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A vote for dignity? 


The firestorm that erupted after Republican state Rep. Allen Trovillion told four gay teen-agers they were, essentially, going to burn in hell has died down ["God...will destroy you," April 19]. The rocky political terrain his tirade left for fellow Republicans, who seemed stuck between condoning hatred or homosexuality, also has subsided. But the vitriol of those hurt by Trovillion's comments -- namely, gay-rights activists -- hasn't, and the issue has resurfaced.

Last weekend, Equality Florida, the group that sent the four teen-agers to Trovillion's Winter Park office in April, hosted a three-day conference in Orlando to introduce and promote the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA). Sponsored by Rep. Ken Gottlieb, a Democrat from South Florida, the proposed law offers gay and lesbian students protection from the discrimination they say is commonplace in schools.

Still, Florida's legislature can hardly be termed progressive when it comes to gay rights, so what chance does the bill really have? A good one, argues Gottlieb: "I would think that [the opposition] wouldn't be too bad," he says, "because all it does is protect students. They may be opposed to the lifestyle, but this isn't about a certain lifestyle. It's about protecting kids in school. Those are two distinct issues."

Jessica Archer of Equality Florida believes DASA can cut through party lines: She already has supportive letters from Republican Education Commissioner Charlie Crist and Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth.

Though Gottlieb has yet to secure GOP support in the legislature, he's nonetheless hopeful. "This is really the groundbreaking," he says, adding that -- once the legislation is introduced -- sponsors will jump on board from both sides of the aisle. Even if they don't, he believes that, with enough public support, he can browbeat the legislature into passing the bill next session.


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