Michael Putney: Lawsuit not about gay marriage — the fight is for marriage equality | Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida

It was a moment of stark contrasts the other day at the Dade County Courthouse: gay vs. straight, well-to-do vs. working class, secular humanists vs. evangelicals, gay lovers vs. homophobes.

What brought them together physically and separated them philosophically was gay marriage. More than 200 people — hard-core supporters and opponents of gay marriage — tried to jam into historic old Courtroom 6-1, where Judge Sarah Zabel was to hold a hearing. So many spectators they had to open an adjacent courtroom outfitted with a large TV. It was there that the anti-gay-marriage group, wearing Respect My Vote signs, broke into Amazing Grace. They were answered by the pro-gay-marriage group, which began chanting, “Marriage equality, marriage equality.” Police moved in to defuse the demonstration, but the passions on this issue will not soon be quelled.

The tide is running fast in favor of same-sex marriage. It has been since the Supreme Court last year struck down key provisions of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The court said that all states, even those with gay-marriage bans, must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where it’s legal. Since that ruling, some 23 courts have struck down state bans as unconstitutional.

The judges — of all political stripes and persuasions — have ruled the bans violate the Constitution’s equal-protection and due-process clauses. And those guarantees trump voter-approved bans.

In half a dozen states, the attorneys general chose not to defend the bans in court because they saw the handwriting on the wall (and the court orders) and concluded they’d lose. In Florida, Attorney General Pam Bondi sat on the sidelines for several months, but finally announced a few weeks before the Miami-Dade hearing that she would defend Florida’s ban. In her court filings, Bondi said that, “Disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.” She failed to say exactly what the harm would be because there would be none. Still, Bondi’s arguments got a big thumbs-up from groups such as the Christian Family Coalition of Miami, which praised Bondi for being “on the right side of history.”

But she’s not.


Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/2014/07/michael-putney-lawsuit-not-about-gay-marriage-the-fight-is-for-marriage-equality.html#storylink=cpy

via Michael Putney: Lawsuit not about gay marriage — the fight is for marriage equality | Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida.

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The Forecast In Florida: Dark Days Ahead For Gay Hotels – GayCities Blog

uesthouses in South Florida: is it a sign of changing times in the industry? One of America’s most famous, or perhaps infamous, gay spots is for sale, and others are (gasp!) going mainstream to attract a broader clientele.

The biggest shake-up comes from Key West, with the news that Island House in Key West is now for sale, less than a year after the death of co-owner Martin Kay.

Joe Allen, who still owns the resort currently, opened Island House in 1976 with Kay. Allen sent an email to his entire mailing list that included the following:

“I think I can say without boast that we created at Island House a unique place, a safe and happy space for thousands of gay men to meet, to eat and drink, to make merry. I’m proud of that, but more important in this context, Island House is successful and profitable operation. I’m confident that its new owner will operate it as a gay men’s resort. It has higher ADR’s and occupancy than any comparable property in Old Town. There’s no good reason to change its model. It’s a success,” wrote Allen.

Island House has become the focal point for much of Key West’s LGBT community, as other smaller resorts on the island have become mainstream guesthouses. The restaurant is a popular meeting place for locals to have breakfast, and drag shows by the pool are common (as is sex on the upper outdoor deck and in the hotel’s porn theater).

This sale comes at a critical time for Florida’s LGBT travel industry. Despite Allen’s belief that it should stay a gay-themed property, its location on Duval St. makes it a prime target for real estate developers looking to capitalize on Key West’s ever-escalating market. More importantly, the gay guesthouse industry is on a slow downward spiral, as loyal customers continue to age and younger patrons aren’t coming in.

via The Forecast In Florida: Dark Days Ahead For Gay Hotels – GayCities Blog.

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Defense Secretary Hagel calls out 9 states for refusing to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses – U.S. News

Nine states that continue refuse to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses of service members at National Guard facilities are “wrong” and causing “division among the ranks” that furthers prejudice, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

He called out the states for the first time in a speech before the Anti-Defamation League in New York City.Hagel said he has directed the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to “take immediate action to remedy this situation,” and to “meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied.

“Texas this summer announced a “potential conflict” between state law, which does not allow same-sex marriage and the U.S. Department of Defense policy. The Defense Department is now abiding by a Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that banned federal recognition of gay marriages.

Texas, meanwhile, said the state would not issue ID cards to same-sex spouses at National Guard facilities, saying  those identity cards can only be obtained at federal facilities in the state.

Since Texas’ decision, eight other states have made similar decisions: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.

via Defense Secretary Hagel calls out 9 states for refusing to issue military IDs to same-sex spouses – U.S. News.

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Out in the sun: Florida’s top 10 gay beaches | Things to do in Tampa Bay | Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s fantastic beaches welcome all, but some are friendlier than others to the LGBT community. From party places such as Miami, Key West and Fort Lauderdale to mellow, secluded spots in St. Pete Beach and Sarasota, here are some of Sunshine State’s best gay-friendly beaches.

1. South Beach’s 12th Street Beach, Miami Beach

Just look for the rainbow flags flying amid the rental chairs and lifeguard stations. The most popular gay beach in Miami, it’s mostly a hangout for men, but you’ll also find lesbians and straights soaking up the sun with locals. It’s across the street from the Palace Restaurant & Bar, a gay hangout that has been welcoming sunbathers for the past 25 years. At 12th Street and Ocean Drive.

via Out in the sun: Florida’s top 10 gay beaches | Things to do in Tampa Bay | Tampa Bay Times.

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Marriage Equality Faces Challenges in Florida :: EDGE on the Net

After spending 45 years being engaged, William Baxter and Peter Rocchio, of Winter Park, Fla., recently married at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. But Mary Meeks, an Orlando civil rights attorney, says, “I hate to be the downer [but in Florida] your [out-of-state] marriage certificate doesn’t mean a whole lot.” 

Waternark Online reports even with the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, marriage equality in Florida still has some significant obstacles to overcome.

A forum held at The Abbey in Downtown Orlando on July 17, called “After DOMA: Now What,” which was made up of a panel of attorneys, certified public accountants and activists, discussed the challenges same-sex marriage faces in Florida. The experts attempted to answer a variety of questions about gay marriage and the legality of marriage licenses from other states as well as immigration visas, taxes, veteran benefits and estate planning.

Three positive changes came out of the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling, Meeks said: immigration rights, same-sex partner benefits for civilian and military employees of the Department of Defense, and same-sex partner benefits for federal employees. But while marriage provides couples with more than 1,000 legal federal benefits, Meeks says it is going to be awhile before federal agencies look over and fully apply the DOMA ruling in Florida. 

While Florida officials figure out how to apply these benefits towards same-sex couples, out political strategist Vanessa Brito of Miami will continue to fight for equal rights and started a petition to put same-sex marriage on the 2014 Florida ballot. Some activists, however, want a statewide referendum to change Florida’s marriage laws.

“It’s unlikely that Florida’s 2008 Amendment 2, which defined marriage as between a man and woman, could be overturned at this time in the state,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, in the Miami Herald.

via Marriage Equality Faces Challenges in Florida :: EDGE on the Net.

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Joint Statement on Florida’s Path to Marriage Equality | Equality Florida

The historic Supreme Court rulings that struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and restored marriage equality to California have heightened the sense of inevitable victory nationwide and energized a community impatient to take action toward full marriage equality in every state as quickly as possible. National and state legal and political experts have worked together to create this analysis to help guide our shared enthusiasm and impatience for equality toward the best course to secure the freedom to marry.

The organizations that have participated in the drafting of this document are each pursuing coordinated programs and strategies to bring full marriage equality to Florida.

Growing Disparity

While we all celebrate the quantum leap forward the Supreme Court rulings represent, the disparity between the 30% of the population who live in states that afford same-sex couples full marriage protections and those who do not has become even more stark.

The urgency to take action is heightened for those who live in the 37 states that currently do not allow marriage for same-sex couples. Couples in those states will continue to be denied the respect and protections that come with marriage – including the full set of federal protections – even if they marry in another state.

Coordinated Strategy

Legal experts and community activists at the national and state level are exploring all the options for challenging those bans – legislative action, ballot referendums, and legal challenges.  There is no single approach, as each state faces a different political and legal environment.  It is also important for advocates to work with their counterparts from other states so that there is a coordinated national strategy that best serves the interests of the entire community.

Florida’s Path Forward

Florida has changed dramatically since 2008, when just over 60 percent of voters embedded marriage discrimination into the constitution. Florida is a leader in the south, with 54% of voters in support of marriage for same-sex couples, according to a Public Religion Research poll.  Another recent poll by Public Policy Polling showed 75% of Floridians now support providing all the benefits of marriage to gay couples either via marriage (37%) or civil unions (38%) while only 23% oppose same-sex couples having any legal protections at all.

Below is a summary of the potential paths to marriage equality in Florida and an assessment of the opportunities and challenges each presents.

Legislative Track

There is a general consensus that the Florida legislature, as it is currently comprised, is highly unlikely to take any action in support of marriage equality. However, we are seeing movement on other important protections for the LGBT community, including growing bipartisan support for a statewide non-discrimination bill and some form of relationship recognition. A younger group of legislators from both parties is pushing their leaders to take strong stands in support of LGBT rights, and the election of Florida’s first two out, gay legislators is also improving the climate in Tallahassee. We will continue to work in the capitol to build on that support and gain ground on both sides of the aisle.

Ballot Measure

Fundamental rights by their very nature should not be subject to a public vote. But in a state with a hostile legislature and a challenging legal path we must consider the possibility of returning to the ballot box to undo the harm.

Florida has particularly burdensome requirements to get a public referendum on a statewide ballot. Furthermore, while public opinion has shifted dramatically since the ban was added to the constitution in 2008, it has not moved sufficiently to clear the 60% favorable vote required in Florida for passage of a ballot measure.  Even in 2012’s historic ballot victories in Maryland, Maine, and Washington, the side of marriage equality obtained nowhere near 60% of the vote. Statistical wizard Nate Silver predicts that support among Florida voters will only be at 52.9% in 2016 and will be just shy of 60% by 2020. But those numbers are based on no acceleration in the shift of public opinion. Rather than a rush to the ballot in 2014 with time, resources, turnout, and polling stacked against us, it is better to invest in the tried and proven public education campaign that has helped to accelerate the shift in public opinion in states where victories have been achieved. We can reassess how significantly those numbers have shifted after a solid year, leaving ourselves ample time to prepare for 2016 or 2018 as a more favorable time for taking the issue back to the ballot.

Legal Challenge

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s marriage ban may be the most viable immediate option in Florida but must be pursued with care. The wrong case poorly timed could do more harm than good. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit – the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia, and Alabama – is one of the most conservative appellate courts in the federal court system.  That court has previously issued decisions that created very unfavorable precedent on the issue of LGBT discrimination.  However, the Supreme Court’s recent decision in U.S. v. Windsor may provide a path to overcoming the unfavorable rulings in the Eleventh Circuit.

The question is not if a lawsuit should be filed to overturn Florida’s discriminatory constitutional amendment – it’s when.  To maximize the chance of winning and to avoid jeopardizing lawsuits already pending in other states, a legal challenge needs to be thoughtfully timed.  The few successful lawsuits that have won marriage equality, for example in Massachusetts, Iowa and California (and a look at those that have lost), have shown that it takes more than a strong argument and justice to win.  It also takes the right legal building blocks; constitutional litigation expertise; extensive background in LGBT legal issues; and millions of dollars in attorney time, expert witness fees, and costs.

There are at least 8 such lawsuits currently pending, with more expected to be filed closer to home very soon.  Most of these cases were strategically filed in federal courts where the possibility of favorable rulings is far greater than in the Eleventh Circuit.  Because each win creates precedent that helps improve the chances of a successful case in Florida, the best strategy is to file a case that builds on good precedent (instead of filing one prematurely and creating bad precedent for other circuits to grapple with).  Wins in other jurisdictions increase the chances of a win in Florida, and, of course, the ultimate goal is for one of these winning cases to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court, where the Court will be forced to squarely answer the question of whether or not the U.S. Constitution tolerates blatant discrimination against same-sex couples and their families.  That decision will affect every state, including Florida.  A lower court ruling in our favor has a much greater chance of being accepted for review by the Supreme Court than an unfavorable one, and as the recent DOMA and Prop 8 decisions show, it’s much better to be on the winning side of a case going up to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal than on the losing side.

We are building a team of top national and state attorneys who are monitoring the progress of these lawsuits and will be prepared to initiate a Florida lawsuit once favorable precedent has been established or changes in the legal landscape otherwise improve our prospects in the Eleventh Circuit.

Potential Plaintiffs

Equality Florida has begun soliciting stories from Florida couples who have indicated a willingness to be potential plaintiffs in the legal challenge. Stories can be shared via www.GetEngaged.org, the website for Equality Florida’s campaign in partnership with Freedom to Marry to increase public support for marriage equality.

It is important to the legal case that the representative plaintiffs are willing to be public about their lives, have compelling stories that reflect their long-term commitment, and can provide examples of current, specific injuries or harm in areas most likely to bring the court to a positive decision, as a result of being denied the right to marry or being denied recognition of their marriage.  In addition, it is helpful that plaintiff couples reflect the full diversity of LGBT Floridians.


With all of this in mind, we are asking the community work with us in implementing the best strategy and laying the necessary foundation for a successful legal challenge to Florida’s marriage ban.

Premature lawsuits filed by individuals without considering all of thesefactors could be very harmful to this effort. A federal appeals court is unlikely to revisit its own recent rulings, and an adverse decision could set the goal back for years or even decades.

Joint Statement on Florida’s Path to Marriage Equality | Equality Florida.

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Gay marriage couple wins green-card petition – POLITICO.com

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Bulgarian graduate student and his American husband are the first gay couple in the nation to have their green card petition approved after the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages, their lawyer says.

But Traian Popov, here on a student visa, won’t be able to work or visit his family back home for at least another six months while his green card can be processed. And his marriage to Julian Marsh, performed in New York, still won’t be recognized in Florida where they live.

“It’s unbelievable how that impacts you,” Marsh told The Associated Press on Sunday. “They make you feel more and more like a second-class citizen and they don’t want you. And that’s how I feel about Florida.”

Two days after the Supreme Court struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples, Marsh and Popov were notified Friday afternoon that their green card petition was approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/07/gay-couple-green-card-petition-93614.html#ixzz2Xr0WajLC

via Gay marriage couple wins green-card petition – POLITICO.com.

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Celebrate LGBT History at Key West Pride 2013

Travelers should not overlook Key West Pride, which takes place from June 5 to June 9 —particularly since the city of Key West has made its own contributions to LGBT history.

In New York, it was the 1969 Stonewall Riots that eventually initiated the tradition of gay marches in the U.S; and San Francisco is known for The Castro and Harvey Milk’s political work.

But travelers should not overlook Key West Pride, which takes place from June 5 to June 9 —particularly since the city of Key West has made its own contributions to LGBT history.

Key West has been home to lesbian and gay writers such as the Pulitzer Prize winning poet Elizabeth Bishop and playwright Tennessee Williams.  It was the first U.S. city to have an openly gay mayor.  It was even the first travel locale to reach out to the gay community. The Key West Business Guild (KWBG) organizes Key West Pride, and was started as a non-profit in 1978 to encourage LGBT travelers to visit the island.

“Key West has always been an accepting island,” said Pete Arnow, Community Liaison of KWBG.  Arnow also noted that same-sex couples have “always been able to hold hands here.”  Furthermore, he spoke about how the LGBT community and straight community have created a sense of togetherness:  “The motto [of Key West] is One Human Family.  And it truly is.”

This year, Key West Pride 2013 stays true to the motto, and celebrates another moment in LGBT history: The 10th Anniversary of the “Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag.”  In 2003, Gilbert Baker, the designer of the Rainbow Flag, created the “World’s Longest Gay Pride Flag” for Key West Pride.  When it was finally displayed, the flag covered the distance of Duval Street, which is located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

Baker has been named the Parade Grand Marshall for Key West Pride 2013.  Other featured events for the 10th Anniversary of the “Sea to Sea Rainbow Flag” include a meet and greet with Baker at La Te Da Hotel, and a documentary film screening about the flag, “Key West, City of Colors.” Although there is a cash bar at La Te Da, both events are free.

In fact, Key West Pride has a number of free events.  The 6th Annual Key West Pride Film Fest presents two free films: I Am Divine, a documentary about the star of John Waters’ Pink Flamingoes and Hairspray; and deepsouth, a documentary on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Southern United States.

The Barefoot Wine Pride Beach Clean-Up is a free event that helps the environment.  Volunteers who are of drinking age will be provided with wine and appetizers afterwards.

Several venues offer events without a cover charge.  Whether it’s a women’s pool party at Lighthouse Court, 70s/80s dance music at Pearl’s and 801 Bourbon Bar, or happy hour at Alexander’s Traffic Light Party — all have no cover.

Families with children can enjoy the Conch Cruisers “Show Your Pride” Bike Ride, the Street Fair, and the Parade.

Other events vary in price from $10 to $50.  Arnow recommends that visitors “get out on our waters.”  Sailing, snorkeling and other water escapades can be found with Venus Charters, Fury’s Key West Pride Ultimate Adventure, as well as other companies on the Key West Pride website.

In the evenings, there are cabaret shows, or comedy and music like The Kinsey Sicks, known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet.”

Key West is “only the size of Central Park in New York,” said Arnow.  “But a lot can happen here…we invite everyone to come to Key West Pride.”

via Celebrate LGBT History at Key West Pride 2013.

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Key West Pride to Mark Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag’s 10th ‘Birthday’ June 5-9

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Visitors can celebrate equality, meet the creator of the rainbow flag that symbolizes LGBT pride and mark the 10th “birthday” of a 1.25-mile sea-to-sea flag at Key West Pride 2013. Set for Wednesday through Sunday, June 5-9, the festival salutes diversity on the subtropical island internationally known as a top gay and lesbian vacation spot.
Activities include daytime pool parties and late-night dance parties, on-the-water adventures ranging from snorkeling to kayaking, a film festival, three pageants and an exuberant community parade.
The festival’s special guest and parade grand marshal is to be Gilbert Baker, who in 1978 created the original rainbow flag that became the international symbol of the LGBT community.
In 2003, to commemorate the original flag’s 25th anniversary, Baker and a volunteer team constructed a 1.25-mile rainbow flag in Key West that is believed to be the world’s longest. During Pride 2003, approximately 2,000 volunteers unfurled it along the entire length of the island’s Duval Street from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in a sea-to-sea showing of openness and pride.
Since then, 100-foot sections of the sea-to-sea flag have been displayed at events and festivals around the United States and Europe. Several sections are being returned to Key West for the 10th anniversary.
Plans call for them to “star” alongside Baker in the 2013 Pride Parade on Duval Street, beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 9. Spectators can view the all-welcome procession, also to feature walking groups and lavishly decorated floats, at parade-watching parties at leading clubs on Duval.
Other Pride 2013 events include a keynote presentation by Equality Florida’s Executive Director Nadine Smith, an acclaimed trolley tour showcasing the island’s LGBT heritage and hotspots, drag shows and themed late-night soirees at clubs and bars, a street fair followed by a block party and dancing on Duval, and pageants to select Mr., Ms. and Miss Key West Pride.
Event information: www.keywestpride.orgwww.gaykeywestfl.com or 800-535-7797
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or www.gaykeywestfl.com

Social: facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest • twitter.com/thefloridakeys •YouTube.com/FloridaKeysTV Florida Keys Newsroom | Key West Pride to Mark Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag’s 10th ‘Birthday’ June 5-9.

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60 Florida Counties That Don’t Recognize Domestic Partnerships

In 2007, Janice Langbehn, her wife Lisa, and their four kids traveled from Washington state to Miami to take a cruise to escape the winter. But before they even boarded the ship, Lisa collapsed, suffering a brain aneurysm.

She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center where a social worker told Janice that she was in “an anti-gay city and state” and would not be able to see Lisa or learn about her condition without a healthcare proxy.

That’s because at the time, Miami-Dade County and Florida did not formally recognize domestic partnerships.

As Lisa’s conditioned worsened over the day and night and she was moved to Neuro ICU, Janice says she was kept in the dark although she and Lisa had a living will and power of attorney for health care decisions.

Janice and her kids were finally able to see Lisa for ten minutes before she died. Read more of her story here.

In 2008, Miami-Dade created a domestic partnership registry, granting hospital and jail visitation rights to couples like Janice and Lisa.

60 Florida Counties That Don’t Recognize Domestic Partnerships.

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