Mark LaFontaine’s Congressional campaign website describes the Floridian as “All American.”
While surely part of a larger political strategy, the patriotic adjective definitely fits the politico’s past. And that past, in many ways, can be read as a distinctly American story: born in Chicago, handed over to a Catholic foster home, taken in by a loving couple with three other children, adopted by said family, summers spent as a Boy Scout, a stint in the Coast Guard before becoming an accountant. Yes, there’s a certain mythology in all of that.
Of course there’s there’s more to the story. Military dreams dashed by harassment, anti-gay witch hunting, discrimination, HIV/AIDS. These aren’t your typical American tales, but, as some know all too well, these elements are equally ingrained in the American fabric. Well, not equally, but you know what we mean…
Fiercely in love with his country, LaFontaine’s currently running for a spot in Florida’s state House, an area that includes Wilton Manors, Pompano Beach and North Lauderdale. Always intrigued by the homo-politicos, our editor recently chatted with LaFontaine about fighting for equally rights in the Boy Scouts, his less-than-ideal outing and why the hell he’s running in the first place. Oh, and LaFontaine’s communications director makes a few cameos. Why? Two words: Charlie Crist.
Read all about it – after the jump…
Andrew Belonsky: Why are you going into politics? What’s your motivation?
Mark LaFontaine: I’ve been a civic activist for over fifteen years and I’ve worked within the community on the outside influencing legislation as a grass-roots activist, so now I believe is a good time for us to actually have a voice in Tallahassee and be able to have a decision maker in the state house on issues that aeffect the community. So, that’s the primary reason why.
AB: When you say “I want to have us” up in the State House, which community are you talking about?
ML: I’m saying the community in general. This district that I’m running for is very diverse. We have gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people; we have a large African-American community here, we have a rather large Hispanic community, as well, and because of all the diversity, we need people representing this diverse community up in Tallahassee. Now, Florida has never had an openly gay state legislator, so it is extremely important, I believe, that the legislature be comprised of the broad demographic it represents. And I don’t feel that at this time it does.
AB: Going back to your beginnings, you were born in Chicago, you were taken in as a foster child and the LaFontaine’s later adopted you. Were you ever intrigued to find your biological parents?
ML: Um, as a child, I think everybody who’s adopted has that curiosity, but I never pursued it.
AB: Growing up Catholic, you came from a Catholic foster agency – how important was religion to you growing up? And, also, now?
ML: I would say that spirituality is the most important aspect. I was very lucky, because my mother exposed me to religious denominations of all kinds, because we had friends who were Methodist, Jewish, Episcopalian – the whole gamut, so she was very good at introducing us to these different religious affiliations and letting us see the differences and the similiarities. I consider myself to be much more spiritual, rather than following a specific religion, but I am Catholic by denomination.
AB: Religion plays an important role in American politics – it always has and it probably always will. One of the things that politicians are asked, as I just asked you, is whether or not they’re religious, or believe in God – things like that. Do you believe a politician could get elected if they said they weren’t spiritual or didn’t believe in God?
ML: I do. I do. I think that the issues are of paramount importance to communities today – especially with our economy in recession, particularly Florida. Our state economy is in crisis right now. People want leadership on the issues. They want people who are not going to inject their religious viewpoints into lawmaking decisions, and that’s the perspective that I offer.