Cover Story News Sunshine State

Martina Navratilova to Receive Voice for Equality Award at Broward Gala

Written by Richard Hack

Martina Navratilova has been selected as the recipient of this year’s Voice for Equality Award to be presented at the 2016 Broward Gala, the largest annual fundraiser for Equality Florida.

Event co-chair Nate Klarfeld, who’s leading the gala for the fifth consecutive year, told the Florida Agenda that this year’s event will be in an all-new setting—the still-to-be-opened Grand Ballroom at the newly renovated B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale, and that Martina is instrumental in getting attention to equality at all age levels.

“This summer at Equality Florida, we’re launching a Safe and Healthy Schools project,” Klarfeld said. “By putting a name like Martina Navratilova up there, it translates across generations. Our teenagers and elementary school kids are sports crazy. And our anti-bullying Safe and Healthy Schools project is aimed at students beginning in the third grade. We’ll be training the teachers to recognize bullying, but it’s a sports figure like Martina that will actually get through to the students on either side of the bullying issue.”

For the tennis player from Czechoslovakia, the ascent to the top of tennis was a lonely pursuit. Coming out of the closet in 1981, branding her forever at a time when out athletes were nowhere to be found. She went on to win six consecutive Grand Slam titles.

“But her influence went far beyond numbers,” Robert Lipsyte and Peter Levine wrote in Idols of the Game.

“As a lesbian, Navratilova expanded the dialogue on issues of gender and sexuality in sports. In the years that she and Chris Evert were locked in their fierce rivalry to be Number One, sports fans saw it was possible for two very different women, physically and emotionally, different in lifestyle and playing style, to both be great champions — and friends.”

For Equality Florida, an organization that is dedicated to breaking down barriers and securing equality for the LGBT community, Martina adds ammunition to its arsenal at a time when the political arena is more divided than ever.

“We have a tough year coming up,” Klarfeld said. “In January, we’ll be back in Tallahassee facing an uphill battle regarding transgender bathroom access (again), but the real real issue is LGBT employment and housing. You can still be married at 10 o’clock, be thrown out of your house at noon, and be fired by 2.

“Last year, Equality Florida had nearly 70 people up in Tallahassee for lobbying week. That was a huge amount of people who came up on their own dime, and worked with the legislators. We had 120 appointments with lawmakers, face-to-face with people who may or may not have been so cordial,” Klarfeld emphasized.  We have a strong Republican Senate and a second-term Republican governor who is busy paying back political favors. He owes the LGBT community nothing and that is essentially what we can expect to get without putting constant pressure on the legislature to make our presence felt.”

The money raised at the 2016 Broward Equality Gala in November will provide needed funds to continue the fight. “I run this event with just a 10% overhead,” Klarfeld said. “The rest goes to profit.”

This year’s event is quite likely to exceed $500,000, and stands as the largest Equality Florida fundraiser in the state. “I personally have a feeling that non-profits have a responsibility to keep their big galas at the lowest possible overhead rather than having all the glitz at a huge monster affair that spends much on the money on the event itself.”

Any funds donated before May 31 to Equality Florida’s new Safe and Healthy Schools project will be matched in a unique pledge.  Open your wallets and help pave the path to the future.