NOTE: To any members or officers of Equality Florida or Stand Up Florida who may read this piece, please accept it in the spirit that it's intended. . . to offer helpful advice and hopefully help mend rifts that threaten to weaken our community.
I attended St. Pete Pride this past June for the first time in a few years. I went to help staff the booth for Equality Florida and collect signatures to fight the Florida ban on gay adoption. Before my shift was to start, I stopped by Stand Up Florida's booth to meet some of its staff with whom I'd become friends online, and to offer support. Only one of the guys I knew was there at the time, we had a pleasant conversation. He also introduced me to a couple of other members/officers. Nicey-nicey, happy-happy. . . and I was on my way.
Half an hour later, while I was busy collecting siggies at Equality Florida, I heard a loud commotion inside the booth. When I turned, I saw one of the people to whom I'd just been introduced at Stand Up Florida along with a few other people, loudly and nastily complaining about Equality Florida and the way they operate. It was very confrontational and totally out of line. It was divisive, and certainly not an appropriate way for representatives of our organizations to behave in public.
1940s Europe. Nazi Germany had invaded and occupied Poland to their East, and invaded France to their West. In France they were fighting a valiant but weakening resistance and were on the path to fully conquering and occupying France. Then nothing would stand in their way as they advanced on the balance of Europe. Enter the USA and USSR. Yes, there were other allies. . . but let's focus on the USA and USSR for now. The differences in these two countries are apparent to us all, and I won't go into them here. This is not, after all, a history lecture. Suffice to say that these two nations, separated by vast gulfs of culture and political ideology, had one common goal: the defeat of Nazi Germany. For the course of the war, they set aside their political differences in order to cooperate and work toward their common goal.
A little background:
Equality Florida is an old, monolithic advocacy group that operates within the time honored model of Human Rights Campaign. While they say that they are not affiliated, the similarities are unmistakable. They take a conservative approach to progressive activism. They pay pretty good salaries to hired talent who work full time in the cause as their chosen profession. They have a mammoth annual budget, out of which come the necessary operational expenses. EQFL has political connections in the state to match HRC's political connections on the national level. They are, in effect, Florida's own baby HRC.
Stand Up Florida is a true "grass roots" activist organization that just started up within the past few years. I'm proud to say that when I first encountered its founder online, I gladly shared connections with him to many other groups within Florida, along with activists and bloggers who shared his passion for equality. Since then, he has built SUF into a strong, vibrant organization, and joined forces with other groups, some of whom I had helped him with connections. SUF is staffed and operated entirely by volunteers and has done a phenomenal job of growing into a bold, brash, "in-your-face" (not to mention, well-known) activist organization, doing great work. I see very strong similarities between SUF and the growing national group GetEQUAL.
Two different groups. . . two vastly different ideologies. . . one common goal: Equality.
My advice to Equality Florida:
Don't ignore Stand Up Florida, they are not going away. Embrace them as equals. . . allies in a common goal. Reach out to them and work toward the establishment of a dialog and cooperation. Politically, you'll probably never agree. But together we can fight our common battles on all fronts, eventually overwhelming our oppressors. Continue to work your frontal assault in Tallahassee, and encourage Stand Up Florida to cover the flanks with bold brash activism where it's called for (response to the NOM Summer Bus Tour, for instance).
My advice to Stand Up Florida:
Stop the petty bickering with groups that should be your allies. Of course you take exception with their conservative, "corporate" approach to social activism. But there are things they can do. . . places they can reach. . . politicians and allies with whom they hold political sway, that you cannot hope to achieve. They're a different organization and their methods and ideologies are repugnant to you. But your goal is the same: Equality. One other thing: don't openly ridicule people who try to diplomatically discuss concerns with you in private. It's sophomoric, at best.
There is nothing, I repeat, N.O.T.H.I.N.G to be gained by petty quarrels between your groups. You should be allies in spite of your philosophical differences. Let's all work together toward Equality. And be prepared to equally share in the accolades when we win. And, trust me, together we will win.