Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle has turned out to be a prophet. Many members of the local gay community aren't very happy at the moment. But their grumpiness has nothing to do with their sexuality. It has everything to do with the flippant ignorance of the man who's supposed to be a leader.A few weeks ago, Naugle made an off-handed remark to my colleague Brittany Wallman that he doesn't call homosexuals "gay" because most "aren't happy." A group of protesters came to City Hall on Tuesday and demanded an apology.
"Apologize for what?" Naugle said in his office.
An apology is in order because he crossed the line with a comment he thought was amusing but was just stupid.
To see why gays and other right-minded citizens are so upset, just imagine what would happen if an elected official said something like "most blacks are lazy," or "most Jews are cheap" or "most Irish are alcoholics."
Nobody's asking Naugle to change his views on homosexuality, public restrooms, global warming or affordable housing, no matter how misguided he might be. But as mayor, he should know better than to make incendiary and untrue comments about entire groups of people.
All Naugle has done is make it harder for people to take him seriously when he raises valid issues, especially those involving gays.
Case in point: the pending relocation of the gay-themed Stonewall Library and Archives to a city-owned building. Naugle was right to question certain content in the archives, but he squandered legitimacy with his sideshows that overshadowed the issue.
Of course, it didn't help that the city apparently didn't conduct an honest fact-finding mission leading up to the library vote, with Naugle waving a stack of magazines he deemed "hard-core pornography" that aren't even housed in the archives.
According to Naugle, city manager George Gretsas had staff buy the magazines after compiling a list of titles from the Stonewall Archive listed on its Internet site. The other day, I looked through the eight magazines in the city's gay porn collection, now part of the public record housed in a brown paper bag marked "$30" in city attorney Harry Stewart's office.
Two contained graphic photos of sex acts, the other six had pictures of naked men. Just one problem: The issues that the city bought don't match the issues in the archive.
If the commission or city staff really wanted to learn about the Stonewall Library and Archives, they should have just arranged a tour with executive director Jack Rutland.
He was happy to oblige me the other day, at the library's current location at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center on Andrews Avenue. A new condo will displace the center, and the new location won't have room for the Stonewall Library.
Broward County offered to help, offering temporary relocation at the ArtServe center on East Sunrise Boulevard. It's a city-owned building leased to the county, and it houses a public library and other private nonprofit arts organizations. The County Commission approved the move last month. The Fort Lauderdale commission approved the move, 3-2, last week.
Stonewall isn't some dirty bookstore, but a legitimate private library and research center that contains some objectionable material, including collections of old magazines and pulp novels in the archives. Appointments are necessary for the locked archive room, which also contains footage of parades, marches and gay chorus concerts.
Rutland said about 50 people request access annually, mostly academics and historians doing research on gay life in earlier times. Archive material isn't allowed to leave the room.
"Trust me, if you want to look at dirty magazines, there are way easier ways to do it," Rutland said. "Here
you have to go through four people, and fill out a form with your name and address."
As we entered the room, Rutland pointed to the drab gray and brown boxes in the stacks. "See, we don't have blow-up dolls on the shelves."
But as he held up an old issue of Jock and we went through stacks of paperbacks with titles such as Homo Hunt and We 3 Queens, we both knew the proposed move would make some people uncomfortable.
Restricted access, legitimate research purposes and all, does this really belong in a government building?
Then I discovered that the Broward County Library's main branch carried Playboy and R-rated DVDs with nudity. And that library policy allows minors to view Playboy and check out R-rated DVDs without parental approval.
In contrast, the Stonewall Library and Archive doesn't allow people under 18 to enter.
Unless the public library rids all objectionable content from its shelves, something no decent American would abide, and unless the county gave the boot to all private nonprofits from the ArtServe building, it looks like the only fair thing to do is let the Stonewall Library move in peace. Especially since the most graphic gay porn collection in a public building can now be found at Fort Lauderdale City Hall.
Talk about irony. Mayor Naugle has become his own worst enemy.
Michael Mayo's column runs Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Read him online every weekday at Sun-Sentinel.com/mayoblog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4508.