Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale, whose appearance at the Wilton Manors Business Association’s Aug. 8 meeting was canceled Monday, wrote in a newsletter that “it is [his] understanding” that the cancellation “is the result of individuals and in particular Florida Gay, Lesbian, Transgender Democratic Caucus President Michael Rajner’s call for a boycott.”
In an email addressed to the Business Association, Michael Rajner, who is the legislative director and not the president of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, demanded that Celeste Ellich, president of the Business Association, disinvite West.
In the letter issued Monday West cited a South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial that argued:
Intolerance is intolerable, and that’s why pressure on a Wilton Manors business group to disinvite a member of Congress is misguided.
This Editorial Board has long opposed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, and supported civil unions and marriage for gay and lesbian couples. We’ve taken these positions in opposition to intolerant discrimination.
So, in that spirit, we defend the Wilton Manors Business Association’s right to host U.S. Rep. Allen West at a public meeting on Aug. 8.
West, a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, wrote to the Business Association last Wednesday that he looked forward to discussing business issues with the group. He also requested in that letter that the Business Association take the necessary steps “to ensure” the meeting “is focused on” its members.
Julie Carson, Wilton Manors’ first openly elected lesbian city commissioner, told The Florida Independent that the Business Association is free to invite any speakers it desires.
“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 said.
Carson, a Democrat whose commission seat is nonpartisan, said it is ironic that West “would be a guest speaker in a city whose values he has worked strongly against.”
Carson added that HIV/AIDS funding is a very important issue in Wilton Manors. She said 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.
Read West’s full letter: