Monday, September 14, 2009

Guest Blog by TV Anchor Charles Perez

As reported by Steve Rothaus in his daily blog on gay South Florida in the Miami Herald, here is an awesome op ed by former WPLG anchor Charles Perez, above with fiancé Keith Rinehard.


I've decided to move out of the Sunshine State. It's a bit more chilly here than I had expected. Some may say good riddance, but I'm no longer willing to live in a place where I can't get married, can't adopt children and where there are no state laws to protect me from being fired because I'm gay.

And so my partner Keith and I have decided to sell the house, load up the dogs and head north, toward a decidedly warmer climate.

To those who visit here, Florida must seem somewhat schizophrenic. We sell ourselves as a great place to come and play, a multicultural paradise where you can be who you are, as long as you respect the rights and privileges or everyone else. Not so if you're gay and you decide to stay. You'll be greeted by a regressive system of laws more emblematic of a backwater state than one that now, because of its population, draws comparisons to California and New York.

Last year, as gay rights took front and center on the Florida ballot, through the Florida Marriage Amendment, or Proposition 2, religious groups, like the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, were able to collect more than 600,000 signatures and raise millions of dollars to defeat not only gay marriage, but its equivalent. In essence they pulled the rug out from under civil unions as well, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual.

Many of these voters took to the polls hoping to save kids and marriage. Yet states such as Connecticut that have gay marriage, allow gay adoption and have laws protecting gay men and women, seem to be doing just fine. In fact, according to the most recent figures for the National Center for Health Statistics, Connecticut has a divorce rate approximately 36 percent lower than does Florida. Connecticut also was able to place more than double the percentage of kids available for adoption into permanent homes.

Maybe that gay-tolerant state is, actually, more pro-marriage and pro-family than we are. I grew up as a Catholic. I was an altar boy. I went to a Catholic high school in Fort Lauderdale. I still consider myself a Christian, at least in philosophy: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is an ethic shared in Judeo-Christianity that has at its core a call for tolerance and love. However, I am also cognizant that for most of the history of Christianity, the church and its many offspring often sided against the forces of compassion and used fear, threats and ignorance as their most powerful tools.

Organized religion can be uplifting, community building, powerful and spiritual. But, as with government, if left unchecked by its adherents, can also become misguided.

As long as my homosexuality is confined to the ``immoral'' by some, questions about my right to marry, adopt kids and be protected in the workplace will persist. I also have green eyes, by the way. They are as much a part of me as is my sexual orientation. My green eyes have as much to do with my morality as does my sexual orientation. I can cover them with contacts, but I cannot change them. They are inseparable from who I am, as homosexuality is inseparable from human history.

Keith and I are tired of visiting attorneys who tell us, right off the bat, ``There is no privileged communication between the two of you.'' In other words, if we were married, we could not be forced to testify against each other in a court of law. What we'd say in the privacy of our relationship would stay in the privacy of our relationship. We don't have that right in the state of Florida. In Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont we would. We could also be raising the family we want, all respected by the laws of our state, giving our children nothing less than the dignity that comes with having a seat at the table.

We have a right to sit at that table, along with everyone else, and we should have that right in Florida. To fight for that right is certainly the good fight. However, as the clock ticks, and my partner and I push through our 40s, we're no longer willing to wait to have the family we want.

And so, though I hate the cold, to warmer pastures we will go, certain to receive a warmer welcome, convinced that too much love and too much commitment are never a bad thing.

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