Orlando – Since 2003, Mayor Buddy Dyer has served as the Mayor of Orlando. But even before he took office, he was an ally for the LGBT community.
“I think Orlando is one of the most diverse and inclusive cities, and from a city government level we have strived for that,” Dyer says.
This year, Dyer took many strides to put Orlando on the map as a city in Florida, and the nation, that is LGBT-friendly. Since January, he made it clear that Orlando was a city where everyone was included.
Dyer, along with Tallahassee Mayor John Marks and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin about gay rights amidst the criticism surrounding that country’s LGBT policies during the Sochi Winter Olympics.
“I’ve always been supportive, but I think the issue is at a point where it’s important for people that have influence in their community to stand up and take a position on that issue,” Dyer says.
Dyer made a point back in 2003 when he first took office to show that he was accepting and welcoming toward the local LGBT community. In June 2003, Dyer helped kick off the Gay Days Orlando celebration in an effort to end the tension between City Hall and the LGBT community. He announced in 2008 that Orlando would offer benefits to domestic partners of city employees. In 2010 he publically opposed the state’s ban on same-sex marriage and the Orlando City Council approved a domestic partner registry by a unanimous vote in 2012.
“I think Orlando is a progressive city and other cities look to us for our leadership on issues of that type,” Dyer says. “It’s not only Orange County that adopted our domestic partner registry. A whole bunch of cities that basically copied exactly what we had done, so I’m very pleased that we could be the point of the spear on that.”
In April, Dyer officially stated his support for marriage equality during his State of the City Address.
“If you think about what’s transpired over really the last two years and the change in attitude and the great strides that have been made in marriage equality, I thought it was important to stand up for the residents of Orlando in that regard,” Dyer says.
Dyer also filed an amicus brief in June after a 5-2 vote of support from the City Council.
“We were asked by several organizations to get involved in that manner and I feel like our city is a progressive city,” Dyer reiterates. “If we take the leadership in that regard, other cities and counties would follow.”
In November, that progress was noted by the Human Rights Campaign. Orlando scored a perfect 100 on that organization’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index. It was one of only three Florida cities to receive a perfect score and one of only 38 in the nation.
“We scored a perfect 100, and I don’t know how many other cities did that but I know it wasn’t a very high percentage so we’re very proud of that achievement,” Dyer says. “I look at that for a number of reasons. I follow Richard Florida’s notion of economic development in the cities that are going to be successfully in the future. If you’re not an inclusive, diverse and fair-minded city, you’re going to have trouble attracting the quality talent that makes your city successful. As much as it’s a fairness issue and an equality issue, it’s also an issue of how are you going to make your city succeed? How do you help your city succeed.”
Dyer said he hopes in the upcoming year he can utilize his new LGBT liaison positions to help reach out and better work with the local LGBT community. The city has also partnered with the Zebra Coalition and the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center to provide an anti-bullying curriculum for young people in public schools.
“I’m proud of Orlando and I’m proud of the strides that we’ve taken over the time that I’ve been mayor,” he says.