Guest Column: Our community suffered major losses

By : Bob Poe
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Bob Poe

Bob Poe

We lost.And that sucks.

Not only did we lose the all-important races for governor and attorney general on a statewide basis, butlocally we lost LGBT family member Joe Saunders and staunch allies Linda Stewart, Karen Castor Dentel and Mike Clelland in the state legislature.

Yes, Congressman Alan Grayson, Tiffany Moore Russell, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, Sen. Darren Soto, Cheryl Greib, Viviana Janer and Eric Rollings provided us some shards of light in the darkness of the Nov. 4 election.

But make no mistake about it, as a community, the losses we suffered were major losses with significant and long-term impacts.

After losses like that, there’s always a tendency for some to play the shoulda, coulda, woulda game. I’ll leave that to others. As for me, I have no regrets about what was done and there’s really nothing for me to second-guess. In the cold light of day, I believe we did the best we could with the circumstances we faced and the resources we had.

Having moved here in 1969, I’ve lived nearly all my adult life in central Florida and have always been involved in politics at one level or another. In 2007 my company assigned me to Los Angeles and I was living there pretty much full-time through2010.

In 2011, I came back to Orlando to work on President Obama’s re-election campaign and was named Central Florida Finance Chair and specifically tasked with increasing the engagement of the LGBT community—which I did successfully.

Originally, my plan was to go back to California after that election and enjoy an early retirement. Instead, I decided to stick around to help Charlie Crist put together his campaign for Governor.As a resultof the early effort I put in on his behalf, Charlie asked me to be the Chairman of the Political Committee that ultimately raised more than $30 million for his campaign. While that was quite an honor, it was also a long, hard two-year battle.

I was fortunate to meet and work with a lot of smart and dedicated people who worked tirelessly and survived on a diet consisting mainly of caffeine, nicotine, pizza and beer.

Other than election night, I had a great time.

So, why do I do this?

It’s not for the money. I don’t get paid. I’m strictly a volunteer. In fact, it costs me money—and lots of it.I wasn’t looking for a job either. I’m 60 years old and comfortably retired.

I’ve got everything I need in life.

I do it because I believe in fighting for equality, fairness and justice for the people who don’t have it. I also strongly believe in removing the barriers to prosperity that prevent others from having the kind of success that I’ve been fortunate enough—as a college drop-out from Pine Hills—to have.

And while I wasn’t successful this election, I don’t regret a dime or a day I’ve spent working to achieve those goals.

To everyone who joined me in the fight—and there were many: Thank you! Your hard work was not in vain.

Let’s keep things in perspective. We suffered a setback—a major setback—not a defeat.

In that march towards justice, we can only be delayed. Unless we give up, we will never be defeated.

On the bright side, compared to other civil rights and social justice movements, the LGBT community has achieved a lot in a relatively short period of time. But, there’s still a lot of work left for us to do.

The most obvious is marriage equality. While I believe that this issue is a foregone conclusion and it is only a matter of time before we achieve marriage equality on a national basis, we need to remain passionately and vocally impatient to keep the pressure on the courts of law, the court of public opinion and all public officials at the local, state and federal level.

The same is true for comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that includes gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation.

Less obvious, but equally important, are the issues relating to pay equity and universal access to affordable health care.

And that’s not all. The list goes on.

Right now I’m a little tired and not quite sure how we get from here to there. But I know we’ll figure it out. We have to. We have no other choice.

These issues are not about simple creature comforts or life’s minor inconveniences. For far too many of us, these issues mean the difference between life and death.

So, let’s take a little time off and get some rest. Then, let’s pull ourselves together and get it done!

Bob Poe was the Chairman at Charlie Crist for Florida during the 2014 election cycle.

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