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Quiet couple was called to action

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@miamiherald.com

ActivistsWaymon Hudson and Anthony Niedwiecki used to lead a private life in Oakland Park. Now they're leading the campaign against Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle.

Hudson and Niedwiecki, a couple for nearly six years, say their lives changed May 1 when a skycap broadcast an anti-gay Bible message over an airport loudspeaker.

''We heard over the PA system that a man who lies with a man as he would a woman will be subject to death,'' said Niedwiecki, 40, a Nova Southeastern University associate law professor who was returning with Hudson from a trip to Chicago.

''It frightened me,'' said Hudson, 28, a JetBlue flight attendant and personal trainer. ''When someone says you should be put to death at 1 a.m. in a deserted airport, it perks your ears up.'' A contractor quickly fired the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport skycap.

GETTING ACTIVE

Four months later, Hudson has become one of Broward's most vocal gay activists and Niedwiecki is mulling a 2009 run for Oakland Park city commission. They came forward after Naugle said he wants to stop gay men from having sex in public places, like restrooms.

''The mayor likes to refer to Anthony and me as militant homosexual activists,'' Hudson said. ``I don't like the homosexual part, but I'm not offended by that. When it comes to defending my rights and fighting back from bigotry, I am militant, as we all should be.''

Quite a switch for a man who worked five years as a Walt Disney World performer. Hudson, who grew up in Orlando, majored in musical theater and business at New York University.

In New York, Hudson met Niedwiecki, who was then living in Philadelphia, on Gay Pride Day. ''Bad gay fiction,'' Hudson said. ``That was it. We were just meant to be.''

Niedwiecki grew up outside Detroit. He attended Tulane Law School and earned an advanced degree from Temple University in Philadelphia. He later landed a teaching job at Temple.

Hudson moved to Philadelphia and they lived together there until Niedwiecki got the Nova teaching assignment.

The airport incident turned them into instant local celebrities.

''A woman came up to me [in Publix] and asked if she had seen me on the news,'' Hudson said. ``I said possibly. She looked at me right in the face and said, `You two deserve what that man said to you.'

''The next day I was at the gym,'' Hudson said. 'A large-size note that had `fag' scrawled across it was stuck in my windshield. At that point I started to take side roads going home. It was a weird way to live. A few days later, a woman came up to me and spit in my face in the grocery store, with her 6-year-old son in hand. I said to her, 'What a great lesson to teach your son.' ''

GOING FULL-OUT

Hudson has taken a leave from JetBlue and turned full-time gay activist.

''It wakes you up -- that even in a modern cosmopolitan community there is hate and we've come a long way, but we have a way to go. We can't be complacent,'' said Hudson, 28, who with Niedwiecki started a gay-rights group called Fight OUT Loud.

''Waymon and Anthony's group does more hate crime and political action stuff,'' said Jeff Black, a founder of another Broward gay-rights group, UNITE Fort Lauderdale, which specializes in ``community service and community building.''

Five weeks after the airport incident, Fight OUT Loud took on its first cause: two 14-year-old Portland, Ore., lesbians kicked off a public bus June 8 for kissing.

''The bus driver called them sickos,'' Niedwiecki said. ``We worked with the mothers, worked with the girls. Waymon had several conversations with the mayor's office.''

In mid-June, the Portland transit department apologized to the girls.

THEN CAME NAUGLE

Then, an incident much closer to home: Naugle said the city should buy a $250,000 self-cleaning, locking toilet to stop men from having sex in public restrooms at the beach.

''The mayor thing happened and that quite honestly consumed our lives,'' Niedwiecki said. ``Fighting bigotry and hate in this city seems to be a full-time job.''

Fight OUT Loud has a mailing list of 2,200 and recently applied for nonprofit tax status. It and other gay groups have held several anti-Naugle rallies in Fort Lauderdale.

Hudson and Niedwiecki give out bumper stickers that read ``Save Fort Lauderdale. Dump Naugle.''

No problem, says the mayor. ``It's free speech.''

Naugle has had several close encounters with Niedwiecki.

''I tried to have a conversation the other night at the meeting,'' Naugle said. ``Anthony was very confrontational. I tried to answer him. He kept interrupting me and I finally gave up.''

FOSTER PARENTS

Two years ago, Hudson and Niedwiecki became foster parents to Franke Alexandre, a teen born with HIV.

Alexandre had been one of five siblings raised by foster parents Steven Lofton and Roger Croteau, a couple who with Rosie O'Donnell's help unsuccessfully fought Florida's gay adoption ban. (State law doesn't prohibit gay people from being foster parents.)

When the Lofton-Croteau family moved to Oregon, Florida demanded Alexandre return or he'd lose his medical coverage and college assistance.

''I was moving from one friend's house to another,'' recalls Alexandre, who lived with Lofton and Croteau from the age of 8 months. ``The change, the big move, was mentally stressful.''

Niedwiecki is a friend of Alexandre's guardian ad litem. He and Hudson offered to become the teen's new foster family.

''I was accepted into Anthony and Waymon's household,'' Alexandre said. ``My grades got better, more A's and B's than C's and D's. I was just beginning to get back on my feet. I would never have done it without them. They did whatever they could to help me get through school successfully and find the right college.''

Alexandre, 19, now lives on Florida's west coast and attends St. Petersburg College.

''I couldn't have learned a lot of lessons if I hadn't been living with Anthony and Waymon,'' he said. ``I love them dearly. They are family as much to me as I am family to them. A good couple of guys.''

Photo by BOB EIGHMIE / FOR THE MIAMI HERALD
Waymon Hudson and Anthony Niedwiecki of Oakland Park are protesting against Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle.

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I think who ever said that at 1am over the PA system should be arested and be charged.

Good luck to gay couple Mr.Hudson and Mr. Niedwiecki and to FIGHT OUT LOUD to which I would like to align myself. I don't live in Fort Lauderdale and am too old to be active in its many activities. I know Mayor Naugle only by what the media says of him and his recent entanglements with both Fort Lauderdale and national Gay activist groups over public sex in Lauderdale's public men's rooms. But for what it is worth: some months ago I heard a lot of noise in the wee dark hours of the morning. I looked out my bedroom window high up on the fourteenth floor and saw three young men taking turns having sex with a female white prostitute on the pavement of the lighted parking lot across the street. I called 911 not because I was opposed to the group having sex but because I was OPPOSED TO WHERE they were having sex.

When we fight back we win.

In recent years, I've heard too many gays comment that the community is becoming obsolete as society becomes more tolerant. This story illustrates that we still have a long way to go. Waymon & Anthony are heroes, and an inspiration to other gay men and women to get involved in the community. The homophobes will not stop at defining marriage. No matter what they tell us, it's all about discrimination and hate.

What an inspiration these two are for all of us in the LGBT community.

I am Anthony's Mother, his Father and I want everyone to know how proud we are of these two fine, giving men. We love Waymon as if he were our own son. As far as Frank is concerned we love him as much as our blood grandchildren. He is such a fine young man and I am sure he will go far in life, he had a great upbringing and two fine men to help him when he needed it. If any one can make a difference in the gay world these two can. Such fine upstanding men they are, we couldn't be more proud. Thank you for your great story about our son and son-in-law.
Ron and Judy Niedwiecki

Hello.

Very rarely do I find the need to share my views on these blogs. However, looking at the comments and reading the story leading up to it, I feel I must share.

First of all, I am 47 years old and I am a gay male. My partner and I have been together over 13 years. We lead a very sensational, highly exciting life. We go to work, come home, eat a little dinner, watch TV and then go to sleep. Let me tell you! It's a thrill a minute! We get upset at traffic, complain about the price of gas and hate paying bills.

My point is this. We're both very regular, every day people. While we are both 'out' gay men, we do not wear our sexuality on our sleeve. In fact, it's an afterthought, to be honest. We just carry on like just anyone else in this country.

By doing so, just "carrying on", we would expect to be treated no differently than anyone else. We're both professionals, love our families and do not do anything to bring attention to ourselves. That being said, when we hear of comments like the ones the Ft. Lauderdale mayor has made, along with any other insensitive remarks, it just makes us cringe. While it's true much progress has been made in the way gay Americans are treated, I'm not naive enough to think everything is full of roses.

I think Mr. Hudson and Mr. Niedwiecki deserve accolades for standing out the way they have. It seems to me they were just another ordinary, boring couple who has been suddenly thrust into the spotlight, by no fault of their own. I also applaud Mrs. Niedwiecki for believing in her son as a PERSON. In the end, that is all that matters. We are all people and would just like to be treated the same as everyone else.

Best regards,
Marcellus Sinclair
Kansas City, MO

*smiles*
i love these guys.

wow its amasing the hate still out there lester

so lester why wont you speak to me

billy

bcaf@bellsouth.net

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