August 22, 2014

Open to public: 2014 Reading Queer Festival begins 6:30 p.m. Friday at The Betsy hotel on Ocean Drive

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From 6:30 to 8:30 Friday (tonight) at The Betsy South Beach hotel, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach: the 2014 Reading Queer Festival.

Here are the details, via Facebook:

Queer literature is often exclusively defined along the lines of identity and desire. Queer writer = queer work is but the most common version of a formula, pervasive in today’s queer literary cultures, whereby the queerness of a text is reduced to the sexuality of its author and/or its characters.

But what if queer literature could be more broadly, more radically, defined?

For this inaugural reading of the 2014 Reading Queer Festival, we invite you to join us as we begin to answer this question in the company of Julie Marie Wade, Sandra Simonds and Jan Becker—three Florida-based writers whose work speaks to the succulent complexity of Reading, Writing, Being and Becoming Queer.

*This event is sponsored by The Betsy Hotel & Friends Fun Wine.

Cost: Free & open to the public with a suggested donation of $20. Donate here.

Christian Family Coalition: 'Outlaw judge overthrows Florida's constitutional respect for marriage!'

Email from the Christian Family Coalition:

Outlaw judge overthrows Florida's constitutional respect for marriage!

NO homosexual "marriage" licenses issued, ruling on hold pending appeal.

Racist ruling will not stand!

MIAMI-Today, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle, became the first federal judge in the Sunshine State to overthrow Florida's voter-approved constitutional respect for marriage as the union of one man, one woman.

Judge Hinkle's corrupt and racist decision is a judicial lynching of 8 million voters who cast their ballots in 2008 and fully expected to have their votes respected, among them, 64% of Hispanic voters and 71% of African-American voters.

He also violated the constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of ALL voters as well as offended "basic human decency" in "finding" a "constitutional right to homosexual so-called 'marriage', which does not even exist!".

Hinkle's corrupt decision to overthrow Florida's voter-approved Constitutional respect for marriage as the union of one man, one woman, is in open contempt to legally binding precedent established by the U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. vs. Windsor. It denies the voter rights of nearly 8 million Florida voters and violates his Oath of Office. Hinkle has forfeited his legacy and his right to remain on the bench.

August 21, 2014

Federal judge rules Florida gay-marriage ban unconstitutional; stays decision until appeal

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

In the first decision on same-sex marriage with statewide impact, a federal judge ruled Thursday that Florida's gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, ordering the state to allow the marriage of same-sex couples and to recognize legal marriages performed elsewhere.

“When observers look back 50 years from now, the arguments supporting Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, though just as sincerely held, will again seem an obvious pretext for discrimination,” wrote U.S District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee. “Observers who are not now of age will wonder just how those views could have been held.”

Hinkle, who stayed most of the effects of his ruling pending appeal, added: “The institution of marriage survived when bans on interracial marriage were struck down, and the institution will survive when bans on same-sex marriage are struck down. Liberty, tolerance, and respect are not zero-sum concepts. 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. Tolerating views with which one disagrees is a hallmark of civilized society.”

The judge’s ruling comes after 22 individuals, including nine married couples, sued Florida to recognize their marriages or grant them marriage licenses. Plaintiffs in the case include eight same-sex couples from throughout Florida and the LGBT-rights group SAVE, represented by the ACLU of Florida.

“We are overjoyed that the judge ruled on the side of fairness by ordering the state of Florida recognize the legal marriages of the plaintiffs,” SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima said in a statement.

Defendants in the case include Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Scott “respects the many views Floridians have on this issue,” said Greg Blair, spokesman for the governor’s reelection campaign. “He believes in traditional marriage, consistent with the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008. There are several cases going through the court system and the governor respects that process.”

Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray declined to say whether the attorney general’s office will take the case to the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. “We’re reviewing the ruling,” he said.

Hinkle wrote that the state presented no good argument for defending the law: “The undeniable truth is that the Florida ban on same-sex marriage stems entirely, or almost entirely, from moral disapproval of the practice.”

The judge also wrote he didn’t buy Bondi’s defense that a “critical feature of marriage is the capacity to procreate.”

“Same-sex couples, like opposite-sex couples and single individuals, can adopt, but same-sex couples cannot procreate,” Hinkle wrote. “Neither can many opposite-sex couples. And many opposite-sex couples do not wish to procreate.”

Said attorney Stephen Rosenthal of Podhurst Orseck in Miami, who represents the eight couples in the ACLU case: “What that means, if you read what he’s saying is that, ‘This is a bogus defense.’”

Bondi’s defense motions in this case led to scrutiny of her own marital history. She has been divorced twice and has no children.

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday supported Bondi’s procreation defense: “Only the union of a man and a woman in and of itself can bring forth children and thus is the very origin of society. With its unique beauty and goodness revealed, the public has a worthy interest in protecting this institution in law as a means to ensure humanity is both nurtured and strengthened.”

The conservative Family Research Council in Washington blasted Hinkle’s ruling. “A radical departure from natural law and human history, this Florida judge has further undermined the legitimacy of the courts in the eyes of the American people. These liberal activist judges may want to take America over the cultural cliff, but don't be surprised when more and more Americans refuse to follow,” FRC Senior Fellow Chris Gacek said in a statement.

In March, eight same-sex couples who married elsewhere in the United States sued Florida to recognize their unions: Sloan Grimsley and Joyce Albu of Palm Beach Gardens; Lindsay Myers and Sarah Humlie of Pensacola; Chuck Hunziger and Bob Collier of Broward; Juan Del Hierro and Thomas Gantt Jr. of Miami; Christian Ulvert and Carlos Andrade of Miami; Richard Milstein and Eric Hankin of Miami; Robert Loupo and John Fitzgerald of Miami, and Denise Hueso and Sandra Jean Newson of Miami.

Del Hierro said he and Gantt met in 2008 as volunteers fighting the effort to ban gay marriage in Florida’s Constitution. Now, they have a son together, Lucas, age 21 months.

“It was volunteering for Amendment 2 that really solidified our relationship,” Del Hierro said. “I remember saying it might take us 20 years to undo the damage it did. To be here six years later, with our family, with our son Lucas, is surreal. Not only to do this for our son, but for our community.”

On April 10, the ACLU amended its complaint by adding another plaintiff: Arlene Goldberg of Fort Myers, whose wife, Carol Goldwasser, died March 13. Goldberg and Goldwasser had been partners for 47 years. They moved from the Bronx to Florida in 1989 and married in New York in October 2011.

The ACLU suit eventually was consolidated with a similar federal case involving two couples in North Florida, one already married in Canada and the other wanting to wed.

“It’s the first federal decision in Florida. When the stay is lifted, it will have statewide impact,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “What it will mean, when the stay is ultimately lifted, is that there families will be protected and strengthened. They'll start getting health insurance, pension benefits. They could protect their families with survivors benefits. These are the dramatic, practical ways that this victory will ultimately help families in Florida.”

The gay-marriage battle is being waged across the nation. According to the national group Freedom to Marry, LGBT advocates have won more than 30 times in federal, state and appellate courts since June 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Edith Windsor, a lesbian widow, and threw out a key portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Since mid-July there have been five rulings in Florida declaring the state’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. The previous four rulings were in circuit courts throughout South Florida.

On July 17, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled that Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones of Key West could marry. Eight days later, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ruled six same-sex couples in South Florida also had the right to marry. Those decisions are valid only in the judges’ respective counties, and both rulings have been put on hold pending appeals by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

On Aug. 4, Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen ruled Florida must recognize and then dissolve the Vermont civil union of Heather Brassner, a lesbian whose partner left her four years ago. The following day, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Diana Lewis ordered W. Jason Simpson should be personal representative in the estate of his husband, Frank Bangor, who died March 14. The two men, together 37 years, were married Oct. 23, 2013, in Delaware.

Hinkle’s stay covered all aspects of the federal case except one: The judge ordered Goldwasser’s death certificate be amended to show she was a married woman, not single at the time she died.

“The defendant Florida Surgeon General must issue a corrected death certificate for Carol Goldwasser showing that at the time of her death she was married to Arlene Goldberg,” Hinkle wrote.

“Isn’t that fabulous? I’m so excited,” Goldberg said Thursday. “It confirms that they actually believe we were a couple. Married. We were together for 47 years and married for three in New York.”

Goldberg is caring for her late wife’s elderly parents. Because Florida hasn’t recognized her marriage to Goldwasser, Goldberg is unable to collect her late wife’s Social Security.

Bondi has until about Sept. 22 to appeal the case or the ruling takes effect, allowing Goldberg to become eligible to collect Goldwasser’s Social Security.

“Pam Bondi would have to go the 11th Circuit to deny survivor benefits to a woman who has been [with] her spouse for 47 years, who recently died, and would be less able to take care of her spouse’s parents,” Simon said. “That would be heartless.”

Kathleen McGrory of the Herald/Times Tallahassee bureau contributed to this report.

Video | Broadway, TV star Kristin Chenoweth joins HRC’s Americans for Marriage Equality campaign

From HRC:

Kristin Chenoweth Joins HRC’s Americans for Marriage Equality Campaign

Emmy and Tony Award winner cites her Christian faith in video supporting marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples

WASHINGTON – Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released a video ad featuring Emmy and Tony Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth for the group’s Americans for Marriage Equality campaign. In the video, Chenoweth states, “The bottom line is that regardless of how you were made or who you love, you should be able to get married if you want to get married.  I truly believe it’s that simple.” The video can be viewed online at hrc.org/marriageequality.

“We are incredibly grateful to Kristin Chenoweth for lending her legendary voice to the fight for marriage equality nationwide,” said Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charles Joughin.  “Like Kristin, a majority of Americans already support marriage for gay and lesbian couples.  And thanks to her and countless others across the country, it’s only a matter of time before a state border no longer dictates your ability to marry the person you love.”

Emmy and Tony Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth effortlessly transitions between stage, screen and an accomplished singing career. Many remember her show-stealing, Tony-winning performance in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and her triumphant star turn when she originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked, which earned her a Tony Award nomination.  Chenoweth has explored numerous and diverse roles for film and television, including “Pushing Daisies,” for which she received an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, “The West Wing,” and “Glee,” which earned her Emmy and People’s Choice Award nominations.

Chenoweth has completed production on the Universal film “The Boy Next Door,” alongside Jennifer Lopez, “Opposite Sex,” an indie teen drama entitled “Hard Sell” and the Disney Channel’s live-action original movie “Descendents,” in which she will play the classic Sleeping Beauty villain Maleficent.  This fall, Chenoweth will host the PBS Arts Fall Festival, featuring classic Broadway hits, music from around the country and theatre performances. The festival will include her own concert performance, “Kristin Chenoweth: Coming Home,” where she will perform a career-spanning concert in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.  The concert will be released as a live CD and DVD in November. And in early 2015, she will return to Broadway, playing the glamorous film star, Lily Garland, in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 20-week limited engagement of “On the Twentieth Century.”

This is the sixth video released for the re-launch of HRC’s Americans for Marriage Equality Video campaign. Previous releases include videos from Anthony Bourdain, Colbie Caillat, Tony Hawk, Susan Sarandon and Demi Lovato.

Same-sex couples can legally marry in nineteen states and the District of Columbia, while 31 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman.  However, polling continues to show Americans moving inexorably in the direction of supporting equality for same-sex couples, and there are over 70 court cases across the country challenging bans on marriage equality.

Nationally, Gallup puts support for marriage equality at 55 percent – an astonishing 15 points increase from just 5 years ago – with other polls showing support at even higher margins.  And support for same-sex marriage rights continues to grow in virtually every demographic group.  According to ABC News / Washington Post, 77 percent of adults under age 30 favor marriage equality.  40 percent of Republicans – an all-time high and jump of 16 points in under two years – now support marriage for gay and lesbian couples, while the number of Catholics supporting marriage has grown to 62 percent, according to the New York Times.  These numbers continue to grow, with no indication that support will slow down. 

HRC’s Americans for Marriage Equality campaign seeks to advance marriage equality nationwide and provide up-to-the-minute information for lawmakers, legal experts, media, and grassroots supporters. Following the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 last year, new marriage equality battles are underway in the courts, at the ballot and in public education campaigns.  The campaign’s video series will draw from a cadre of supportive professional athletes, film and music celebrities, and political and civic leaders speaking out in favor of marriage rights for same-sex couples nationwide.  For more information on the campaign or to see the videos, visit http://americansformarriageequality.org.

Las Vegas offering all but marriage to LGBT tourists

BY MICHELLE RINDELS
ASSOCIATED PRESS

LAS VEGAS -- While gay couples still can't get married in the marriage capital of the world, Las Vegas wants to let them know they — and their money — are more than welcome to the buffet of other activities Sin City has to offer.

The city's tourism authority recently launched its first mainstream TV campaign aimed at the LGBT community: a commercial featuring a hunk and a heavy dose of innuendo. The first gay nightclub inside a Las Vegas Strip casino opened up this summer.

And casino pools that struggled to distinguish themselves in the high-flying world of day-clubs have found a niche in gay pool parties.

The efforts have landed the city among the top destinations for gay travelers, who LGBT tourism experts say are more likely to be childless, take more trips and tend to have more disposable income than the average visitor.

But some business leaders fear that Nevada's same-sex marriage ban is preventing Las Vegas from reaching its true potential among the demographic.

Click here to read more.

August 20, 2014

Supreme Court delays same-sex unions in Virginia

BY MICHAEL FELBERBAUM
ASSOCIATED PRESS

supreme courtRICHMOND, Va. -- Same-sex couples will have to wait longer to begin marrying in Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to delay an appeals court ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban.

The nation's highest court granted a request from a county clerk in northern Virginia to delay a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond that would have allowed for same-sex couples to marry beginning Thursday morning. The state would have also had to start recognizing gay marriages from out of state if the Supreme Court had denied the request. The court provided no explanation for its order.

The federal appeals court last week refused to delay its decision striking down the ban, issued in late July, while it is appealed to the high court. The appeals court's order did not explain why it denied that request.

The Supreme Court's decision was not unexpected, as it previously issued an order in January putting same-sex unions on hold in Utah while the federal appeals court in Denver was hearing the case. That court upheld the decision striking down Utah's gay marriage ban, but delayed its decision from taking effect pending appeal to the Supreme Court. Most other federal court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage also have been put on hold.

Click here to read more.

Aqua Foundation Executive Director Robin Schwartz to step down after four years running organization

Robin Schwartz, executive director of Aqua Foundation for Women since 2010, has announced she is stepping down this fall.

Here's the official news release:

As Aqua Foundation for Women announces the resignation of its Executive Director, Robin Schwartz, they offer immense thanks for her dedication and leadership. Schwartz’s history with the organization dates back to its founding days when she was among the small group of women who formed the first foundation focused on the needs of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in South Florida. This group went on to become Aqua Foundation for Women. Schwartz served on the Board of Directors for over seven years before being appointed as Executive Director in 2010.

"My goals when becoming Executive Director four years ago were to diversify and grow Aqua's income, increase awareness of its programming, develop internal processes , improve external communications, but more importantly, assure Aqua's work addresses the needs of LBT women in South Florida", says Robin Schwartz.

Aqua Foundation has achieved much under Robin’s leadership:

  • High impact initiatives such as the LBT Health Directory and the LGBTQ Youth Homelessness Initiative

  • Increased annual scholarship giving from $28,000 to $60,000

  • More balanced fundraising. In 2009: 16% of a $285,000 budget was raised outside of Aqua Girl, AFW's largest fundraiser. In 2013: 55% of a $485,000 budget was raised outside of Aqua Girl

  • Created an Aqua Men group to welcome and encourage male involvement and support

  • Improved structure in administration, programming and event management

  • Higher visibility of the foundation's work

  • Stronger relationships with other LGBTQ and ally organizations leading to valuable collaborations

  • Created new community events and programs such as the annual LGBTQ Family BBQ, Aqua Ally Awards and the LBT Emerging Leadership Conference

“Robin’s dedication, passion, and hard work to maintain the purpose of AFW in the LBT community has elevated the Foundation and positioned us for continued growth and positive impact for those who need it most for years to come.  We wish her all the best and remain forever grateful for her work”​, states Nicole Waters, AFW Chair.​

“We are extremely proud of where Aqua is today and know the foundation is poised to continue to flourish, grow and have a positive impact on the LGBTQ community. AFW's board is actively searching for a new Executive Director.  We look forward to this next step in AFW's amazing journey and know that Robin will always be a part of our Aqua family,” says Waters.

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Aqua Foundation's 10-year anniversary celebration will be 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 20 at Gale South Beach. Click here for $75 general admission tickets.

August 19, 2014

Video | 'I am Gustavo ... and I am Impulse'; South Florida safe-sex group to host reception Sept. 13

The latest Impulse Group South Florida  "I am" video:

I am Gustavo and I am Impulse

I am… Unstoppable

Gustavo is a board member of the Impulse Group South Florida Chapter - As the Director of Advocacy, Gus works closely with the Advocacy team to craft and deliver the most effective messaging for the community and demographic. This results in a combination of impactful and memorable education and advocacy that bring all our marketing and events to life.

"i am" will be Impulse SoFl's most powerful event yet! Since its inception as Impulse South Florida, and through its rebranding and expansion as Impulse South Florida. We have strived to bring impactful education to the LGBT community through provocative, sexy, unique marketing. I am will be an experience like you've never seen. Audio and Visual presentations will delve you into 6 stories that are all intimate, compelling, and personal testimonies.

Stay tuned as each Tuesday leading up to the event, we unveil more about who we are, why we do what we do, and all about our next event in the I am Impulse interview series.

imageJoin us Saturday, September 13 at 6:00pm
at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts

Join us for complimentary cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, live music and an advocacy message presented like never before…… as we present to you.... i am

Tickets Available at: http://iam-impulsesofl.eventbrite.com/