On Darryl Rouson’s evolution

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

On Monday evening, state Rep. Darryl Rouson will hold a fundraiser for his campaign to replace term-limited Arthenia Joyner in the Florida Senate.

Within local Democratic political circles, the usual suspects are on the host committee: County Commissioners Charlie JusticeJanet Long, and Ken Welch, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and almost all of the St. Pete City Council. Running against Tampa’s Ed Narain and Betty Reed, Rouson hopes those two will split the Hillsborough portion of the Senate District 19 vote while he mops up in Pinellas.

Yet who is on the host committee is not as interesting as where the event is being held.

The invitation says the fundraiser will take place at the home of (the great) Bob Devin Jones and Jim Howell.

That Rouson is kicking-off his campaign at the home of two openly gay men says a lot about how much he has opened his mind on LGBT issues.

In 2013, Rouson announced that his position on gay marriage had changed.

The Republican-turned-Democrat told The Huffington Post that he has “evolved on the issue.”

“I have been listening to my constituents and to other members of the LGBT community, but the turning point came when I attended an Equality Florida event,” he said following a Jefferson-Jackson dinner. “ … I will defend love. I will defend people’s right to love who they choose and to be proud of that love.”

Rouson said at the time the turning point came after listening to a story of discrimination from a gay colleague.

“His pain was so real … and so unnecessary. Why should anyone be treated differently because of who they love? Because of who they are? I finally got it – this is the civil rights movement of our day,” he said.

Before that point, Rouson had been quoted as saying: “I think lesbianism and homosexuality is morally wrong. The law is supposed to discriminate sometimes, in some respects, it is supposed to discriminate against social order and anarchy.”

As he has made clear for some time now, Rouson no longer thinks that way.

Hopefully, Rouson — whether he wins or loses this campaign — can be an inspiration to others.

Material from the South Florida Gay News was used in this post.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.