On Tuesday, March 16th, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis signed a city proclamation. Normally such an event wouldn’t generate much news outside of city hall, much less across the nation. But this was no ordinary “feel good” piece of political theater.
The city officially proclaimed March 21st to be “Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Day.” If the name of that church sounds familiar, it might be because it was founded by the notorious anti-gay pastor Rev. D. James Kennedy. Kennedy spent many years using his pulpit as a weapon against not just gay equality, but against gay existence, advocating for conversion therapy. His efforts eventually succeeded in the church being designated as a domestic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Gay Fort Lauderdale mayor Dean Trantalis honors conversion therapy church. SPLC named hate group, Coral Ridge Presbyterian, doesn't offer apology, yet receives celebratory city proclamation. WTFhttps://t.co/THuKUUtlUR
— Truth Wins Out (@truthwinsout) March 17, 2021
Too often we have seen our LGBTQ political allies surrender to their opponents without even really putting up much of a fight. Democrats in national office often talk a good game, but fail to walk the talk. Don’t forget that “The Equality Act” that has just been introduced in Congress was first initiated in the early 1970s by NY Congresswoman Bella Abzug. It wasn’t until 2007 that Congress revised the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the case of Fort Lauderdale, one of the gayest cities in America, they elected one of their own. Re-elected last year vowing “to stand up to hatred” Mayor Trantalis faced horrible verbal abuse from Republicans who called him f***** and a pedophile. Still, he persevered and won with 58% of the vote.
There is a prevalence in pop-psychology for people to let go of anger, to not let someone’s past actions consume the present. It has been the subject of any number of Oprah and Dr. Phil episodes over the past twenty years.
But it is one thing to personally forgive an individual, whether they ask for an apology or not, and quite another to act on behalf of a city, of a whole LGBTQ community looking for fighters for justice, to forgive an institution which has neither sought forgiveness nor shown any actions of remorse.
Instead of someone battling against bigotry, fighting for the underdog, and taking no prisoners in the political arena, the LGBTQ community watched one of its own capitulate. Mayor Trantalis never even asked for an apology from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
The art of the non-apology comes in varies hues, and is truly a bipartisan display of cunning deflection.
As of today, Andrew Cuomo is still the governor of New York. He issued the standard political non-apology, stating that he realized that he maybe had made people feel “uncomfortable.” It is a classic move, putting the onus on the aggrieved, turning the victim almost into a participant in any controversy because their feelings are hurt. They felt uncomfortable.
A month earlier John Weaver, one of the principals in the Never-Trump group, The Lincoln Project, was called out for his predatory behavior targeting young men. After twenty-one men stepped forward accusing him of harassment, he gave the same apology, saying in a statement that he was sorry if he had made anyone feel “uncomfortable.”
The 2004 re-election of George W. Bush was helped by demonizing “gay marriage” with multiple swing states putting constitutional amendments on the ballots banning marriage equality to motivate the Republican base. Bush’s closeted campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, has since tried to rehabilitate himself since coming out in 2010, claiming he had felt “uncomfortable” with the anti-gay strategy.
To his credit Mayor Trantalis said that he issued the proclamation in the hope of building a future based on love. “It’s time to build a future based on love and not hate,” he said as part of his remarks. Not exactly what he had promised when he was running for re-election when he vowed to stand up to hatred, but at least he didn’t blame us for feeling uncomfortable.
Here is the part of the Tuesday night meeting that pertains to the proclamation.
This post contains personal opinions of this writer and may not reflect those opinions of other writers or the magazine.