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News - May 1996

ACT UP demands anti-gay Fla. state employee be fired

ACT UP/Fort Lauderdale demands that Governor Lawton Chiles (Dem - FL) fire immediately Leanne O'Connell, a Florida Dept. of Transportation (DOT) employee who, on official stationery, wrote the following letter to the Orlando pledge office of The Florida AIDS Ride, a mega-fundraiser of 1,000 bicyclists who May 17-19 will peddle 275 miles from Orlando to Miami Beach raising money for desperately needed HIV/AIDS services.

O'Connell received a letter from a Florida AIDS Ride participant soliciting pledges, and on April 15th she responded thusly on Florida Dept. of Transportation letterhead:

"I will get straight to the point with this letter. I do not appreciate mail such as you have sent (see attached) coming to me at the office. In my capacity with the Florida Department of Transportation, I have no professional interest in your Aids Ride. In my capacity outside the office, I again have no interest in your Aids Ride. It is my personal belief that Aids as a disease was created as a punishment to the gay and lesbian communities across the world. Unfortunately, due to their lifestyles, many innocent people have also had to suffer. For these people, I am truly sorry and hope that one day we can cure this disease. As far as the gay and lesbians of this world...let them suffer their consequences! I ask that you take me off your mailing list immediately! Signed -- Leanne O'Connell, Youth Traffic Safety Program Coordinator, State Safety Office"

ACT UP/Fort Lauderdale says nothing short of her immediate dismissal is satisfactory! "After nearly 20-years into the world's worst health epidemic of the twentieth century, such rabid bigotry and mind-boggling ignorance is clearly a hate crime against all humanity," said Barry Teeters, co-founder of Ft. Lauderdale's ACT UP chapter. "...I would strongly urge you to take appropriate action immediately," wrote Fla. Rep. Tracy Stafford to Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ben Watts.


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