Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale (Pic by Debra Todd)
Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale (Pic by Debra Todd)

West invited to LGBT-friendly Broward community, sparking controversy

By | 07.27.11 | 2:58 pm

Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale, will speak at the Wilton Manors Business Association’s Aug. 8 meeting. Wilton Manors is a city with a strong, active LGBT community and plenty of LGBT-owned businesses.

When asked about lifting the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, West said this weekend, “When you take the military and you tell it they must conform to the individual’s behavior, then it’s just a matter of time until you break down the military.”

The Business Asscociation writes:

Our August 8th meeting will be quite different from others. Congressman Allen West is coming to Wilton Manors. Specifically to the Hagen Park Community Center. We expect a fairly large turnout from the community for his first time speaking in our city. With redistricting coming up, it is anyone’s guess as to who will cover Wilton Manors in the future. Hope to see you there!

Celeste Ellich, president of the Business Association, tells The Florida Independent that West will speak about the federal debt and the economy.

“We are not having him speak on social issues,” Ellich tells the Independent. ”This is a business meeting; he’s the seated U.S congressman that covers part of Wilton Manors.”

She added that none of the Business Association members who are gay have reached out to protest West’s presence, and she does not know if anybody will protest prior to the meeting.

Julie Carson, Wilton Manors’ first openly elected lesbian city commissioner, tells the Independent that the Business Association is free to invite whichever speakers they desire.

“What is interesting is that a number of Wilton Manor businesses are gay-owned and gay-friendly, and West has been historically very non-supportive of LGBT and human rights, that many of the people in Wilton Manors are very concerned about,” Carson says. Carson, a Democrat whose commission seat is nonpartisan, adds that it is the ironic that West “would be a guest speaker in a city whose values he has worked strongly against.”

Carson adds that HIV/AIDS funding is a very important issue in Wilton Manors. She says it is an issue on which congressional leaders from both parties have  fought to secure appropriate funding, but that West has not been one of those members.

The commissioner says she will not attend the Aug. 8 meeting due to prior commitments, but also because she will not listen to and support West’s values and rhetoric.

“I would like to see members of the Wilton Manors Business Association opt for perhaps a different speaker. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Miami-Dade is a wonderful speaker. She is a Republican and she has very good command of the issues that are affecting our community,” Carson says.

In an email addressed to the Business Association, Michael Rajner, legislative director for the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, writes: “In 2000, I moved to Wilton Manors because it was a community that openly welcomed GLBT-people. Since that time, we have watched the City grow, embrace its diversity, enact anti-discriminatory LGBT-inclusive protections for all City employees,  and extend the same protection mandate to vendors doing business with the City.”

Rajner’s email adds:

I’m demanding that you take a courageous stand of leadership for the rights of GLBT-Americans as President of the Wilton Manors Business Association and disinvite West to your August 8th meeting. If not, GLBT-community leaders and other social justice advocates will:

  • Call for your resignation;
  • Call on businesses to disavow the Wilton Manors Business Association for placing profits ahead of human rights; and
  • Call on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-community to boycott any and all businesses who are a member of the Wilton Manors Business Association, including GLBT-owned businesses willing to put profits ahead of human rights.

Follow Marcos Restrepo on Twitter


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