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Ken Keechl, Groundbreaking Florida Gay Politician, Dead at 60

Ken Keechl, Groundbreaking Florida Gay Politician, Dead at 60

Ken Keechl

Keechl was the first out gay member of the Broward County Commission and the county's first gay mayor.

Ken Keechl, the first out gay member of the Broward County Commission in Florida and the county’s first gay major, has died at age 60.

He died last Friday of pancreatic cancer, a family member told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Keechl, a Democrat, was elected to the commission in 2006, beating incumbent Republican Jim Scott, a former state senator who’d been appointed to the commission by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2000. He served on the commission until 2010, spending his last year on the body as county mayor. The mayor is chosen by commission members.

“I ran for the commission not as a gay man but as a fiscal conservative and as someone concerned about the environment, but I am aware of the historic nature of becoming mayor and am proud of it,” he told the Sun-Sentinel in 2009.

Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale and the heavily LGBTQ+ city of Wilton Manors, is Florida’s second most populous county, after Miami-Dade.

On the commission, he advocated for the addition of gender identity and expression to county nondiscrimination law, and commissioners added the language in 2008. He also authored a resolution in favor of gay people serve openly in the military and one against a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Voters approved the marriage amendment in 2008, but it was struck down by a federal court in 2014.

Keechl and Ted Adcock, a real estate professional, married in New York in 2011, shortly after that state passed a marriage equality law. Adcock died last December.

In addition to his government work, Keechl was a lawyer, serving many LGBTQ+ clients. He lost his county commission seat in the 2010 election and later tried unsuccessfully for reelection several times. He also ran for the Florida House of Representatives and the Fort Lauderdale City Commission but did not win either post.

Many are remembering him fondly. “He felt that everyone’s rights mattered. He made sure that everyone had a voice at the table and everyone’s concern was there,” his friend Michael Albetta told public broadcaster WLRN. Albetta and Keechl were both members of Dolphin Democrats, Florida’s oldest LGBTQ+ political group. Keechl was president of the organization for a time. Albetta recalled campaigning for Keechl in the county commission race and seeing the politician kiss his husband at the swearing-in ceremony. “It was exhilarating for the LGBTQ community,” Albetta said.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told the Sun-Sentinel that Keechl’s death is “a terrible tragedy for the entire community.” Keechl was a “leader in the LGBT community and tirelessly committed to the welfare of everyone that he served,” Trantalis added. “It’s a great loss for everybody.” He also said Keechl continued to be an activist even when he was out of office.

Former County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman praised Keechl’s environmental advocacy, telling the Sun-Sentinel, “He didn’t believe in paving over Broward County.” She noted that he was a loyal friend: “When Ken is your friend, he is there through thick and thin.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida paid tribute to Keechl on X, formerly Twitter.

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