Since Dave Trotter published this 2005 video the other day much discussion has permeated Florida Democratic circles about Darryl Rouson and LGBT issues. Rouson is considered the runaway front runner to be the next House Democratic leader. I have already editorialized that I feel the next leader should be if possible a woman as the House Democratic Caucus has a woeful record of promoting women into leadership positions over the past decade. However, let me state that it is important to pick the best possible leader and with the discussion of Rouson becoming poisoned recently, I sought out a few reliable sources on this issue.
It appears Rouson has “evolved” on the issue of LGBT rights from advocating outright discrimination in 2005 to being a supporter and some have told me even a champion of these rights in 2013. In fact his “evolution” while perhaps more pronounced than many progressives does mirror to an extent what has happened on the left and in general throughout American society over the past decade.
In 1996 & 1997, the majority of Democrats in both the Florida Legislature AND Congress voted to ban gay marriage, passing the infamous “Defense of Marriage Act,” (one would think with a title like that they were addressing the massive problem of divorce particularly among American conservatives) which was promoted by right-wing think tanks and their handmaidens in the punditry. President Clinton signed the bill, and Governor Chiles reluctantly allowed it become law in Florida (he actually didn’t sign the ball just let it become law). Yet fifteen years and change later, progressives are generally unified in favor of gay marriage and full civil rights and equality under the law.
Rouson is in my opinion NOT a progressive, thanks to his advocacy of school “choice” legislation and his willingness to take money from the out of state right-wing interests that fund the school “choice” movement in alliance with Jeb Bush and fundamentalist religious organizations. But allowing others to move to a respectable position on these issues and not respecting Rouson’s ability to “evolve” regarding LGBT related matters is simply not consistent. That having been said, Rouson’s overall record still concerns me, but I have been assured by those in LGBT community that I respect that this is no longer an issue.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that Rouson has a better record of co-sponsoring and advocating legislation that would promote equality under the law for gays and lesbians in recent years than either of his opponents for Democratic Leader.