U.S. Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen lends support to LGBT community

Congresswoman from Florida teams up with transgender son for PSA

By Hatzel Vela - Reporter

MIAMI - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, is lending her support to the LGBT community by teaming up with her son for a public service announcement.

The message is simple: Family is everything. 

The new PSA features Ros-Lehtinen, her husband, Dexter, and their transgender son, Rodrigo.

The ad hopes to make people understand why it’s important for everyone to have the same rights and opportunities.

"We want our kids to be healthy and accepted and safe, and there is so much discrimination and hatred and rhetoric that divides us, and it's time to come together as a family," Ros-Lehtinen said.

The congresswoman first went public with the fact that her son was transgender in 2014. 

Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, has been at times a lonely voice in her party when it comes to gay rights. 

"Republicans or Democrats, let's forget about the party labels and let's move ahead in the political dialogue and accept people for what they are and what qualities they bring to their jobs rather than artificial barriers like gender identity," she said.

The ad comes at a time when states like North Carolina are dealing with controversial bathroom laws, which some say discriminate against transgender people. 

"Right now in the state of Florida, if you're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, you can be fired from your job, you can be denied public service, you can be denied accommodations, so what this does is help level the playing field," Save Executive Director Tony Lima said.

Rodrigo Lehtinen said he's lucky because both his parents have been accepting, but that's not the case for many young people. 

"Almost 60 percent of transgender children are rejected by their families, and that's a tragedy,” Rodrigo Lehtinen said. "You can't have people thrown out of their homes and then expect them to have fulfilling lives and careers."

"We're very proud that Rigo is leading the way," his father said.

Dexter Lehtinen said gender identity should not define his son, but a person's humanity, character and work ethic should be what matters.

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