Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale, will speak at the Wilton Manors Business Association’s Aug. 8 meeting, but on Wednesday the congressman requested in a letter that the Association take the necessary steps “to ensure” the meeting “is focused on” its members.
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.”
Celeste Ellich, president of the Business Association, told The Florida Independent the Aug. 8 gathering “is a Business Association meeting” and “is open to the public because it is in a public building.” In his letter to Ellich, West writes that the open format of the meeting “was not discussed with [his] staff” and asks that she “take the necessary steps to ensure the format is focused on” Business Association members. (Read the letter in full below.)
Ellich, a real estate agent who became president of the non-partisan business association in May, is a Republican who’s supported the campaigns of many gay politicians. She narrowly lost a 2010 race for City Commission.
Commissioner Julie Carson, who defeated Ellich, said she’d welcome West to the city, but said its residents “know that Allen West’s anti-gay, misogynist, and disreputable rhetoric have no place in proper civil or political discourse.”
West is a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business; he writes in his letter that he looks forward to discussing small business issues with the group.
The letter also states “that some individuals are calling upon a boycott of the Wilton Manors businesses.”
The Independent reported Wednesday that in an email addressed to the Business Association president, Michael Rajner, legislative director for the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, demanded that the Business Association disinvite West.
If not, the email adds, LGBT community leaders and other social justice advocates will:
- Call for [Ellich’s] 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.