Color Splash star David Bromstad is red-faced after a Salvation Army fundraiser hes set to host Oct. 18 in Wilton Manors erupted into a national gay-rights controversy.
"I know why people are mad at me and Im OK with that," said Bromstad, of Bal Harbour. The HGTV personality was honored in June as Man of the Year by the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
"We knew it was going to be a little bit controversial with the Salvation Army, but we did some research and we felt the Salvation Army was trying to clean up its act and make amends toward the LGBT community," Bromstad said.
For more than a decade, LGBT activists around the world have been critical of the Christian, church-based Salvation Army, which until a few years ago called for gays and lesbians to be celibate. In 2011, Salvation Army apologized after a media relations director in Australia said gay people should be put to death.
Each year before Christmas, gay activists take to the Internet and ask that people not put money in the Armys ubiquitous red kettles.
"The idea that we are homophobic and anti-gay is just not true," said Ron Busroe, the Virginia-based organizations national secretary for community relations and development.
"We dont discriminate in delivery of services and we dont discrimination in hiring," said Busroe, who from 1988-94 was area commander for the Salvation Army of Broward County.
Before this years Christmas season, Salvation Army planned to release a video featuring testimonials from gay and lesbian beneficiaries. On Tuesday, the church shared the video one month early with the Miami Herald as proof that its trying to change.
The Broward chapter recently hired Bromstad to host a fundraiser at The Venue, also known on weekends as The Manor, a gay nightclub on Wilton Drive. The event will benefit Plymouth House, Salvation Armys Fort Lauderdale shelter for homeless families.
"They reached out to us with a hand, with an olive branch," said Bromstad, 40. "This was our chance and this was my chance to reach our hand back, to extend the hand from the LGBT community and lets engage and teach and train. We need to support and educate and love one another."
Gay activists are divided over whether Bromstad is doing the right thing.
"I disagree with his decision to join this fundraiser," Zach Magee of Mississippi posted on Bromstads Facebook page. "I dont believe any bridges are being built. In fact, this feels much more like a slap in the face to those in the LGBT community that are working so diligently, through multiple channels, to achieve our full federal equality that we so rightly deserve."
Others say they stand behind Bromstad and the fundraiser.
"We support Davids outreach completely," said Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE Dade. "Only with engagement and dialogue, even with those that disagree with us, is how well reach complete equality."
Gay journalist Bil Browning was featured in a 2011 New York Times article about LGBT people and the Salvation Army. Two decades ago, the church denied shelter to him and his then-boyfriend unless they broke up and left the "sinful homosexual lifestyle," he said.
Browning, who runs the Bilerico Project news blog, now believes Salvation Army is trying to redeem itself and that engaging Bromstad is a positive move for both.
"My answer to David Bromstad is good for him. You never get anywhere without reaching out," Browning told the Herald.
"They are a church, like most, that are struggling with the issue of gender identity and sexual orientation," Browning said. "As the struggle is happening in America, its therefore happening in the church. I think theyre going to change. I think theyre making the rights steps toward change. Its a slow process to change institutional religion."