August 20, 2014

Supreme Court delays same-sex unions in Virginia


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.


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:

Miami Herald readers respond to Archbishop Wenski letter that gay marriage 'opens up a Pandora’s box'

Last weekend, Miami Archbishop Rev. Thomas G. Wenski wrote a public letter to the Miami Herald criticizing the four pro-gay marriage rulings recently in South Florida as "exercises of raw judicial activism."

"To impose same-sex marriage would open up a Pandora's box of unintended consequences that bode ill for the advancement of the common good and human flourishing in all of society," Wenski wrote.

Here's Wenski's complete letter, followed by an opposing viewpoint from Maxine E. Schwartz of Hollywood. (Schwartz is mother of Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who is helping represent six same-sex couples who recently won the right to marry in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.)

From Wenski:

Judges in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and now Palm Beach counties have ruled that the Florida state amendment passed in 2008 defending traditional marriage is unconstitutional. These exercises of raw judicial activism have been stayed pending appeal.

Yet, in light of these rulings, self-appointed progressive elites — including the presumptive Democratic candidate for Florida governor — are telling the majority of Florida citizens, along with millions of Americans who still support marriage as it has been understood for millennia, as a union of one man and one woman, to get with the program.

Those who characterize themselves as proponents of tolerance will not tolerate their fellow citizens who oppose both the erosion of democratic self-government by aggressively activist judges legislating from the bench, and the further erosion of their freedoms of conscience and religion.

Those who promote same-sex marriage in effect wish to consolidate the hollow victories of the sexual revolution. To promote what they deem marriage equality, the understanding of marriage as a conjugal union of a male and a female, in a permanent and exclusive commitment, conducive to welcoming and raising the children born from such a union, must be deconstructed and redefined. In much the same way that abortion and safe sex are promoted to protect one from the inevitable consequences of sexual activity, seen now as merely a recreational activity without any moral significance, the advocacy of same sex marriage renders the idea of all marriages meaningless.

Indeed, the argument that allowing same sex partners to marry is about marriage equality is fallacious: Enacting same sex marriage does not expand the institution of marriage to a once excluded class, rather it reduces marriage to being just about the emotional gratification of two — and why just two? — persons. Such a redefinition defies the true nature of marriage as a comprehensive "two-in-one-flesh" union capable of uniting children with their mothers and fathers.

Common sense — increasingly uncommon today — understands traditional marriage between one man and one woman as a natural fact rooted in procreation and sexual difference.

Marriage equality today is the poster child of those who hold for a radical autonomy that believes that anyone can essentially create his or her reality by one's individual will without reference to the truth of things. An individual who would believe that he could, by the force of his will, defy gravity is setting himself up for a disastrous fall.

To impose same-sex marriage would open up a Pandora's box of unintended consequences that bode ill for the advancement of the common good and human flourishing in all of society.

Most Reverend Thomas G. Wenski, Archbishop of Miami

Maxine E. Schwartz's rebuttal:

Re Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s Aug. 17 letter, Same-sex marriages would open Pandora’s Box: I am a 76-year-old heterosexual woman, married to my husband for 45 years. No one forced me into this relationship, just as no one forced Wenski into the celibate life selected. How does my marital relationship hurt him or his lack of one hurt me? Similarly, if two women or two men choose each other as life partners, it has nothing to do with his choice or mine. It hurts neither of us. Certainly, no clergyman or woman should be forced to officiate at any marriage of which he or she does not approve, but I don’t think that should mean that there can be no marriage where they do not approve.

Many people who share Archbishop Wenski’s point of view refer to the Florida vote of 2008 rejecting marriage equality.

But as Judge Sara Zabel said in her verdict, we can vote anything we want into the state Constitution, but it still has to pass muster with the Constitution of the United States. Denying anybody the right to marriage is to deny them his or her fundamental right. One by one, each state has begun to recognize this basic constitutional premise. The rest, including Florida, will have to fall in line, sooner or later.

Archbishop Wenski rails against the “hollow victories of the sexual revolution,” abortion and safe sex, and seems to promote a return to the way things were 50 years ago. This train has already left the station. We must evolve into a more just society.

As Archbishop Wenski is a man of God. How can he think it is right to stigmatize and cast out so many of His — or Her — children?

Maxine E. Schwartz, Hollywood

Read more gay marriage letters here.

August 18, 2014

Ugandan gays who fled to Kenya still feel danger


NAIROBI, Kenya -- When a Ugandan court overturned the country's Anti-Homosexuality Act this month, rights activists worldwide claimed a victory. But not gay Ugandans who fled persecution to live in a refugee camp in neighboring Kenya.

"The reaction shocked me. I went there. I thought it would be a celebration, but ... nothing," said Brizan Ogollan, founder of an aid organization that works in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp. "They knew at an international level and at the diplomatic level, the decision is going to have impact, but at the local level, it won't really. You can overrule the law, but you can't overrule the mind."

Of the 155,000 refugees at Kakuma camp, 35 are registered with the U.N. refugee agency as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Ugandans who fled because of the country's Anti-Homosexuality Act, which became law in February.

The now-overturned law called for life jail sentences for those convicted of gay sex and criminalized vague offenses like "attempted homosexuality" and "promoting homosexuality" in a country where being gay has long been illegal.

Click here to read more.

Disney classics including 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks,' 'Ichabod and Mr. Toad' on Blu-ray


Disney Blu-ray has released several high-definition catalog titles ranging from 1940s animated classics like The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad narrated by Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone to 1971's Bedknobs and Broomsticks starring Angela Lansbury.

ichabodIchabod and Mr. Toad (made in 1949 and the inspiration for Disneyland's Mr. Toad's Wild Ride) runs 68 minutes and comes paired with Disney's Fun and Fancy Free, a 1947 collection of short subjects including Mickey and the Beanstalk, which marked the final time Walt Disney himself voiced the famous mouse. ($37)

Both films look and sound great. Hidden away on the Blu-ray as a bonus feature is the 1941 Disney feature The Reluctant Dragon, a black-and-white and color film that mixed live action and animation. The live action sequences star Robert Benchley, a popular New Yorker humorist at the time who later became known as grandfather of Jaws author Peter Benchley.

The Reluctant Dragon is set at Walt Disney Studios and offers a unique glimpse at how the company produced such films as Bambi and Dumbo.

bedknobsBy the late 1960s, Walt Disney was dead and several post-Mary Poppins films were already in preparation. Among the better known: Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which utilized many of the Mary Poppins creators, including songwriters Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman, screenwriters Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi and director Robert Stevenson. The Lansbury film even co-starred Poppins' David Tomlinson, who in the 1964 Julie Andrews classic played the children's father, Mr. Banks.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks isn't quite in Poppins' league, but actually is quite entertaining and a bit darker than the earlier movie. It is set in 1940's England during the London Blitz in World War II, and the villains are Nazis.

Bedknobs ran nearly 2 1/2 hours hours when it originally premiered in 1971, but Disney quickly shorted the film to 117 minutes for its general release. That's the version most people remember, but nearly 20 years ago the studio restored much of the edited footage for home video. The film's new Blu-ray contains the shorter general release version, along with the edited footage as bonus material.

Disney Blu-ray has also released Tarzan (1999), Hercules (1997) and Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers (2004). Each retails for $30 and all films (except the Ichabod and Mr. Toad/Fun and Fancy Free package) include digital copies.

August 17, 2014

Smithsonian museum acquires 86 images from LGBT photographer Silvia Ros of Miami Shores


Silvia Ros, a lesbian photographer from Miami Shores, has officially become part of American history: The Smithsonian in Washington has acquired 86 of her freelance images to be displayed with the national museum's growing LGBT collection.

“It’s fantastic,” said Ros, who with Anne Swanson, her partner of 10 years, will attend a Smithsonian reception Tuesday morning at the National Museum of American History.

“It was really important for me that these prints go into the Smithsonian for history,” Ros said. “But it was more important for me that I document these people who are fighting, and the reasons they have found themselves in this position to do so.”

“This fight was personal for me,” said Ros, 44, who has been on her own since age 17.

“Growing up in a conservative Cuban household, once my family found out I was gay, they threw me out of the house. They blamed me for turning my younger brother gay. That was not true. He was pretty gay to start with,” Ros said. “When they threw me out and told people why I wasn’t at home anymore, they told people I was on drugs. To them, that was better.”

Smithsonian curators learned of Ros through a friend of hers who works at the museum, she said.

Ros carefully cataloged her photos before sending to the museum. “I gave them really formal captions that they were happy to have, so it wasn't just a photo, there was a story attached.”

Said the Smithsonian in a statement: “The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has a long tradition of documenting the full breadth of the American experience and what it means to be an American. The LGBT narrative is an important part of that American story, and the Smithsonian has been documenting and collecting related objects for many years.”

Along with Ros’ photos, the museum has recently acquired a tennis racquet from transgender player Renee Richards, materials from the TV comedy Will and Grace (on NBC from 1998-2006) and diplomatic passports from former U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner and his spouse, Duane McWaine.

The bulk of Ros’ photos were taken in Washington at the National Equality March in October 2009.

Among the LGBT activists she has captured for posterity:

• Janice Langbehn, who inspired the federal government to revise hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples after her partner, Lisa Pond, died in 2007 at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

• Felipe and Juan Sousa-Rodriguez, LGBT immigration activists from Miami fighting for passage of the DREAM Act.

• Walker Burttschell, a gay Miami Beach man discharged from the Marines in 2003, who seven years later shook Barack Obama's hand moments after the president signed repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell.'

“I think it’s awesome. It’s amazing for her,” Burttschell said Sunday, adding that his photo depicts “a really pivotal moment in LGBT history.”

“It really started public discourse on the issue,” he said. “It made it easier to talk about marriage equality and equality in the workplace.”

Ros said she hopes that through her work future generations of LGBT people will know how they achieved equality. “As rapidly as these things are changing, I want to make sure we don’t forget or lose the history of this movement.”

Click here for Silvia Ros' website.