Equality Florida sets up GoFundMe Page for Orlando shooting victims

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Equality Florida, a statewide civil rights organization for Florida’s LGBT community, on Sunday, June 12, set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to support the victims of the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Florida.

There were 49 people murdered in the nightclub and another 53, at least, injured. The gunman was killed by police, bringing the death toll to 50.

The goal for the fundraising effort is $2.5 million. As of 2 p.m. Monday, June 13, the effort had already collected $2,094,435.

Equality Florida is working with the National Center for Victims of Crime, which deployed funds in both the Chattanooga and Aurora shootings, to distribute the contributions collected through the GoFundMe page. NCVC offers support to communities affected by mass casualty events in the form of the National Compassion Fund, and ensure that every penny donated will be correctly and quickly dispersed to the victims and families.

Victims of the Orlando shooting are asked to call VictimConnect Resource Center at 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846) to begin the process of receiving funds.

—  Tammye Nash

Putting a price on equality

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A new report released today (Wednesday, March 25) by Equality Means Business, a coalition of major employers in Florida, claims that anti-LGBT policies and laws costs employers in the state more than $362 million a year.

The report includes interviews with a number of top executives from national companies based in Florida and it links business leaders’ concerns over the state’s ability to compete with hard dollar losses in productivity and employee turnover, according to a statement from Equality Florida.

Other key findings include:

• Business executives cite Florida’s reputation as being hostile to diversity among their chief challenges in attracting and retaining talent.

• More than 60 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees and more than 80 percent of transgender employees in Florida report having experienced discrimination in the workplace.

• Top executives recognize that the top talent among the Millenials generation values diversity and inclusion, making nondiscrimination protections a must-have.

Many of the business executives intervewed said they believe their businesses actually suffered because of Florida’s reputation for being hostile to LGBTs and others. And most of those participating said they see non-discrimination protections as non-negotiable, common sense practices critical to attracting and attaining the best and the brightest employees.

Nadine Smith, co-founder and CEO of Equality Florida, which convened the Equality Means Business coalition, said the report shows that it is “clearly in the state’s interest to provide equal protection for all employees.”

There is a new, similar organization getting off the ground here in the Lone Star State, called Texas Competes, a “partnership of business leaders committed to a Texas that is economically vibrant and welcoming of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

The purpose of Texas Competes is to prove that “fair treatment for gay and transgender people isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for businesses, too.”

That’s a very important lesson that the Texas Legislature needs to learn, considering all the truly nasty anti-LGBT bills lawmakers are currently considering in Austin.

—  Tammye Nash

BREAKING: 11th Circuit refuses to extend stay on marriage equality in Florida

Screen shot 2014-12-03 at 3.02.46 PMEquality Florida has just announced that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the state of Florida’s request to extend the stay placed on a lower court’s ruling overturning the Sunshine State’s ban on marriage equality.

This clears the way for same-sex couples to begin applying for marriage licenses late on Jan. 5 when the current stay expires.

Nadine Smith, Equality Florida CEO, said, “We are thrilled … . Every day of delay is another day of harm experienced by thousands of loving and committed same-sex couples in Florida. Now it’s time to break out the wedding bells. Florida is ready for the freedom to marry.”

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle issued his ruling declaring Florida’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional on Aug. 21 in two federal marriage cases that had been consolidated — Brenner v. Scott  and Grimsley and Albu v. Scott. The state, represented by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, had asked the 11th Circuit Court to extend the stay until the appeals process is complete. Today, the 11th Circuit said no to that request.

—  Tammye Nash

Florida woman and her late wife are first same-sex couple to get legal recognition in Florida


Arlene Goldberg, left, and her late wife Carol Goldwasser

The good news on marriage equality just keeps on coming this week.

On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from five states, covering seven lawsuits which in circuit courts of appeal had ruled same-sex marriage bans to be unconstitutional. That cleared the way for weddings to start in five states for sure, plus six more states within those circuit courts’ jurisdictions.

Then the 9th Circuit Court upheld lower court rulings in two cases — from Nevada and Idaho — overturning bans there. Those rulings could affect three more states. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy granted a stay in that ruling insofar as Idaho is concerned, because state officials there asked for a stay. But Nevada officials have chosen not to appeal the ruling regarding their state — amid fears of a boycott by LGBT tourists and their allies in a state whose lifeblood is tourism — and AP was reporting Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 8, that Kennedy’s stay does not affect Nevada.

And now comes word from Equality Florida that the first same-sex marriage is being recognized there by state officials.

On Aug. 21, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, and even though his ruling was stayed, he ordered the state to issue a new death certificate for Carol Goldwasser that would name Arlene Goldberg, her partner of 47 years, as her legal wife.

Goldberg was added as a plaintiff in Grimsley and Alby v. Scott when the ACLU filed a motion of preliminary injunction in April asking the court to immediately stop enforcing the same-sex marriage ban there. Goldberg received the new death certificate on Wednesday, making her and Goldwasser the first same-sex couple to have their marriage legally recognized by the state.

Goldberg said it was difficult to express “how meaningful this is to me.”

She said, “For 47 years, Carol and I made our lives together, all the while being treated like strangers in the eyes of the law in Florida. It’s bittersweet that Carol isn’t here to share this joy with me, but for the first time in 47 years, our marriage was respected. Our relationship and commitment to each other is finally recognized.”

Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, said Wednesday that while she and her organization share Goldberg’s joy, “Couples shouldn’t have to wait until one spouse dies to receive the recognition and dignity that they deserve.” Smith added that Equality Florida is “more committed than ever to seeing the day when all Florida couples and families and treated equally and fairly.”

Smith also called on Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to “drop their appeals and let marriage for all couples move forward in the Sunshine State.”

—  Tammye Nash

Marriage equality updates: While we wait on Colorado …..

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore, who heard arguments yesterday in a suit seeking to overturn Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage, has indicated he is likely to rule in favor of the gay couples who say the ban is unconstitutional. The real question is whether Judge Moore will put his ruling on hold until the inevitable appeals are heard and decided, according to this report by The Washington Post.

Colorado Attorney General  John Suthers isn’t opposing the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction overturning the marriage ban, but he does want Judge Moore to stay his ruling. On the flip side, though, plaintiffs’ attorney Mari Newman argued against the stay, reminding the judge that “justice delayed is justice denied.”

Judge Moore is expected to announce his ruling and his decision on whether or not to issue the stay sometime today. But while we are waiting to hear from Colorado, here are a few more marriage-related tidbits to ponder. (And yes, David Taffet usually does the marriage news roundup here on Instant Tea, but he’s on vacation this week.)


Rubio still opposes marriage equality

Official Portrait

Sen. Marco Rubio

File this one under the “Color Us NOT Surprised” heading: Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, is expected to reiterate his opposition to marriage equality in a speech at a Catholic university later today. OK, so he’s not gonna actually say he opposes same-sex marriage. What he’s going to say is that he believes states’ should be allowed to define marriage as they see fit, whether he agrees with them or not, and without interference from the federal courts.

Rubio, a possible Republican presidential candidate, has also said he is not in favor of a federal constitutional ban. By saying that he personally opposes same-sex marriage but believes states should be able to define marriage as they see fit, Rubio is likely looking for a little bit of semi-neutral middle ground in preparation for that possible run for the White House.

This report in the Tampa Bay Times gives more detail on his words and his voting record.


Equality Florida to deliver petitions to Bondi

The four same-sex couples challenging Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage along with representatives of Equality Florida Institute are set to deliver 7.000 petitions signed by Floridians to Attorney General Pam Bondi, urging her to “stop wasting taxpayer resources” defending the ban.

Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia issued a ruling on July 17 declaring the ban unconstitutional, although on Monday, July 21, he issued a stay of the ruling as the case moves through the appeals process.

Equality Florida says that recent surveys show that at least 57 percent of Florida residents support marriage equality.

The petitions will be delivered Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, the Miami Herald’s Fred Grimm posted this column criticizing the twice-divorced Bondi for appealing Garcia’s ruling.

“With five divorces between the two of us, Pam Bondi and I aren’t exactly paragons of marriage stability,” Grimm writes. “Nothing in Florida law, however, would keep either one of us from denigrating that hallowed institution once again.”

—  Tammye Nash

Crist files brief in Florida lawsuit in support of marriage equality

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist, the once and possibly future governor of Florida filed an amicus brief today in support of the lawsuit seeking marriage equality in Florida, according to a statement released earlier today by Equality Florida. The lawsuit, Pareto v. Ruvin, is set for a hearing July 2 before Judge Sarah Zabel in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in Miami.

“In the last six years, our society has evolved and moved past the prejudices rooted in our past,” Crist said. “Further, science has uniformly reached the conclusion that heterosexual marriages are just as valued and revered as they have ever been; and children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare just as well as kids raised in straight families.”

Crist said that “with the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice,” marriage equality will not be an issue “for the children and grandchildren of this state.” But, he added, “it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love.”

In a statement regarding Crist’s brief, Equality Florida cited statistics indicating that 57 percent of Floridians support marriage equality. Crist filed the amicus brief in Pareto v. Ruvin, filed Jan. 21, challenging the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. The lawsuit argues that Florida’s laws barring same-sex couples from marriage violate the United States Constitution by denying them the legal protections and equal dignity that having the freedom to marry provides.

Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith said, “As a former governor and as someone who previously supported [the gay marriage ban], Charlie Crist’s words matter a great deal. He has taken the same journey the majority of Floridians have taken in realizing that this ban serves no purpose but to disparage and discriminate against gay couples and our children.”

Crist, then a Republican, was governor of Florida from 2007-2011, but instead of running for re-election in 2o1o, he chose to run for U.S. Senate, race he lost to Tea Party darling Marco Rubio. In 2012, Crist switched to the Democratic Party and endorsed President Obama for re-election.

Crist — who was briefly married to Amanda Morrow in 1979 and who married Carole Rome in July 2008 after nine months of dating — has long been plagued by rumors that he was gay. In fact, in 2012 during his failed bid for the U.S. Senate, charges surfaced that Crist had affairs with two men while he was governor and then paid them to leave Florida to avoid the possibility of being embarrassed. Damon Chase — the attorney for former Florida GOP Chair Jim Greer who was facing charges he used state funds to pay his personal expenses — claimed that Greer would testify to Crist having paid off his two male paramours, and that Crist had tried to kiss Greer, and that Crist had appointed Republican George LeMieux to a U.S. Senate seat to keep LeMieux from revealing secrets about Crist’s homosexuality.

Crist denied all the allegations, calling them “a bunch of delusional lies.” Also in 2012, the Tampa Bay Times reported on records indicating that Crist believed Greer was trying to extort him.


—  Tammye Nash

Dennis Coleman to be named ED of Equality Texas

Dennis Coleman

Dallas Voice has learned that Dennis Coleman will be named the new executive director of Equality Texas. Coleman has served as executive director of Lambda Legal’s South Central Region, based in Dallas, for more than six years.

This is the second consecutive time Equality Texas tapped the Dallas talent pool for its top position. Previous Executive Director Paul Scott, who stepped down earlier this year, came from Resource Center Dallas.

Coleman would become only the second African-American director of a statewide equality organization, after Nadine Smith of Equality Florida, according to Toni Broaddus, executive director of the Equality Federation.

In a letter to the Lambda Legal Leadership Committee dated Friday, July 2, Coleman wrote:

“I have had the privilege for the past six and half years to lead the South Central Region, building on the good work of those who championed the creation of a presence for Lambda Legal in the afterglow of Lawrence v. Texas. The staff here in Dallas, and New York alongside many dedicated volunteers have made Lambda Legal a known force in the struggle for equality. When I came to Lambda Legal,  I had a vision for the organization,  to tell the story of Lambda Legal, and how it along with the sometimes better know pantheon of GLBT organizations, was making a significant difference in the continued advancement of legal rights for all Americans, regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity. Happily we have achieved success in making Lambda Legal a vital part of the community here in Texas and around the South Central Region.

“So while the work will continue, it must, I have decided that the time is right for me to move on to the next chapter in my personal journey and professional pursuits as the Executive Director of Equality Texas. In consultation with the leadership in New York and to maintain a smooth transition, my last day will be Friday, July 16, 2010. In the coming days and weeks as I wind down my work here, there will be further communication on any pending projects and programs and how those will be managed moving forward.

“My continued wish for the organization is that it will continue to make a difference and look forward to celebrating future victories for equality.”

Equality Texas was expected to make a formal announcement on Tuesday or Wednesday. For a full story, see Friday’s Voice.

UPDATE: Read Equality Texas’ press release by going here.

—  David Taffet