There’s a new movement happening that is strengthening support for us. African American activist groups are beginning to publicly equate our struggle for equality with theirs.
In Ft. Lauderdale – where gay men have been subjected to embarrassing rhetoric from Mayor Naugle – Marsha Ellison, President of Fort Lauderdale NAACP, has stood proudly for our dignity against accusations from Naugle about public sex.
At a recent altercation between factions – that took place inside Fort Lauderdale City Hall – Ellison said, ‘’I’m not here to condone or condemn gay sex, this is a hate campaign against gays launched by the mayor.’’
More recently, the Maryland Black Family Alliance was formed as a result the Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold the state’s ban on gay marriage. The group hopes to show support of straight African-Americans for gay marriage as a civil right. And the organization’s members want to show that advocates of gay rights will continue to battle for equality.
Elbridge James, a former lobbyist for the state NAACP and co-founder of MBFA, told the Examiner.com, “We are here to say, ‘No, the black community is not homophobic‘. Civil rights belong to everyone. We are saying no to those who want to bigot us, divide us.”
Sen. Gwendolyn Britt, D-Prince George’s County, said she plans to sponsor a bill that would make gay marriage legal but stipulate that churches can decide individually whether they would perform the ceremonies.
Bowling, who is half black and half white, said her black relatives’ religious views prevent them from accepting her as a lesbian.
Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle has been aggressively insulting gay men this summer. His comments have been so reproachful that they’ve isolated him from constiuents and colleagues. Some believe he has become “a marginal character, a buffoon, an affiliate of the wacko fringe”.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has stated that there’s no evidence to support Mayor’s claim of rampant public sex within the city.
The Tourism Development Council accused Naugle of damaging the reputation they sought to develop in the two decades since Spring Break vacationers left the city.
Today, Broward County commissioners unanimously voted to remove the Mayor from Broward County’s tourism council, saying his recent comments on gays are driving away visitors.
And Local 10 News has asked the Mayor to step down.
We need some healing to begin. Let’s visit Ft. Lauderdale!
The Sandra Lee Inn is “The Family Alternative for Alternative Families”®. My kind of place. They offer a tropical Ft. Lauderdale get-away, at a family-owned business. And the guys who run it are very nice. Oh, there’s more – the beach is only 150 yards away!
Most importantly: the pool and lawn area is enclosed – and away from the street.
We interviewed the owners of the Sandra Lee Inn to get a better sense of the inn’s personality. Ft. Lauderdale’s mayor is also addressed in the Q&A.
PP: How long have you been in the hospitality business?
SLI: 3 years as owners of this property, and with previous industry experience
PP: What was the motivation for creating a gay family-friendly inn?
SLI: We care about our LGBT friends and family with kids and it makes us very happy to provide them with a welcoming experience. You should see the smiles and hear the wonderful comments! The Sandra Lee Inn is so well-suited for this underserved group. It just made sense to make the property family-friendly. The large apartments give the parents and kids plenty of room, the full kitchens enable a family to save some money by fixing meals in a homey atmosphere without having to go out to eat all the time. And we have the necessary cribs and playpens and pool toys and washer/dryer to make this a convenient place for a family to stay. And you know, we even get LGBT couples without kids who just want a quiet place to spread out and relax near the beach.
PP: When did you open the Inn?
SLI: The property has been around for years – it is an authentic 1960’s, mid-century retro building that really reflects the Florida beach motel style from that era. We bought it 3 1/2 years ago.
PP: What helped you decide on the name “Sandra Lee Inn”?
SLI: Actually, we kept the original name. Sandra Lee was the name of the architect’s daughter. Some people do get confused and call us Sandra Dee or Sara Lee, and I have to smile and jokingly tell them that we are not a singer or a pastry, but a motel!
PP: Approximately how many returning guests do you have each year?
SLI: Over 50% of our guests are repeat. There is just something special about the place that you feel when you come in the gate, and people love it. One woman has already been here 6 or 7 times this year. Some of the Europeans visit regularly 2 times every year. The guests become our extended family.
PP: What percentage of your gay guests (new and returning) bring kids for their stay at the Inn?
SLI: About half of our GLBT guests bring their kids with them. The rest are either couples or singles traveling together who are looking for an alternative to the traditional guest house experience.
PP: Where do the majority of your guests live?
SLI: Most of the winter guests come from up north, from the mid-Atlantic and New England and mid-west regions, and some Canadians. We do get a high number of Europeans, including German and Dutch and Swedish, among others, all year round. Interestingly, we are beginning to receive more guests from South America, from as far away as Colombia and Chile.
PP: Has there been any surprising/fascinating experiences involved with managing a gay family-friendly inn?
SLI: The number of gay dads seems to be increasing, and it is great to see them come in with the diaper bags and toys and paraphenalia!
PP: Have you heard from travelers who may be concerned about the Mayor’s recent comments about gay life in Ft. Lauderdale?
SLI: I thought folks would not hear about local politics so much, and then a gay friend of mine who manages operations for a tour company in the Pacific Northwest called and told me he saw a story about it in the Seattle gay paper, and I realized the situation was becoming more visible. But we have not received any cancellations. And I don’t think we should, really. By that I mean a gay traveler may not want to support a town that is homophobic, but in this case it is just one loudly ignorant politician with a few of his uninformed supporters, and the gay business owners here should not suffer because of him. We need the support from our gay brethren and ask that they not stay away!
PP: Do you have kids in your life (your own, nephews/nieces, friends)?
SLI: Yes. Kent is an uncle with 3 small children, and we have very good friends with babies. It is so much fun to visit them and have them in our lives.
PP: I live in Ft. Lauderdale, and I’ve got a toddler who loves to swim. Can I bring her over?
SLI: We can make arrangements in advance. Because we have special groups and family reunions it may not be possible all of the time, and we ask that you call first. And here’s a thought…why not take a mini-vacation in your own hometown and come stay with us for a weekend? More and more we are attracting locals, both with or without kids, who want to be near the beach for a weekend, and love the idea of staying at the Sandra Lee Inn for a few days to get away from it all, or to celebrate a special event. Because we are family oriented, there is no worry about clothing optional pool parties that would not be age-appropriate for the children. And you can really enjoy the Boat Show or Air/Sea Show if you stay with us during the special events.
PP: Did I leave anything out? What did I miss?
SLI: The courtyard and pool are so nice, and in the evening with the lights on it is magical. We had our Holy Union here, and are willing to help others plan and host similar events. Or if a group needs a place to host a fund-raiser or outdoor reception, this is the place. Call us! The local number is 954-249-0565, and our toll-free number is 800-238-3538.
It’s a travel association that’s been supporting our community for over 20 years. Actually the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) is the world’s leading travel trade association committed to growing and enhancing gay and lesbian tourism business.
Skilled in education, promotion and networking, IGLTA works with airlines, hotels, car rental companies, cruise lines, tourist offices, and travel agencies to help us travel comfortably and informed.
The international office is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with sales coordinators located in the U.K., German-speaking countries, France, and Belgium.
Go to IGLTA for more information.