FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Fort Lauderdale’s gay community and their friends protested outside the mayor’s prayer breakfast Friday.
They focused their attention on a religious group many in the LGBT community have deemed to be anti-gay.
“We’re here to protest the lies and hatred toward the LGBT community,” said Wayne Besen. “They like to pretend that they’re about loving all people and they’re about praying. But they’re really about preying on us, trying to convert us through prayer. ‘Pray away the gay’ has been their mantra.”
Many are furious with Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler for taking part in the prayer breakfast alongside Jim Daly from Focus on the Family. The conservative Christian group is opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples. Some call it a hate group.
But the mayor said despite what protesters believe, the breakfast was energizing.
“I think people left there with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and excitement,” said Mayor Seiler, who added that he didn’t organize the event but was invited as a guest speaker.
He said when it was his turn to take the mic, his message was about inclusion and tolerance.
“In my speech, I specifically addressed sexual orientation as an issue that oftentimes creates division in the community and, instead, talked about how those differences, including sexual orientation can bring us together,” the mayor added.
Since it’s a privately sponsored event, organizers would not allow news cameras inside.
Daly spoke to CBS4’s Ted Scouten later.
When Scouten asked what he says to Fort Lauderdale’s large gay community, he said, “I’d say I’m sorry for the way we treated you in the past, we haven’t done a good job in the way we express Christ to you. And I’ll speak for myself that’s something we apologize for. ”
He also said he’s reaching out to the LGBT community in Colorado, where the ministry is based. He wants to work with them on important issues.
“We have really big issues to talk about, whether it’s rights for the LGBT community, religious freedom protections,” he said. “These are very big issues and we got to find some answers before people become more entrenched with disliking each other.”