From president to school board to utilities commissioner, every election in every state impacts the LGBTQ community. The National LGBTQ Task Force is at the forefront of defining, promoting, and protecting LGBTQ rights.
They usually carry out their mission in statehouses and neighborhoods. This weekend they’ll take a night to assess where people are and set goals for the coming year. Task Force’s 50th anniversary gala is set for Oct. 14 at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
Their work has never been easy, but the community may be at its most perilous point since Anita Bryant brought her rhetoric to Florida and defeated a gay rights ordinance.
“I cannot think of a time when our community needs to show up and fight back against the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that endangers our freedoms and personal autonomy,” gala co-chair Jeff Oliverio said.
While Task Force is a national organization, the focus on Florida is a necessity, not a luxury. Gov. Ron DeSantis has a super majority in the statehouse that has rubber-stamped his agenda that includes “Don’t Say Gay,” book bans, blocked access to medical care for women and trans, and a ban on drag entertainment. Both U.S. senators are Republicans who try to oppress LGBTQ people, and one Democrat has won a statewide election since 2012.
This is the second year Oliverio’s spearheaded the event, and says the rapidly changing political environment is breathtaking.
“The difference for the Gala is the current situation in Florida that has put our community on the front line of the culture wars. The Task Force has been fighting for LBGTQ freedom and justice for 50 years and the gala will highlight the arc of this work but also make a statement that they are ‘doubling down’ in Florida.”
Florida’s oppressive laws have provided a template for other Republican-controlled states to enact their own versions of the law. The political attacks provide cover for hate groups, such as the Proud Boys, and “lone wolf” actors to take matters into their own hands. Threats to the LGBTQ community are on the rise.
Much of the money raised will be used in South Florida. One of The Task Force’s initiatives is the Queer the Vote campaign, with the goal of getting LGBTQ voters to the polls in every election. The AfterGlow Ball, the gala after party, will focus on this initiative.
Worries about the economy and a fear of backlash, like the kind seen by Target and Bud Light, has made fundraising difficult this year. But Oliverio says there is still strong support for equal rights.
“We have been very fortunate thus far with donors and supporters, and ticket and table sales have been strong. I think our community wants to come together and celebrate ‘Queer Joy.’”