Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vigil for trans woman killed in Tampa planned

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 2:55 PM

Friends as well as members and allies of the local trans community are planning a vigil Friday evening to remember India Clarke, the transgender woman who was found dead in a park within the University Area Community Center in Tampa early Tuesday.

Investigators say Clarke, 25, died of blunt force trauma. Authorities are offering up to $3,000 to anyone who may have details that could help lead to an arrest.

Clarke is the 10th known transgender person to die violently this year.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Reactions to the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling

Posted By on Fri, Jun 26, 2015 at 3:36 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. from Tampa Kathy Castor celebrates the decision with her daughter Julia on the grounds of the building where it was handed down. - COURTESY OF U.S. REP. KATHY CASTOR'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's office
  • Democratic U.S. Rep. from Tampa Kathy Castor celebrates the decision with her daughter Julia on the grounds of the building where it was handed down.

As you might imagine, there's no shortage of reactions to today's landmark ruling on same-sex marriage.

Everyone from presidential candidates to activists to local lawmakers has weighed in. Some celebrate the decision while others still somehow cling to the religious liberty defense.

Here are some highlights; some happy, some sad (we've annotated where we deemed appropriate):

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Planning to marry your same-sex partner on Jan. 6? Not so fast.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 23, 2014 at 1:41 PM

A call to action from an Equality Florida email. - EQUALITY FLORIDA
  • Equality Florida
  • A call to action from an Equality Florida email.

In this week's CL, Publisher James Howard states his intention to marry his longtime partner on Jan. 6 — supposedly the first day same-sex couples can be wed in Florida. 

But not so fast. When he called the Hillsborough County Clerk of Court's office today to find out how to obtain a marriage license, he was told that the office would not be issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

The confusion stems from a memo issued by Greenberg Traurig, the Miami-based law firm that represents county clerks. It's true that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle in favor of same-sex marriage in FL, but the memo informed clerks that they could be breaking state law if they married gay couples, since (in the law firm's view) the Hinkle ruling applies only in Washington County, where the lawsuit was filed.

It's possible that Judge Hinkle will issue a clarification of his ruling, which could settle the confusion. Meanwhile, Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith is warning clerks who refuse to issue licenses that they will be "hit with costly legal challenges" and is urging supporters to call their county clerks to let them know "denying marriage is unconstitutional."

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

High Court spurns Bondi; same-sex marriage imminent

Posted By on Sat, Dec 20, 2014 at 6:34 PM

In a 7-2 decision Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Florida's request for a stay on same-sex marriage, following a federal judge's decision that the state’s ban is unconstitutional. The request to extend the delay, of course, came from Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle’s Aug. 21 ruling struck down the marriage ban, but placed a hold on the decision till Jan. 5 to allow time for appeals. His ruling was the result of two cases — one brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida and South Florida’s biggest LGBT rights organization, SAVE. The other case was brought by attorneys William Sheppard and Sam Jacobson of Jacksonville on behalf of two couples.

Judge Hinkle’s ruling didn't just grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Florida; it also recognizes marriages performed outside the State.

"Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts," he writes in his decision. "Those who enter opposite-sex marriages are harmed not at all when others, including these plaintiffs, are given the liberty to choose their own life partners and are shown the respect that comes with formal marriage."

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Same-sex marriage on the brink of being legal in Florida

Posted By on Wed, Dec 3, 2014 at 5:44 PM

A CL cover from a 2009 issue focusing on the subject. Five years later, the answer may finally be yes.
Well, it's about damned time.

A federal judge has declined to extend a stay on same-sex marriages in the state beyond January 5th.

The stay was put in place due to Attorney General Pam Bondi's appeal of a Tallahassee federal judge's decision deeming the statewide same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.

Bondi was hoping the appeal would result in the overturning of that decision, you know — just because — but it doesn't look like things are going to go her way this time.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta denied a stay that would have further delayed the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and has said it will issue an expedited judgment in the case. 

The court said it would allow about a month for appeals, but that marriage licenses could start getting issued as soon as Jan. 5.

Bondi could, of course, take her battle to Washington and beg the U.S. Supreme Court to extend the stay. But the high court has rejected similar requests from four other states. 

Go home, Pammy. You ain't gonna win this one.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

St. Pete gets a perfect score in HRC's LGBT equality index

Posted By on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Mayor Rick Kriseman, city officials, and representatives of Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign announce St. Pete's perfect score from the steps of City  Hall. - LARRY BIDDLE
  • Larry Biddle
  • Mayor Rick Kriseman, city officials, and representatives of Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign announce St. Pete's perfect score from the steps of City Hall.

Last year, when Tampa scored higher than St. Petersburg in the Human Rights Campaign's annual measure of LGBT equality across the nation, St. Pete was more than a little peeved. City officials vowed that things would be different by the time the next MEI rolled around.

And boy, are they. Today, HRC announced that St. Pete's score in the Municipality Equality Index was, in essence, perfect — winning the top rating of 100 points, up from 66 in 2013, and outpacing Tampa, which came in close behind at 97.

It's not that surprising, considering all that's happened in St. Petersburg in the last year to improve the climate for LGBT citizens. Elections made a big difference, with Darden Rice and Amy Foster joining Steve Kornell as openly gay members of City Council, and Mayor Rick Kriseman heading up a new, more LGBT-friendly administration. The raising of a rainbow flag over City Hall during St. Pete Pride held more than just symbolic weight; in his mayoral proclamation, Kriseman listed a raft of positive developments for the gay community, including the appointment of new LGBT community liaison Robert Danielson and the upcoming opening of the LGBT Welcome Center in the Grand Central District.

HRC said that only two other Florida cities — Orlando and Wilton Manors — achieved a perfect score in this year's MEI, along with 35 other cities across the nation. The rights organization has been making its MEI assessments since 2012, and has seen the level of LGBT equality rise steadily during that period. 

The full release follows:

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Nadine Smith challenges 3 gay-marriage critics to take the Ice Bucket Challenge

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 4:10 PM

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge continues to rage on, with the ALS Foundation reporting today that it has received just shy of $80 million ($79.7) in donations compared to $2.5 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 25). These donations have come from existing donors and 1.7 million new donors.

The latest to take the challenge is Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state's leading LGBT group in the Sunshine State.  Watch below to see Nadine take up the challenge (though it is one of the longer Ice Bucket Challege videos we admit to having see over the past few weeks). Before she finally does get soaked, she challenges three well known critics of same-sex marriage in Florida - John Stemberger, Mat Staver and GOP state Representative Dennis Baxley.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New study says legalizing same-sex marriage would be an economic boon for the Sunshine State

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2014 at 3:48 PM


While Pam Bondi wants to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision about whether the ban on same-sex marriage in Florida is unconstitutional, supporters are touting a new study released today from UCLA’s Williams Institute shows that Florida’s economy would get a massive economic boost from extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

According to the report’s estimates, more than 24,000 same-sex couples would choose to marry over the next three years, bringing a potential $182.2 million to Florida’s economy, with nearly $117 million of that in the first year alone. And it predicts that up to 2,626 jobs would be created in the Sunshine State due to the increased spending for same-sex couples’ weddings and celebrations.

The authors of the study, E.G. Fitzgerald, Christy Mallory and M.V. Lee Badgett, say they are actually relying on conservative estimates to assess the economic impact of sex couples. "In other words, all assumptions are cautious and, given the range of possibilities, likely produce revenue impacts on the lower bound," they write in the summary of their study.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Democrats, LGBT groups blast Pam Bondi's decision to kick gay marriage issue to U.S. Supreme Court

Posted By on Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Pam Bondi's announcement late Thursday that Florida should stop fighting the gay-marriage battle at the state level and wait until the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately contends with the issue isn't going down well in certain quarters today — namely among Democrats and activists in the LGBT community.

The Florida Attorney General's statement was issued in response to filings made to the state's 3rd District Court of Appeal regarding cases in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties in which circuit court judges ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violates the 14th Amendment to the U.W. Constitution.  

"The issue in this appeal is whether the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires states to sanction same-sex marriage," the AG writes."That is unquestionably an important issue, and the Plaintiffs, the State,
and all citizens deserve a definitive answer. But neither this Court nor the Florida Supreme Court can decide this federal issue with finality."

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Third GOP-appointed judge in Florida overturns ban on same-sex marriage

Posted By on Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 4:50 PM


For the third consecutive week, a Republican-appointed Circuit Judge in Florida has struck down the Sunshine State's ban on same-sex marriage, this time in Broward County. 

Circuit Judge Dale Cohen today ruled against the state's 2008 constitutional amendment,  stating that the denial of marriage equality to same-sex couples in Florida is unconstitutional. The judge's ruling applies to recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages, as well as overturning Florida's ban on same-sex marriage — Broward County only.

The lawsuit was filed by Heather Brassner, who had entered into a civil union in Vermont and is seeking a divorce in Florida. The judge indicated that “He was not prepared to grant the divorce without addressing the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban — and the same-sex marriage recognition ban,” according to Nancy Brodzki, Brassner’s attorney. Brodzki then filed a motion for the judge to rule on Florida’s constitutional ban.

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