Fired: News Anchor Charles Perez Speaks
BY Neal Broverman
August 11 2009 12:00 AM ET
Miami-Dade County recently enacted a law that protects employees from sexual orientation discrimination. But the state of Florida doesn’t have any statewide protections, and we certainly don’t have any national protections. At this point, is a federal nondiscrimination act more imperative than marriage legislation?I think they are absolutely side-by-side. I cannot understand how it can be legal to fire someone for being gay in one state and not in the other. The same way I can’t understand why I can get married in Connecticut, but I can’t in Florida or even have it recognized. I can’t understand how it’s illegal for me to adopt a kid in Florida, but I can adopt one in California. And that’s why I think these are ultimately things that need to be codified on a federal level. They have to be. I say that so emphatically because there are people who will say, "Well this isn’t like the civil rights movement of the 1960s." Or this isn’t like a number of movements throughout our history. But there is one thing that is the same about all of them -- that is that everybody has the right to not be a second-class citizen. And that’s what this is about. And that’s why I say, you know what, whatever’s going on with me, fine. I’ll go to court, I’ll win, I’ll lose, whatever. But it may make a few more people, gay or straight, cognizant of the fact that Joe Smith who works for Bill’s plumbing might have gotten fired and had no recourse. I mean, the county ordinance is great, at least we have that, but it doesn’t have the weight of the law. The only way I have a chance of giving it something close to the weight of law is by putting a spotlight on it.
I don't know if you've seen the film Outrage! -- of which Florida governor Charlie Crist was a major subject. The focus of the film was closeted politicians who push antigay legislation.I haven’t, but I have put my arms around Charlie Crist.
I’m not saying Charlie Crist is gay, but it certainly has been rumored. How do closeted public officials and celebrities contribute to the fear of being "too gay" at work?It kind of gets to something that I wrote in The Daily Beast piece. At the end of the day, people are faced with choices, and you know, you choose your career, or you choose your soul. And I don’t know that he’s gay either, but if he is, I think he chose his career over his soul. When you’re laying there on your deathbed, what makes your having been here mean anything? Do you know David Mixner?
I do.David is so strong about this. [He says] we have to be our own parents, and children, and our own keepers. And I guess I’m learning how to do that, how to be part of that. Back in the days when I did a talk show in the early '90s -- first of all, to this day, I don’t know why it was canceled, because we had good ratings. The reason is, and I don’t think my homosexuality had anything to do with it, but the executive who was in charge of the show walked into my dressing room and she closed the door and she held up the Globe, which had done a one-page thing on a talk show host who’s gay, and she said, "Is this true?" and I said "Yes," and she said, "Charles, why didn’t you tell me?" and I said, "Because I couldn’t take the chance that you wouldn’t let me have my dream." And she looked at me and she put it down and said, "OK, I understand." And the way she said it, I just knew that I never would’ve gotten on the air. And it wasn’t because she personally was homophobic, but because why would they make the choice of someone who was a little harder to sell than somebody else? It’s that simple. And that’s why we have to neutralize it.
You seem to have a bit of compassion for people who feel they have to choose between success and sexuality.Yes, but I do think you also get to the point where the audience doesn’t care anymore. Executives still live in… I don’t have a lot of respect for TV executives. There’s a real fear-based culture there. That’s why when you have one court show that works, the next year you come out with 20 court shows. You have one celebrity talk show that works, the next year you have 20. They all are like dogs running in a circle, getting nowhere.