Charles Perez: Getting the Last Word

BY Neal Broverman

February 22 2011 6:05 PM ET

CONFESSIONS OF A GAY ANCHORMAN COVER CHARLES PEREZ XLRG | ADVOCATE.COMCongratulations on your new baby, Madeline. What are your
thoughts on Florida’s new house speaker Dean Cannon recently telling the
Florida Baptist Witness that he’s interesting in enforcing the gay adoption ban that was struck down last year?

It’s
not over until it’s over. And this is an example, like the TV business.
Bigotry and discrimination continue to exist, and the fact that some
politicians would be willing to consider reversing this decision and
reinstituting a ban on gay adoption—Florida being the only state in the
union that had a specific ban on gay adoptive parents—tells you there
are still a lot of people uneducated about what it is to be gay. I don’t
really believe George or Laura Bush had a problem with gay people; they
had staff members who were gay. But Bush was willing to stand up and
propose an amendment to the Constitution to limit our freedom for
political reasons. That may be what’s happening in Florida, but that
hurts people like our daughter.

We’re not perfect parents but I
dare you to come into our home and tell us we don’t love and care for
our child as well as anybody can or would. Unfortunately, there are a
lot of people in Florida who get behind this issue. When I left the
station, most of the response that I had from viewers was really
supportive. But there was one guy who wrote me a letter and said, “I am
going to do everything I can to get my congregation to start a campaign
against you to make sure you never work in this market again.” And I
thought, That’s a good use of your time.

As I wrote the book,
the “It Gets Better” campaign started. I love the campaign, but it also
falls short. The message is that it gets better after you leave your
home, after you leave your school, after you leave your place of
worship. Shouldn’t we try to make it better in those places? Along with
the book, I’m launching the “No Shame” campaign, and people like [openly gay former baseball player] Billy Bean are
involved. The purpose of the campaign is to make it OK to be gay and
unacceptable to shame someone for being gay—at home or church. It’s no
longer OK for someone like Joel Osteen to say homosexuality is a sin.

There was a cover of Time
magazine in 1976 with two men holding hands. My dad held it up and
said, “Enough with all these damn queers. They should put them on a damn
island and get rid of them.” At 13, I shrank and told myself no one
would ever know I was gay. Every time a preacher or politician takes an
antigay stance, they do that.

How important is passage of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act?
When
I lost my job in Florida, I was struck by the lack of employment
protections for gay people in this state. I knew I’d be OK; I had a
high-enough profile. But I thought about the kid who works in the
hardware store or the young mother who’s gay and her employer find out
and cans her, regardless of how good she is—my heart went out to them
because they have no recourse. When the House became Republican as a
result of the midterm elections, a lot of people, including Barney
Frank, felt the wind just leave their sails. But [ENDA] is not dead.
It’s got to come back, and the earlier versions of it that didn’t include
transgender protections were not right. We can’t do to each other what
others have done to us. I would love to help champion [ENDA]. My agent
said, “Do you want to carry around a gay flag?” I said, “No, but I want
inequality to go away.” The only way for the issue to go away is to
grant equal protection.









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