The 4-3 vote denying healthcare benefits to same-sex couples by the Lakeland City Commission was a victory for the LGBTQ community. Yeah, you read that right. That wasn’t a typo. The vote actually will do more good in the long run for equality than had it passed. Why? Because now we have a reason to fight. This vote gave a face to discrimination. And that face looks like Edie Yates, Phillip Walker, HowardWiggs and Mayor Gow Fields. Over the next week I will be writing a series of letters to the City Commissioners. If you care about equality, I encourage you to join me.
Dear Commissioner Edie Yates:
Your reasoning for denying equality to LGBTQ city employees was a copout, plain and simple.
You argued against offering benefits because there was not “a groundswell of support”. Your job isn’t to do what is popular, especially when that which is popular involves denying people equal protection under the law (see the 14th Amendment). Your job is not only to listen to the majority, but it is especially to look out for the rights’ of the minority, protecting those rights from being infringed upon. Our representational democracy is what sets us apart from countries like Syria, and from failed systems like the Bowl Championship Series, where the little guy never has a shot.
You said you couldn’t vote for it since the request didn’t come from LGBTQ city employees. Just wondering, if you were part of a minority group that only had 15% of the rights that heterosexual couples had, and you faced legal institutional discrimination from everything to being looked over for a promotion to being legally denied service in a restaurant… if you had to walk in those shoes, would you want your name on a list to be made part of the public record in Lakeland, Florida?
Another argument you made was that there would be a surge of people pretending to be gay or lesbian in order to gain health benefits… really? I can think of a lot of easier ways to get health benefits, one of which involves going Denzel from the movie John Q. You said the safe guards to prove a partnership were too easy to get around. I find that hilarious, since if my wife and I were a same-sex couple, we would not qualify based on the requirements. Thankfully, all we have to show is a marriage license… actually, no, we’ve never even had to show that. We just have to say we are married on a form. Thank you for protecting taxpayers against all those who would pretend to be gay if they got sick. There are enough sham-marriages in the heterosexual community. We wouldn’t want to extend that right to LGBTQ partners as well.
You also claimed that you didn’t want to spend taxpayer dollars on same-sex benefits. Discussed in this same meeting was spending taxpayer money on a lot of projects… like tree trimming. You didn’t raise an objection to any of the other expenditures because fiscal responsibility. We were talking about very few people and very little money. By your logic, in order to be fiscally responsible, the City of Lakeland should hire more LGBTQ persons. Please don’t pretend this was about money… Money conservatives will give to your campaign? Yes. But money wasted on same-sex partner equality? No. (Note: LGBTQ persons pay taxes too).
Commissioner Yates, you told me that you just didn’t see a “groundswell of support”. This letter is a heads-up that I will make it my personal mission to make sure you do see many groundswells between now and next November. A groundswell to take away your seat. A groundswell for your opponent. A groundswell against discrimination. A groundswell for equality.
Rev. Andy Oliver