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Pulse Group Explains Why It Fired Patricia Todd Over Outing Governor

Pulse Group Explains Why It Fired Patricia Todd Over Outing Governor

Pulse Group Explains Why It Fired Patricia Todd Over Outing Governor

One Orlando Alliance says its ability to lobby for change would've been damaged.

A coalition of Orlando LGBT groups formed after the Pulse tragedy say it's impossible for Patricia Todd to lead the organization after making a very public suggestion that Alabama's governor is gay.

The coalition, called the One Orlando Alliance, rescinded a job offer on Thursday to Todd, the Alabama state representative who reacted to Gov. Kay Ivey attacking an LGBT non-profit by proclaiming Ivey is secretly gay. The comment violates the values of the One Orlando Alliance, they say, and would make it difficult to advocate for queer people in Florida moving forward.

"Outing is not something that is congruent with our community," Alliance President Jennifer Foster tells The Advocate. "It's a personal choice. Regardless of political affiliation or whether that person is advocating against policies directly impacting our community, they are still a human being."

Todd, the only out lawmaker in the Alabama Legislature, on Tuesday lashed out against Ivey on Twitter after the governor condemned the LGBT nonprofit Free2Be, as reported by Todd tweeted: "Will someone out her for God's sake....I have heard for years that she is gay and moved her girlfriend out of her house when she became Gov. I am sick of closeted elected officials."

Ivey put out a lengthy statement denying she was gay, calling Todd's remarks "a disgusting lie."

Todd today told Alabama radio station Talk 99.5 that she made the tweet in haste. "What I might apologize for [is] the inappropriate way I said what I said but I think she can take the heat," Todd said today. "I would apologize that I framed my message wrong and that I wish I had addressed the issue of her disparaging remarks versus trying to out her."

But the episode so far seems to have brought on more serious consequences for Todd than Ivey. Todd had accepted a job as executive director for the One Orlando Alliance, but that organization held an emergency meeting Wednesday and voted unanimously to retract the offer. Todd was expected to begin in her new post on June 1.

Christopher Cuevas, a representative of QLatinx, issued a strong statement in Spanish and English about the decision. "Weaponizing queerness through the act of outing others is a violation of the sacred rite that we as queer people undergo in our journey of self-discovery. It is a form of psychic and emotional violence; a violence that robs one of their ability to self-actualize and manifest their truth; a violence that hinders the fostering of fellowship and community; a violence that calls into question our ability to see the value in trusting others with our authentic self. When our humanity is violated in this way, how can we find space to begin healing in self and to promote the healing and growth of others?"

The Advocate's editorial policy allows for outing whenever it's relevant to stopping harm to others or when a person is hypocritically acting against LGBT people. Todd's actions were prompted by Ivey turning on Free2Be, a Huntsville LGBT community organization. Birmingham evangelist Scott Dawson, who is running against Ivey in a Republican primary in June 5, criticized the incumbent for allowing tax dollars to go the group.

Ivey told "I certainly don't agree with the agenda or the values of that organization." Ivey also supported disgraced judge and virulently anti-LGBT demagogue Roy Moore in his failed Senate run earlier this year, despite accusations Moore made sexual advances on teenaged girls.

Still, Foster says the outing episode made One Orlando Alliance members question if she could lead the organization. The Alliance formed shortly after the Pulse tragedy in June 2016, originally unifying 18 LGBT organizations serving the community after a shooting that disproportionately hurt queer and Latino individuals. The Alliance now includes 31 organizations. "Frankly, she [Todd] lost the trust of the coalition and the board," Foster says.

The Alliance works to bridge divides within the LGBT community. Then leaders can work with community leaders who disagree on many fundamental issues. "If you look at what we've done with One Orlando Alliance, it has not been done before in the LGBTQ community and we really want to be a national model," Foster says.

While Alliance leadership felt good about hiring Todd, this episode made leadership wonder if she has the personality to lead an organization such as this. "We lead with love now," Foster says. "She's had to fight her whole political career. It's a different mentality."

Foster says she did not want to besmirch Todd as a political leader, but the leader of the Alliance will have to work in a different way. While that sometimes will mean fighting to LGBT rights, that must be based on issues and not personal attacks. Foster and many leaders feel outing Ivey isn't different in substance than outing a transgender child, she says.

"If you want to go after her for policies, great. Go after her all day," Foster says. "Kay Ivey needs to be held accountable by constituents and by LGBTQ people across the country. That's purely politics. She's in a position that needs to be scrutinized."

Foster says the Alliance has already heard from other potential candidates for the executive director post.

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