candidate supports everything in the “gay agenda,” but wants to increase taxes? What if the candidate marches in Pride parades in full-blown drag, but has no interest in healthcare reform?
While acknowledging the importance of the continuing fight for equality, intelligent adults need to understand our candidates’ positions, and research not only what they say they will do, but also what they have done in the past, and how they conduct themselves as people. I don’t believe that it is possible for a person to truly separate who they are in their personal life from who they will be in their political life. Knowing about a person’s life can help identify certain attributes that they will likely bring to bear in elected office.
In Fort Lauderdale, the non-partisan mayoral race includes Jack Seiler and Earl Rynerson. Members of the LGBT community may recognize the fact that Rynerson is a gay man, but does that guarantee he will be the gay person’s politician? First as mayor of Wilton Manors, and now as Fort Lauderdale’s incumbent mayor, Seiler twice advocated and passed domestic partnership ordinances. I remember the day he looked me in the eye and said, “A.J., I am fully committed to making this happen, and I will.” He was true to his word. Does this make him the gay person’s politician?
My feeling is that politicians are destined to act “politically.” Considerations of political survival and decisions that seem illogical or simply wrong are par for the course. The question we have to ask is how genuine are a candidate’s aspirations and political promises? Will he or she be brave enough to stand behind their convictions when it matters? There will never be a perfect president, governor, or mayor, but there will be those who bring integrity, good intentions, and a true understanding of our needs to their offices.
There never has been and never will be a “gay person’s politician.” There are simply politicians. It was Seiler who said that “good public policy always makes for good politics, but good politics seldom makes for good public policy.”
AJ Cross is a social writer and regular contributor to Florida Agenda. He can be reached at CrossEyed@jumponmarkslist.com.