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Florida town
elects its first openly gay, HIV-positive mayor

Florida town
elects its first openly gay, HIV-positive mayor

Oakland Park, Fla., a blue-collar suburb with a history of racial and social intolerance, elected its first openly gay and HIV-positive mayor, reports

Larry Gierer, 51, was elected to the city commission in 2001 and hopes to break barriers for gay people and people living with HIV. Oakland Park, located near Fort Lauderdale in Broward County in south Florida, annually elects a new mayor. Gierer, a former model and actor, joins Florida's two other openly gay mayors, in North Miami and Pahokee. Nationwide only 17 of about 1,200 mayors of large cities are openly gay, reports the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Gierer says one of his top priorities in office will be to help personalize the AIDS crisis affecting Broward County.

"I would be remiss if I did not become the person that could display that you can live with AIDS and lead a productive life. I feel it's my responsibility," Gierer said.

Gierer says Oakland Park has a growing gay community and is neighbors with Wilton Manors, where the gay population is estimated to be nearly 40%.

Oakland Park resident John Metsopoulos will be at Gierer's swearing-in ceremony. "There's still ignorance out there that gay people are not good enough to serve in public office or do other jobs," says Metsopoulos, who served 16 years in Connecticut in public office before disclosing that he is gay. "When an individual such as Gierer gets to a position of public office, it does a lot to dispel that ignorance." (The Advocate)

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