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COLUMN

Happytown

Sure, you love Jesus when you're shopping. But what about the gays and the homeless people?

Photo: , License: N/A, Created: 2005:06:25 15:38:36


A cruel reality of news is that it’s more likely to take place under the glare of fluorescent light bulbs than under perfect afternoon skies. This was the case Tuesday, Nov. 23, when a horde of gay folks and their supporters, all wearing red, were corralled into a large, but not exceedingly depressing, employee break room at the Orange County Administration building. The gay groupuscule was there to supervise the county 
commission’s vote on an ordinance that would give legal teeth to the idea that it isn’t cool to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. But the commission was running late and the county’s receptionists had to stem the alarming spread of gay in the lobby by quarantining it in a white-tiled area near the vending machines.

Randy Stephens of The Center, a LGBT organization in Orlando, practiced his ordinance endorsement speech with us while we languished in the queer quarantine. “With the exception of one person – me – you could be fired from your job [in Orange County] because of your sexual identity,” he said.

Stephens continued with an onslaught of statistics: 83,659 people in Orange County identify as LGBT, and 83 percent of Fortune 500 companies already have anti-discrimination policies in place; but only 15 percent of the business conducted in Orange County is by Fortune 500 companies, so that would still leave 73,243 LGBT people in Orange County vulnerable to unpunishable discrimination. (OK, so we did the math on that last part.)

But that would only be true for the next 3,971 seconds. The ordinance sailed through the commission with nary a scratch, a far cry from the fire-and-brimstone-tinged cameos of John Butler Book and the marathon session it took to get the same gay-friendly laws on Orlando’s books in 2002. Beholding the tranquil county chamber filled with red shirts and warm feelings, Orlando’s senior anarchist Ben Markeson gave us a hint of his whispered Thanksgiving prayer: “Don’t let ’em fool you – there are some progressive aspects to Central Florida.”

Let’s hope so. Just days before Orange County nominally overcame its proclivity toward bigotry, in a Nov. 19 speech at the University at Richmond in Virginia, everybody’s favorite Supreme Court asshole, Justice Antonin Scalia, pulled out his hate flag and waved it over his turkey neck in an effort to prove that no gay person’s – or woman’s – rights are safe. At issue was the 14th Amendment, a little piece of “due process” liberty Scalia thinks should only apply to circa-1868 Americans, those living at the time the amendment was conceived. “But some of the liberties the Supreme Court has found to be protected by that word – liberty – nobody thought constituted a liberty when the 14th Amendment was adopted,” he coughed up with some bile gravy. “Homosexual sodomy? It was criminal in all the states. Abortion? It was criminal in all the states.” Sometimes just being a person isn’t enough.

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