Equality Florida gala raises LGBT visibility

October 6, 2011

Published: Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at 12:18 p.m.

Saturday night, I attended the Equality Florida Suncoast Gala, which honored Sarasota activist Donald Geikie with the group's 2011 Voice for Equality award.

As I stood among the capacity crowd of easily 300 people, I heard story after story about committed same-sex couples who've been together for decades -- couples who can't get married in Florida; longtime lovers who can't enjoy the full benefits and rights of a legally wed couple. It's so beyond time for this to change.

Former city of Sarasota Vice Mayor Ken Shelin, speaking to the crowd, said, "All I ever wanted in this world was to live a normal life." He went on to describe years of struggling to live up to other people's definition of normal, including a failed marriage, concealing his sexuality from employers and the military, and hesitating to pursue civic interests because of fears about how dirty politics on the issue of his sexuality might hurt his family. "I, like many of you, essentially lived two lives."

But not any more. At 72, Shelin seems confident in his role in the community and comfortable with acknowledging his sexuality.

Things begin to change when people are brave enough to speak their truths and stand up for their own rights. Things change even more when those of us whose rights are fully protected are willing to stand up for those whose rights are unfairly restricted.

Marriage equality isn't just about the rights of gays; it's about the civil rights of Americans. If you'd like to donate to this cause or learn more, visit www.eqfl.org.

Write M.C. at [email protected].

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