While this was first published as an obituary article in the Sun Sentinel, the story of Alan Curtis’ achievements that laid the foundation for the rights we enjoy today, is to step back in time - less than 30 years - and see how far we have come in a short time. When gays were still on the fringe of south Florida society in the 1990s, through Alan, I was introduced to the political elite, often in grand parties in their homes, on Alan's arm - not as a beard but as an out lesbian attorney, almost an oxymoron in that time and place.
His story is but one chapter in our “gay rights history”.
Alan L. Curtis, passed June 13, 2010, in his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Alan was born July 27, 1946, in Tampa, Florida, of a genteel southern family. He graduated from Florida Southern College, where he was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. Before relocating to Fort Lauderdale, he was a high school teacher in Tampa, and worked for Traveler’s Insurance company. Alan worked for the Hallmark Corporation for fifteen years receiving recognition several times as their most outstanding sales representative, before becoming the proprietor of Alan’s Hallmark Shop in Wilton Manors, in the 1980's. He is perhaps most well remembered by his hundreds, if not thousands of customers as their salesman in Fleet Sales at Gary Fronrath & Maroone Chevrolet in Fort Lauderdale.
Alan was a bon vivant and social gadfly in Fort Lauderdale in the 1980s and 90s: melding a mix of the straight world of politicos, socialites, and gay men, extremely unusual at that time in South Florida. Alan welded political alliances that served both the politicians that he supported, and, more importantly for our community, created bonds with straight politicians that ultimately led to our winning our rights in both amending the Broward County Human Rights Ordinance to include protections for sexual orientation in the workplace, housing and places of public accommodation in 1995 (later to include transgendered persons), as well as the Domestic Partnership Ordinance enacted in 1999. An largely unknown fact is that without Alan Curtis, the 1995 amendment would have died in the cradle. He orchestrated a pivotal meeting between attorney activist Robin Bodiford, then chair of the LGBT political action committee proposing the amendment, and the Hamilton Forman, a powerful opponent of equal rights for gays, who had great influence over the Broward County Commission in the 1990s. As a result of that meeting a deal was struck that allowed the amendment process to go forward. The inroad Alan created was the path we trod to attain our local LGBT civil rights.
Alan’s community involvement straddled the two worlds he lived in: he was the first openly gay man appointed to any number of advisory boards in the City of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County. With his foot planted firmly in the mainstream, he served as an appointee on the following civic organizations: 1993 Cemeteries Board of Trustees, City of Fort Lauderdale; 1994 Economic Development Advisory Board, City of Fort Lauderdale; 1995 Community Services Board, City of Fort Lauderdale; and in 1995 on the Cultural Affairs Council of Broward County. Alan was a benefactor to Art Serve of Broward County and served on the board of the Public Theatre of Greater Fort Lauderdale. He was a confidant and political strategist to City of Fort Lauderdale Commissioners Jack Latona and Cary Keno, and Broward Sheriff Ron Cochran. Alan was a founding member of the Dolphin Democratic Club, the Tuesday Night Committee, United Citizens for Human Rights Board, a GUARD member and benefactor, Center One Board Member, and Chair of the 2nd Red Ribbons Awards, all gay groups. For a number of years Alan was a devoted “buddy” to a number of young men suffering from AIDS at the height of the epidemic. Alan was also the first openly gay Sheriff’s liaison to the gay community in Florida and served on the Broward County Sheriff’s Advisory Council.
Alan was known for his beautiful smile, his twinkling blue eyes and quick wit. Also, he was known as a shrewd businessman and political ally. He had a flair for decorating and loved nothing more than turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse: purchasing run down local properties and turning them into gems that dazzled the eye. He will be remembered as a loyal, loving and beloved friend.