September 18, 2014

We’ve moved! Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida is now a section on the new MiamiHerald.com

new GSF

Click here for all the latest LGBT stories, photos and videos at Steve Rothaus’ Gay South Florida.

Update your bookmarks. The quick link: www.miamiherald.com/gay

We’re now a full section at the new MiamiHerald.com, including local, national and foreign stories of interest to the LGBT community.

From now on, all Gay South Florida content will be fully visible on any device, including smartphones, tablets and desktops.

Also, you’ll be able to comment directly to Facebook from any story posted to Gay South Florida.

This blog will no longer be updated, but will remain available to quickly find earlier stories.

If you have any questions, contact me at srothaus@MiamiHerald.com.

Thanks for visiting!

September 17, 2014

‘I Love Lucy Live On Stage’ celebrates Miami run with free cocktail party at Arsht Center

BY ABRAHAM GALVAN
MIAMI HERALD WRITER

Calling all Vitameatavegamin girls. And boys.

I Love Lucy Live On Stage is soon coming to town and to celebrate the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts will host a free community cocktail party 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Featured events at the party: performances by Miami Gay Men’s Chorus (each member dressed as Desi Arnaz’s TV alter ego, Ricky Ricardo) and a Lucille Ball/Lucy Ricardo lookalike contest – open to all genders.

“I encourage men to enter the contest also,” said Morgan Stockmayer, promotions manager for the Arsht Center. “I am actually looking forward to seeing them.”

Male or female, the contest winner will receive a package including I Love Lucy Live tickets and a pin-up style photo shoot by Terribly Girly Photography’s Janette Valentine. Judges are local fashion experts Gino R. Campodonico of The MANnequin Party, Kalyn James from Fashion Style Miami, and Annie Vasquez of TheFashionPoet.com.

Miami Gay Men’s Chorus will perform two 20-minute sets of their own repertoire, along with musical numbers featured on I Love Lucy, which ran on CBS from 1951 to 1957.

The gay men’s chorus opens and closes the reception. “We do a set really early in the happy hour and then in about an hour or so come back and do another set,” artistic director Anthony Cabrera said.

For the past three months, the chorus has been preparing at its regular rehearsal location, All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Miami Beach.

“We try to perform to the highest caliber because when we go out to perform we give it our all,” chorus member Brandon Stephenson said.

The cocktail party, part of DWNTWN Art Days 2014, will be hosted by 101.5 Lite FM morning personality Julie Guy and showcase classic cars from Dezer Collection Auto Museum and Event Space. Photos and footage from the current HistoryMiami exhibit, American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, will also be featured.

The signature cocktail of the night will $5 Mojitos, along with other “Tropicana nightclub” drinks.

I Love Lucy Live On Stage runs Sept. 30-Oct. 5 at the Arsht Center, where Miami audience members can imagine themselves as a 1952 I Love Lucy studio audience watching Ball, Arnaz, William Frawley and Vivian Vance perform as Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel.

IF YOU GO

▪ What: ‘I Love Lucy Live On Stage’ Cocktail Hour

▪ When: Friday, Sept. 19

▪ Where: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts: 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132

▪ Cost: Free admission; $5 mojitos and other drinks.

▪ Details: https://www.facebook.com/events/1463657213892490

September 16, 2014

Facebook gallery | World Outgames Miami 2017 reception - Sept. 16, 2014

2014-09-16 World OutGames Miami 2017 reception 002

World Outgames Miami 2017 host committee members review the accomplishments of the past year and explain what lies ahead in the planning process for World OutGames Miami when the city expects to welcome more than 15,000 participants and spectators from around the world.

Click here to view and tag the photos. Steve Rothaus / Miami Herald Staff.

Aqua Foundation scholarships help young lesbian, bisexual, transgender women succeed

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Nursing student Kim Carias worked two jobs putting herself through school at Florida International University. Three scholarships from Aqua Foundation for Women have enabled her to continue college, quit one job and volunteer time mentoring LGBT youths.

“Aqua Foundation has empowered me to be the leader I was meant to be,” said Carias, 20, who was born and raised in Miami-Dade County. “By supporting leaders of a community, the Aqua Foundation empowers a generation of change. On a personal level, the Aqua Foundation has allowed me to step away from my personal struggles and empowered me to lead.”

Aqua Foundation on Saturday presents Aqua Affair, a fundraiser for the organization’s scholarship fund. Since its inception a decade ago, the foundation has granted about $400,000 in scholarships, according to marketing manager Tommy Gomez.

Since 2013, Aqua has led an effort to raise $100,000 for a community LGBTQ youth homelessness initiative. It also awarded two-dozen $5,000 scholarships.

“The scholarships are important for a variety of reasons,” said Robin Schwartz, Aqua Foundation’s executive director, who is stepping down this fall after four years running the organization.

“First, the financial support often makes a difference between a woman going to school or not,” Schwartz said. “More important are the leadership aspects. We identify women who’ve already shown the potential to be leaders in the community. We foster those skills through the relationship they have with their mentors and the volunteering they do at Aqua, which is a requirement. This year we had a leadership conference that they attended, where they gained valuable skills from current women leaders in our community.”

This year’s scholarship is Carias’ third from Aqua Foundation. So far, the group has given the FIU junior $12,500.

“Oh, wow,” she says, reflecting on the total. “I'm so fortunate to have received this scholarship. I really am. They've given me so much.”

Carias said she came out to her mother just before she graduated in 2012 from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in Northeast Miami-Dade.

“Right before prom, I wanted to tell her I was going to prom with my girlfriend,” Carias said. “She said she’d rather not live than have a daughter had that kind of lifestyle. When I came out to her, she didn’t speak to me for quite a while.”

Carias, who is Spanish-Honduran, said that growing up she knew nothing about her LGBT community.

“I did not know my cousin was gay. I was raised around him all my life and I had no idea. The word homosexuality was not mentioned at home,” she said. “When I had these feelings, being attracted to women, I didn’t even know what that meant.”

Even now, Carias’ mother does not want anyone else in the family to know she is a lesbian.

“But I know I’m strong enough to handle anything,” she said. “It’s who I am, and I’m proud of who I am.”

Carias, who transfers soon to Nova Southeastern University, spends much of her time volunteering for Safe Schools South Florida, an LGBT group of education professionals, youth service providers and gay-straight student alliances. She speaks on Safe Schools’ behalf in the mainstream community.

“A lot of my work with Safe Schools revolves around me telling my story,” Carias said. “You can tell them and give them all these facts, but it’s not until they hear the real story and see the pain in someone’s eyes that they’re able to change, change their hearts and change their minds and realize that whoever I love, it’s OK. They can embrace it and not condemn me for who I am.”

IF YOU GO

▪ What: Aqua Affair to benefit Aqua Foundation for Women

▪ When: 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20

▪ Where: Gale South Beach, 1690 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

▪ Cost: $55 Aqua Foundation members, $75 nonmembers, $95 at door.

For tickets or more information, www.aquafoundation.org

Miami-Dade County commission gives early OK to transgender-protections law

BY PATRICIA MAZZEI
PMAZZEI@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Gay-rights activists prepared for a political skirmish Tuesday at Miami-Dade County Hall. They wore matching T-shirts, arrived early and filled several rows of the commission chambers in support of legislation expanding protections to transgender people.

But no one — in the audience or on the dais — showed up in opposition.

Commissioners gave unanimous — though preliminary — approval to amending the Miami-Dade’s human-rights ordinance to ban discrimination on the base of “gender identity” and “gender expression.” The law applies to public places and government services, as well as to employment and housing in the county as a whole.

“This update that we’re working on would ensure very basic protections for a very vulnerable part of our community that many take for granted,” said Charo Valero, field organizer for SAVE, Miami-Dade’s leading gay-rights organization that has been pushing for the legislative change.

For an issue that has been contentious in the past — two commissioners tried to get it passed a year ago but had to back off — Tuesday’s vote was noteworthy for what it lacked. No one from the public said anything against it. Supporters didn’t even represent a majority of the speakers at the hearing; a larger crowd asked the county to press the state to reinstate a tax incentive for the film industry.

With a 10-0 vote, commissioners advanced the transgender-amendment proposal. Three board members — Lynda Bell, Xavier Suarez and Juan C. Zapata — were absent from the vote. Vice-Chairwoman Bell had cast the sole vote against the legislation when it first came up last year.

Bell lost reelection last month after being targeted by Miami-Dade and Florida Democrats in part because of that dissent. Her successor, Daniella Levine Cava, a proponent of the amendment, is scheduled to be sworn in Nov. 24.

Yet Bell was not the only one who stood in the way of the legislation in 2013. Sponsors Audrey Edmonson and Bruno Barreiro withdrew it after failing to garner enough behind-the-scenes support in the Health & Social Services Committee, whose members include Bell, Edmonson and Commissioners Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Jean Monestime and Javier Souto. The makeup of that committee hasn’t changed.

In an apparent strategic move, Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa on Tuesday assigned the proposal to a different committee this time around — one that will be much friendlier to expanding the human-rights ordinance.

Two of the four members of the Public Safety & Animal Services Committee are sponsors Barreiro and Edmonson. A third, Sally Heyman, has also signed her name to the legislation in support. The fourth member is Esteban “Steve” Bovo.

A committee hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12.

After the vote, activists filed out of the commission chambers and, minutes later, sent supporters an email titled, “A big win! BUT...” noting nothing has been finalized.

Among those in attendance was Tobias Packer, a local union executive and transgender man who said Miami-Dade’s lack of protections were on his mind when he was home-hunting.

“My landlord did a background check,” said Packer, 31. “Everything worked out. But I was really nervous. He was going to see I was transgender. He would have been within his right to deny me.”

Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of Equality Florida, said the push for a statewide transgender law raises the stakes for the Miami-Dade debate.

“We think it’s important that, as the state takes a look at it, for Miami-Dade to show some leadership,” he said.

Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.

September 15, 2014

Transgender protections come before Miami-Dade commission — again

BY PATRICIA MAZZEI
PMAZZEI@MIAMIHERALD.COM

A pair of Miami-Dade commissioners will attempt for the second time to add transgender protections Tuesday to a county law that bans discrimination in government employment and the delivery of public services.

“This country is evolving in a way where we’re more accepting, so I think this is a good time to bring it back,” Commissioner Audrey Edmonson said.

She and Bruno Barreiro withdrew the legislation last summer when it faced resistance in a key committee made up of five commissioners, some of whom indicated they would oppose expanding the county’s human-rights ordinance.

The difference now: One of those commissioners is on her way out the door.

Lynda Bell lost her reelection bid last month to Daniella Levine Cava, who was elected with the vocal support of SAVE, Miami-Dade’s leading gay-rights group that blamed Bell for the failure of last year’s trans-inclusive amendment. Bell, who received the backing of conservative activists, countered that hers was merely a single vote.

Levine Cava won’t be sworn in until Nov. 18. That means Bell will still be on the dais Tuesday, when Edmonson and Barreiro’s proposal is scheduled for a preliminary vote.

But Levine Cava would be on the board by the time the measure winds through the commission’s legislative process. A final vote would take place in December at the earliest.

That’s assuming the proposal advances Tuesday. It did so last year, with only one commissioner — Bell — voting against.

Edmonson, the chairwoman of the health committee, acknowledged the changing composition of the board in an interview Monday, but also noted a shift in society and popular culture as a reason for resuscitating the proposal now. After withdrawing it last year, she and Barreiro had to wait at least six months, under county rules, before bringing it back.

“It’s something that has to be dealt with,” Barreiro said.

As proposed, the amended law, which is also co-sponsored by Commissioner Sally Heyman, would extend the discrimination ban to “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

It’s already illegal in county government to discriminate against someone — in terms of their public employment, family leave, accommodations, credit and financing, or public housing — on the base of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, marital status, familial status or sexual orientation.

Adding “sexual orientation” to the law was a decades-long political fight recently examined in The Day It Snowed In Miami, a documentary co-produced by the Miami Herald.

But much has changed since voters approved the addition in 2002, passed by the commission in 1998. In 2003, Monroe County and Key West widened their human-rights ordinances to include transgender protections. Miami Beach did the same in 2004, Palm Beach County in 2007 and Broward County in 2008. Last year, Gainesville’s Alachua County passed a similar law.

In June, Miami Beach commissioners voted to provide city employees with transgender health insurance, which would cover treatments such as gender-reassignment surgery and hormone and psychological therapy but not cosmetic procedures.

Opponents organized by the conservative Christian Family Coalition last year claimed the county’s expanded definition would allow people who are not transgender to dress up as the other sex and walk into public restrooms to prey on victims. A flier produced by the group featured a man with beard stubble wearing a blonde wig and leering at a frightened little girl.

Anthony Verdugo, the organization’s executive director, said he doesn’t plan to attend Tuesday’s meeting because he’s out of town. But he continues to oppose the policy, calling it “a solution in search of a problem.”

“It legalizes discrimination, because it gives a reason for employers to fire employees,” Verdugo said. He cited the case of a Macy’s employee in Texas who lost her job in 2011 because the employee said she didn’t allow a transgender customer to use a women’s dressing room.

“There just simply is no evidence for the need for this,” Verdugo said.

Edmonson, however, dismissed that criticism — and the idea that expanding the county’s anti-discrimination law would somehow legalize preying on people in restrooms or other public places.

“That was just a smoke screen,” she said. “We’ve got at least 10 counties already in the state [with similar legislation], and no one’s having that problem.”

IF YOU GO

The Miami-Dade County Commission meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the 2nd floor chambers of the Stephen P. Clark Center, 111 NW 1st St., Miami.

‘Orange is the New Black’ writer Lauren Morelli leaves husband for actress who plays Poussey

BY LISA GUTIERREZ
THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Talk about a major plot twist.

Lauren Morelli, a writer for “Orange is the New Black,” is divorcing her husband to pursue a new relationship with Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington on the show.

Morelli revealed in May that she realized she was gay while working on the Netflix hit series. And fans shouldn’t be surprised that she’s found love with Wiley. The two appear in several photos on Morelli’s Instagram account, including pictures of the two going to the Emmys together last month.

Now, TMZ reports that Morelli and her husband, Steve Basilone, have filed for divorce and have split amicably.

Morelli wrote that she realized she was gay in the fall of 2012, “one of my first days on the set.”

“I went through it all on set: I fell in love with a woman, and I watched my life play out on screen,” she wrote. “And now, as we are gearing up for the release of Season 2, it feels liberating and appropriate to live my life in front of you.”