The discussion will focus on the struggle for gay rights and dignity that extends well beyond the debate over gay marriage.
Several speakers will highlight a backlash against gays in the federal government in the 1950s, surprising support for gays in the Christian community, and events and trends across Florida communities today. The discussion is open to the public and admission is free.
The featured speaker is David K. Johnson, associate professor of history at University of South Florida, and author of “The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.” His 2004 book is a definitive analysis of the purge of gays from the U.S. Department of State and other agencies in the 1950s, which was related to the McCarthy crusade against communists.
Heather White, adjunct assistant professor of religion at New College of Florida, will speak on 1960s Protestant Churches and the rise of gay rights. White’s research has examined the history of Protestant church debates over homosexuality, reappraising the involvement of Christian leaders and laity in the history of gay and lesbian movement organizing.
Ken Shelin, former Sarasota City Commissioner and board member at Equality Florida, will discuss the state of LGBTQ rights in Florida now. Shelin won several awards during his career in the Food and Drug Administration and while on the Sarasota city commission, he led the effort to persuade the commission to provide domestic partner healthcare benefits to city employees.