Fla. Gay Mayoral Candidate Likely to Win Run-off, Despite Hate Literature

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday March 17, 2010

The contest for the mayor's office in Gainesville, Florida is headed for a runoff. A crowded ballot meant that none of the five candidates took a majority of the votes cast, but now the field has been narrowed down to two: openly gay candidate Craig Lowe, who took just over 40% of the votes with a total tally of 4,073, and Don Marsh, with just under 30%, with a total number of 2,960 votes. A runoff is scheduled for April 13.

Voters will have a clear choice come the runoff date on April 13, reported The Gainesville Sun in a March 17 article. Lowe has seven years' experience in city government, having served as a city commissioner' Marsh has no such experience.

But for the perpetrators of a leafleting campaign against Lowe, the crucial difference is not one of experience; rather, the leaflets focused on Lowe's sexuality. A March 11 article posted at Gainesville.com reported that the pink leaflets were distributed ahead of the March 16 election, and went after Lowe for being gay. The leaflets asked voters to "Please help to make this town more like San Francisco, CA. Don't let Traditional Values Activist [sic] use scare tactics against you!"

The leaflet told voters that Lowe would support an "agenda" that included "Gays in Women's Restrooms," as well as "Gay Marriage," "Gay Public Sex Education," and "Gay Oriented Churches," among other things.

The "Gays in Women's Restrooms" may refer to a Gainesville city ordinance that offers nondiscrimination protections to transgendered residents and allows them access to the restroom that fits their own gender identity. Lowe defended the city's ordinance in 2009 as the leader of a pro-ordinance group, and voters reaffirmed it the ordinance in March of 2009. Critics claimed that sexual predators would use the ordinance as a cover to gain access to women's restrooms and prey upon female victims. When voters affirmed the ordinance, Lowe told the media, "Gainesville is a place that will not allow discrimination. Gainesville has shown itself to be a welcoming place."

Public perceptions of transgendered individuals frequently, but erroneously, label transgendered people as gay. Where gay people are sexually attracted to others of the same gender, they do not have a sense of being the gender that is opposite to the one their anatomy reflects; transgendered people, on the other hand, may be attracted to either gender, but what determines whether a person is transgendered is a deep and persistent sense, often expressed from extremely early ages, that a person's true gender is the opposite of one's physiological gender. A transwoman, for example, will have a man's body--but be utterly, and without question, convinced of her true female gender, physical appearances notwithstanding.

The leafleting was not the first smear campaign directed at Lowe because of his sexuality. A previous leafleting was carried out by the "Concerned Citizens of Gainesville," who claimed that Lowe was " 'responsible' for legally allowing men into women's restrooms!" The leaflets continued, "If you believe that the women's restroom is no place for a man then... Say no to Lowe for mayor of Gainesville!"

Lowe told EDGE last month that, "We've had a great campaign thanks to an excellent team, and we're definitely energized heading into the final weeks. It's unfortunate to see these flyers come forward, showing the inability for some people to move forward with the notion that all people should be treated equally." The leaflets had not made a dent in his support from voters, however, Lowe said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.