After provoking a national backlash with her comments about black lesbians, Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll has refused to apologize. Her silence has prompted a national petition drive launched today to keep the pressure on.
The controversy erupted when a former staffer claimed she was fired after walking in on the Lt. Governor in a sexually “compromising position” with a female aide. In responding to the allegations, Carroll told reporters earlier this month, "Black women who look like me don't engage in relationships like that."
Her comments drew national criticism from all corners including a widely distributed editorial I published on MSNBC’s blog TheGrio.com. Other black commentators from around the country also criticized Carroll for her comments including Kimberley McLeod, from The National Black Justice Coalition, and Aisha and Danielle Moodie Mills, two DC-based lesbians who were the first to be featured in Essence Magazine's wedding section. Doria Roberts (via The Huffington Post) launched the #ThisisWhatALesbianLooksLike hashtag which many women used to show the diversity of the lesbian community
I launched this petition to let the Lt. Governor know that her statement caused real harm.
As a black lesbian from Florida, I personally felt the sting of Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll's words. Instead of simply denying the claims, she stereotyped black lesbians in order to deflect her own charges. With that one quick statement, Lt. Governor Carroll appealed to racial and homophobic stereotypes that do real harm.
Despite the Lt. Governor's attempt to portray lesbians like me as so very different from her, we actually have a great deal in common. I too am married and a mother. The difference is my marriage is not legally recognized and I've had to fight for the legal right to be a parent to my son.
The Lt. Governor is the highest-ranking black women ever to serve in Florida government.
As I said before, whether the allegations that she abused her authority are true or not is for a court to decide. But I launched this petition in hopes that others who are as outraged as I am can join me in calling on the Lt. Governor to show the strength of character to apologize for stereotyping black women in general and lesbians in particular.
Special thanks to Change.org for sharing the petition on their Gay Rights facebook page with more than 700K followers, as well as their other social media accounts.
And a big shout out to Daryl Hannah at GLAAD for tons of support and shining the spotlight on this story from day one including getting my column on theGrio and helping publicize the petition.