It was the gayest week in all of Gayville, as Orlando officially stuck up its cocktail pinky and threw back a highball of domestic partnership as a nightcap until it passed out. Unless you’ve been living under a stiletto-shaped plush chair, you’re well aware of the Jan. 12 launch of Central Florida’s first official codification of non-married relationships (see our cover story, “Separate, not equal,” Jan. 12) and all the sexiness that implies: hospital visits, prison lunches, funeral decor. Despite the big gay launch that backed Republican Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs into a defensive corner (more on that later), it was an unmitigated victory for Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who took to downtown’s Abbey (not Downton Abbey , miss) for a homo fundraising soiree on the eve of the registry’s enactment. We were there!
Well, sort of. We weren’t at the pricey $250-a-head condo party preceding the public event, though sources told us there were at least 100 happy Democrats crammed into that space. Instead, we mingled for a quiet little glass of wine in the near-empty Abbey – stepping out for a quick smoke with the “Not My Buddy” protest crowd assembled with old placards of Sir Dyer in his fat years – before immersing ourselves in the old political mingle-puss.
“You’re really not a cool politician unless you have protesters,” the mayor said to the thinning crowd. He introduced “Orlando’s only openly gay elected official” – Commissioner Patty Sheehan – with a jocular, “That’s not me. That’s Commissioner [Tony] Ortiz” (everyone’s favorite Village Person).Wait, did the mayor just make an off-color gay joke? Did we?
Obviously, the room was atwitter with rage at the revelation earlier in the week that Mayor Jacobs might rain on the gay parade and present a watered-down version of a registry that looks suspiciously like an affidavit.We’d try to pull out more inappropriate mixed metaphors for you, but after we sidled up next to Commissioner Sheehan, she trumped anything that we could have conjured.
“I’m going to give you my first public comment,” she told us. “Mayor Jacobs is offering us a hot dog. We have a porterhouse. She’s trying to convince us that the hot dog is a porterhouse. She’s waving hot dogs in our faces!”
As she has become fond of doing, Jacobs issued a press release just before Dyer’s event, basically calling all members of the media who attended her explosive Jan. 9 press conference “inaccurate and misleading” liars. The MythBusters format of the missive was particularly ineffective, considering that it didn’t really challenge anything that anyone in the media reported. She has not “reneged on her promise” (because, she says, she never promised to support a domestic-partnership registry to begin with); she is not conspiring with the right wing (though she did hear über-conservative John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, complain about it last year, and did vote yes on Amendment 2); an affidavit is not just a piece of paper (even though it kinda is), etc. All sour grapes squeezed over diffusive logic, then.
The following morning at City Hall, a sort of nuptial media circus swirled around the very first applicants to the city’s registry (23 were scheduled for the first day). Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie – who Jacobs seemed to indicate was complicit with the affidavit plan on Jan. 9 – was there to show support, as were many of the gays and those who like them, many of whom were in attendance the previous evening. Sheehan was the first to tie the pretty-loose knot with her longtime partner Jocelyn White. There were tears and flowers and a harp and a cake and pronouncements like, “You always hope and dream for a day like today.” It was pretty moving, even given the absence of liquor in the city clerk’s office.
So what’s wrong with the county? We buttonholed Dyer for a minute to get his take on the fracas. (“I saw your article,” he said. “There’s no love for me in there, just Teresa-bashing.” Touché.) Confronted with Jacobs’ assertion that the city hadn’t really met with local hospitals like Orlando Health and Florida Hospital before rushing into its domestic-partner registry, Dyer restated that his staff had in fact been negotiating with both for some time, and that just last week they had negotiated a possible system-wide observance of the registry from all Florida Hospital affiliates, even those not in city limits. But that may not be necessary. By week’s end, Jacobs bowed to the big gay noise machineand said she would support a registry, telling the Sentinel that “the ordinance would be helpful.” Sometimes things work out!
But we will need a sugar daddy (or mama) to help us cover our health-care costs, apparently, since our dumb state’s dumb leaders are really digging us a nice, deep grave – presumably to bury ourselves in when we all start dropping off like flies from preventable illnesses because we can’t afford health care.
Sounds hyperbolic, we know, but consider: On Jan. 10, 26 states (led by Florida) asked the Supreme Court to overturn a clause in the Affordable Care Act that requires states to expand their Medicaid programs if they want to continue to receive the federal funding that makes Medicaid coverage available to low-income individuals in the first place. According to a story reported by Politico, the states (again, led by Florida) argue that the feds are trying to coerce states to allow individuals who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level to obtain Medicaid beginning in 2014. Don’t be fooled by that 133 percent figure, by the way – for some perspective, during 2011 the Federal Register determined that 135 percent of federal poverty amounted to approximately $14,702 per year annual income for an individual ($30,173 for a family of four). You’re not likely to make the rent on that paltry bit of money, much less buy a private health-insurance plan which, according to a 2011 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, cost on average about $5,400 per person, per year (more than $15,000 for a family policy).
So the Affordable Care Act is trying to get states to expand coverage, and here’s the thing: The federal government is promising to cover 100 percentof the expanded program for the first three years. All of it. After that, the federal subsidy will decrease over time to 90 percent. And if the Affordable Care Act does what it’s supposed to do, it will pay for itself by saving tons of money by reducing the number of emergency-room visits by people who are uninsured and can only get care by going to an expensive ER they can’t afford to pay for.
But let’s not take the free money or savings in uncompensated (and costly) health-care treatment for the uninsured. Let’s spend our time and money (and everyone else’s money, too) taking this thing to the Supreme Court. Because we don’t need big government to give us unfunded mandates – we’d rather cook in a big fetid stew of disease and illness and go broke all on our own.
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