July 31, 2014

Sophie B. Hawkins, Sandra Bernhard to perform in August at Jazziz Nightlife in Boca Raton

Performing Aug. 5 and 6 at Jazziz Nightlife, 201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton: singing star Sophie B. Hawkins (Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover).

From Jazziz:

sophie-b-hawkinsSince her instantaneous 1992 breakthrough with the indelible hit single “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and her acclaimed debut album Tongues and Tails, Sophie B. Hawkins has proven an enduring artist with a fierce commitment to constantly evolving, while remaining steadfastly true to her own authentic history and experience. Whaler, her second album, was released in 1994 and contained a US top 10 hit, “As I Lay Me Down”, which certified gold and three singles from the album made the UK Top 40, including “Right Beside You.” In 2012, Hawkins starred as Janis Joplin in the play, Room 105 and released her fifth album of all new material titled The Crossing. On April 4, 2013, Sophie appeared on the TV series Community as herself, performing “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” and “As I Lay Me Down.”

On Aug. 12 and 13: Sandra Bernhard.

Sandra-BernhardSandra Bernhard continues to tour nationally and overseas with her new live show Sandyland, spotlighting her own unique, sharp blend of hysterical insight and outspoken views, with rock-n-roll, cabaret, stand-up and a little burlesque.

Sandyland, which also features Bernhard’s band The Flawless Zircons, has been selling out venues in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and all points in between. The New York Times recently commented that “Just below the surface, you sense the same roving critical eye that misses nothing and the same sensibility compelled to puncture fantasies And, Ms. Bernhard’s ear is as perfectly attuned as ever to music that you’re embarrassed to admit you might like.” Of her recent shows at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan, Next Magazine wrote “Bernhard looked like 10 million bucks in a pair of black leather pants and a chic white blouse, her world was Sandyland and we were merely allowed to live in it. Her lacerating observations and spot-on social commentary remain as sharp and insightful as ever.”

Miami Dolphins’ Don Jones humbled by consequences of anti-gay tweets about Michael Sam

BY ADAM H. BEASLEY
ABEASLEY@MIAMIHERALD.COM

For a few weeks this spring, Don Jones was the NFL’s face of intolerance.

And all it took was a couple of disapproving words on Twitter about Michael Sam.

What hasn’t been said, until now: Jones has a gay brother. And their relationship, in his words, is “a great one.”

“I don’t have [a] problem with gay [people],” Jones told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “Shoot, I do have a bunch of family members that are gay. My brother, my cousins. I never really had a problem.”

Those shades of grey were lost draft weekend back in May, when Jones tweeted “omg” and “horrible” after seeing Sam kiss his partner after becoming the first openly gay picked by an NFL team.

The Dolphins, still hurting from their ugly bullying scandal, acted quickly. They condemned Jones’ remarks; coach Joe Philbin called them “inappropriate and unacceptable” in a team release.

And they fined Jones, a second-year defensive back, and suspended him from team activities until he completed sensitivity training.

Nearly three months later, a chastened Jones is back in good standing with the team, and adamant that he has changed — for the better.

“I didn’t intend to mean [any] harm to it,” Jones said. “I just made a bad mistake. I had to learn from it.”

The blowback, internally and externally, caught Jones by surprise. But once the team explained to him why his words were divisive and inappropriate, he agreed to the time away.

That education included seven sessions with a sensitivity counselor, running four hours each. In all, Jones was away from the team for 10 days.

“I learned I can’t be judgmental,” Jones said. “I have to respect what everybody’s doing.”

Said Philbin: “All the feedback we got from the educational piece was very positive. He’s been a good teammate throughout, since he returned to the team. I think he’s a thoughtful individual. I think he understands the impact that actions and words can have on others. He’s really done well.”

Jones’ suspension served two purposes: It punished the player for behavior deemed unacceptable by the franchise; and it sent a message to the rest of the team that actions have consequences.

Owner Stephen Ross has made improving the level of discourse, in his locker room and in society at large, a priority. His players have apparently gotten the message.

Much was made this week of the players-designed training camp T-shirt that had the Dolphins’ 2014 credo.

Included in the text: “I am the change that I want to see in my team,” and “I live respect and truth-telling.”

Jones, for his part, said he has has changed in several ways. Most notably, he has learned the power of words, even short ones on social media.

He acknowledges that the fact that a sizable chunk of the outside world sees him as homophobic concerns him. And yet ...

“I definitely think all of it’s behind me,” he said. “I just try to move forward and go on as a team. I’ve learned. I feel pretty good.”

Mark Walter Braswell to perform ‘Braswell’s Songbook’ Sunday night at Cabaret South Beach

From entertainer Mark Walter Braswell and The Cabaret South Beach co-owner Edison Farrow:

Braswell's Songbook flyer (back side)-1Braswell's Songbook debuts this Sunday in South Beach, for one night only.  Come enjoy a fun musical revue filled with comedy and ballads from his prior shows.  This one hour performance will include songs from Braswell's new musical entitled Cuban Courage, which brings to the stage the amazing story of Operation Pedro Pan.  Vocalists will be Clay Cartland and EnVee, with music direction and accompaniment by Caryl Fantel.  Aug. 3rd.  7:00 & 9:00 pm.  Free admission.  Cash bar.  The Cabaret, 233 12th St., Miami Beach, FL. 305-763-8799.

Braswell's Songbook flyer

Christian Family Coalition endorses five candidates for Miami-Dade Circuit, County judge

The Christian Family Coalition has issued the following first round of endorsements for the Aug. 26 election:

cfcChristian Family Coalition Florida is pleased to announce its recommendations in judicial races in the upcoming elections.

These candidates will win and together we will move South Florida forward in 2015:

Jacqueline Schwartz
re-electjudgeschwartz.com
for County Court Judge in Group 19
Vote Tuesday, August 26

Judge Schwartz has served this community since 2002. Judge Schwartz’s assignments have varied and she has presided in all areas that county court has to offer including general criminal and civil litigation, trial work, personal injury protection cases, small claim matters, domestic violence, landlord/tenant actions, divorces, marriages and civil infractions.

Rodney "Rod" Smith
keepjudgerodsmith.com
for 11th Circuit Court Judge, Group 26
Vote Tuesday, August 26

In May 2008, then-Florida Governor Charlie Crist appointed Judge Rodney Smith to the Miami-Dade County Court bench.  Judge Smith has presided over criminal, civil, and domestic violence cases at the South Dade Justice Center, Hialeah Branch Courthouse, North Dade Justice Center, and Miami Beach Courthouse.  Judge Smith was subsequently retained to the County Court bench in 2010, without any opposition.  Florida Governor Rick Scott elevated Judge Smith to the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court in June 2012, where he currently presides.

Victoria Ferrer
votevictoriaferrer.com
for Miami-Dade County Court Judge

Victoria Ferrer is a litigation attorney who, if elected, will serve as County Court Judge with fairness and compassion under the rule of law. Victoria will be an honest, impartial and hard-working judge for our Miami-Dade County Court. Victoria was born in New York and raised in Miami-Dade Florida since the age of 9 years old. She is a wife and mother of three. Her children range in age of 11, 8 and 3 years of age. Victoria completed her undergraduate studies at FIU, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree with a double major in Political Science and Journalism and Mass Communications, and earned a minor in Advertising. She obtained her Law Degree from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2005. Victoria obtained her license as a Florida Real Estate Agent in 1994 and has been working and serving the community in real estate sales for over 20 years. She also obtained her license as a Florida Supreme Court County Court Mediator.

Stephen Millan
millanforjudge.com
for Circuit Judge
Vote Tuesday, August 26

Stephen was born on April 30, 1966 and raised in New York City and Long Island, New York. He is happily married to Hortensia Maxwell for the past 19 years and has five sons: Stephen 17 years old; Anthony 16 years old; Michael 14 years old; Andrew 12 years old; and Joseph 10 years old.His service to this community began with his legal career in 1990 at the State Attorney’s Office. While in County Court, he was appointed to the Domestic Violence Pilot Project which served as the pre-cursor for the Domestic Violence courts. Subsequently, he served in the Juvenile Division for a year. In 1992, he was assigned to the Felony Division followed by assignments to the Narcotics Unit and the Career Criminal/Robbery Unit where he served through 1997. Since the summer of 1997, he worked as a solo practitioner and primarily concentrated in immigration, criminal defense and bankruptcy. He also practices in the areas of family law, probate and general civil litigation. This experience has allowed Stephen to practice in administrative and courtroom proceedings in state and federal court. He has tried bench and jury trials in the civil and criminal arena. His legal experience provides him with the understanding of the workings of the legal system from both sides. This has made him sensitive to the needs and concerns of the victims, defendants, witnesses, and police officers. Stephen has had to manage a diverse and varied practice while at the same time volunteering in the community and being an active father of five children and a supportive husband.

Mary Gomez
gomez4judge.com
for Miami-dade County Circuit Court Judge
Vote Tuesday, August 26

Mary C. Gomez is the daughter of Cuban immigrants.  Mary was born in Bronx, New York to hardship and economic struggle.  Her parents relocated to Hialeah, Florida when Mary was 5 years old.  Her parents worked multiple jobs in a factory and as janitors to give her a good education and instill in her an honest work ethic. Throughout college Mary worked full time in a law firm, first as a receptionist and then a legal secretary. In law school Mary worked as a Law Clerk, her second and third year. Mary’s life and professional experience have molded her into a compassionate, fair and ethical legal professional.

LGBT group SAVE Action PAC recommends candidates for Legislature, judiciary, commission

Gay-rights group SAVE Action PAC has issued the following first round of endorsements for the Aug. 26 election:

SAVE Action PAC Announces First Round of State Legislative and Judicial Pro-LGBT Candidate Endorsements

save_2014_reverse-01MIAMI, FL -- SAVE Action PAC, the electoral arm of SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), South Florida's largest advocacy group for the LGBT community, announced today its first round of endorsements in upcoming local state legislative and judicial races on August 26 as part of the organization's TOGETHER 2014 initiative to elect supporters of equality for LGBT people.

In addition to endorsements issued earlier this year for State House District 113 Representative David Richardson and District 8 county commission candidate Daniella Levine Cava, SAVE Action PAC issued the following list of endorsements in local races:

  • Jose Javier Rodriguez for State House District 112
  • Daisy J. Baez for State House District 114
  • Kionne McGhee for State House District 117
  • Rachel Glorioso for County Court Judge in group 19
  • Alberto Milian for 11th Circuit Court Judge in group 27
  • Martin Zilber for 11th Circuit Court Judge in group 58
  • Fleur Lobree for 11th Circuit Court Judge in group 67
  • Veronica Diaz for 11th Circuit Court Judge in group 70
  • Kevin Burns for Mayor of North Miami
  • YES on Amendment 1 -- Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative
  • YES on Amendment 2 -- Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative
  • NO on Amendment 3 -- Florida Prospective Judicial Vacancies

After a lengthy process involving panels composed of members of the local gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allied community, candidates were recommended for endorsement based on their answers to questionnaires and their responses to interview questions posed by SAVE Action PAC's endorsement panels. After the panels issued their recommendations, endorsement decisions were ratified following a vote by SAVE's Board of Directors.

In the last set of general elections in 2012, SAVE boasted an win rate of upwards of 80% among its endorsed candidates. This year, the organization looks to build on that record of success.

"We instructed our panelists not only to consider the policy positions of those interviewed, but also their political acumen and perceived viability as candidates for electoral office as well," said SAVE Vice-Chair Cristy McClelland. "I'm confident that these candidates aren't just fantastic advocates for our community, but that they're in it to win it as well. Come 2015, South Florida will count among its leadership many more officials who will act in the best interests of LGBT people."

This week's announcement is the first of what promises to be many in support of pro-equality candidates at the state and local levels. For more information on SAVE's TOGETHER 2014 initiative, and to see a list of the organization's endorsed candidates, please go to savedade.org/2014.

Queer activist in open letter to late abuelo: If you were still here, would you support 'Love is Louder'?

Here's an open letter submitted by Gabriel Garcia-Vera, a queer Miami activist who is Florida State Lead for GetEQUAL:

By Gabriel Garcia-Vera

Dear Abuelo,

When I showed up 30 minutes early to the courthouse that day I was thinking of you. I had nothing left to lose. And I know that might sound melodramatic but that's how I felt. It's how I feel every time I have to stand up and declare that I am worthy of being considered equal to anybody else.

I was there at the Miami Dade County courts as they heard from the attorneys for six same-sex couples who asked a judge to throw out the state’s same sex marriage ban and order the county clerk to immediately issue marriage licenses that would allow men and women to marry people of the same gender.

When the opposition showed up it was clear they didn’t understand. Or maybe they just didn’t want to acknowledge our humanity and connections.  They held up signs saying “marriage is between a man and a woman” and “enough is enough.” They chanted “Respect our vote” and in turn we met hatred with love as we responded back by chanting “Love is Louder.” They continued to chant on and off with long periods of silence in between. One woman came across the line and told us “Jesus doesn’t want this” and “You could change if you wanted to.” I thought about her as we sat through the rain and my voice began to give from all the chanting.

I thought about you a lot in those moments wondering if you were here right now what would you think of me. Would you be ok with the way that I love, would stand by my side and support me?  You never got to meet Alex so for all intents and purposes I will always be your youngest nieto. I want you to know that everything you ever said to me in front of that bakery after school when I was little has influenced and shaped me to be the person I am today. Our long conversations about what it meant to be not just a man, but a good man resonates within me every time I look at my family. I know you always told me about how to treat women and I hope you don’t mind that I took that same approach and applied it towards men. I try to never be reckless with their hearts, I always respect them and never lay my hands on them. I love them so hard it feels like I’m running out of air, just like the way loved Abuela.

As a 25 year old, queer, Puerto Rican I think it’s safe to say that these concepts of family and marriage have been part of my understanding of life since birth. Growing up in a tight knit family I often thought about what it would be like to one day have a family of my own.  I learned about love and marriage from the people who always seemed to have the best relationship, my Abuelo and Abuela. I watched them be so in synch it’s as if they had never lived one without the other. Sure they fought sometimes like most people do, but they loved each other deeply and it always showed.

That's why I stood and chanted for marriage knowing that marriage is just one way to protect and express love, not the only one, but so important for those who want access to it.

Inside the court room the state attorney didn't mention love, only amendments, constitution, same-sex, voters, the state, decisions, 2008, jurisdiction. It's as if those of us who are advocating for respect and dignity are speaking a completely different language. Like the recent Monroe County decision the Miami-Dade one might only affect one county or might spread to others. For now we languish in the same limbo that other queer people are in if they live in states that have not overturned marriage equality bans can’t help but remember standing outside in the rain feeling the particles of cold air and water mix as they brushed against our faces; my brothers and sisters from GetEQUAL, Equality Florida, the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Save, and Human Rights Campaign standing right next to me.

As the courts weigh their decisions, I can’t help but hope that if you were here you and others like you, part of my big extended Florida family would decide, to stand not just with us but with me and demonstrate that love is louder just like you always taught me.

Gabriel Garcia-Vera has been an advocate since his teens. Now 25, he is the Florida State Lead for GetEQUAL. His work is strongly informed by his Puerto Rican roots and the powerful women in his family. You can see his work on Today I’m Going to Live/ Hoy Voy a Vivir a multilingual video channel on Youtube and on his radio show on Klangbox.fm, LoveBox.

July 30, 2014

Lesbian asks Broward judge to toss Florida’s gay-marriage ban, then dissolve her Vermont civil union

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
SROTHAUS@MIAMIHERALD.COM

It's a Catch 22 for a lesbian who wants to get married to her new partner.

Heather Brassner's spouse cheated on her four years ago and then disappeared, she said. Now, Brassner is legally stuck in a 2002 Vermont civil union because Florida is constitutionally banned from recognizing the women’s relationship, and therefore won't grant her a divorce.

A Broward circuit judge may soon fix that by becoming the third in South Florida to declare Florida's 2008 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional.

“A judge’s job is to protect the citizens. The way the law is written, they’re not allowed to do their job,” said Brassner, a Lake Worth art dealer. “My hope is that I will be granted a divorce. My assumption is that most likely the attorney general of Florida will appeal it. I’m willing to go to the next step. I’ll go all the way. I just want the same protections that everyone is born with. These are inalienable rights.”

Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen will rule anytime in Brassner’s case, according to Nancy Brodzki, her Coral Springs attorney.

“I have known Heather for a few years, through her [current] girlfriend, Jennifer. It was probably about two years ago when she first mentioned trying to get divorced,” Brodzki said. “She wondered if she could. ‘Can I get divorced?’ And the answer was, ‘No, you really can’t.’”

Brassner and her first partner, Megan Lade, had a civil union on July 6, 2002, in Vermont. That was two years before the first gay and lesbian couples in the United States were allowed to marry in Massachusetts, and seven years before gay marriage became legal in Vermont.

Vermont will not end Brassner and Lade’s civil union unless both women sign papers that they agree to the dissolution. Brassner, 41, said that’s impossible because she has no idea where Lade is. “In this case, despite diligent search, the Petitioner was unable to locate Megan Lade,” according to a divorce filing. “Even a private investigator hired to find her was unable to do so.”

Vermont, Massachusetts and 17 other states, plus Washington, D.C., now permit same-sex marriages.

The gay-marriage battle is being waged across the nation. A federal judge last week ruled Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. And on Monday, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a decision that could topple similar prohibitions in the Carolinas and West Virginia.

Late Monday afternoon, North Carolina’s attorney general announced his office will no longer fight lawsuits seeking to overturn the state's ban, according to the national advocacy group, Freedom to Marry.

In 2008, about 62 percent of Florida voters supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in the Sunshine State: “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is continuing to fight two right-to-marry victories in July by same-sex couples in both Monroe and Miami-Dade counties.

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

Wednesday afternoon, lawyers in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties asked that their two cases be consolidated and appealed directly to Florida’s Supreme Court. A spokeswoman for Bondi said the attorney general’s office has yet to respond.

In addition to the two right-to-marry cases, several state and federal lawsuits have been filed by same-sex couples demanding Florida recognize their out-of-state marriages. Those cases are unresolved.

Brodzki expects Cohen will become the first judge in Florida to recognize an out-of-state marriage or civil union.

“Judge Cohen stated that he was not prepared to grant the divorce without addressing the constitutionality of the same-sex marriage ban — and the same-sex marriage recognition ban,” Brodzki said. “He asked me to file a motion for declaratory judgment so that he could rule on the constitutionality of the ban.”

Brodzki said that on Monday, Cohen told her Brassner needn’t be in court when he releases his decision “because I’m going to issue a stay to give the attorney general a chance to appeal, if I rule in your favor.”

Human rights, LGBT activists want gay rights on Africa summit agenda

BY DAVID CRARY
AP NATIONAL WRITER

Human rights and gay rights activists on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to ensure that the issue of anti-gay discrimination in Africa is on the agenda at next week's summit in Washington with more than 40 African leaders.

The Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights organization, and Human Rights First, which advocates aggressive U.S. stances on human rights issues abroad, issued a statement depicting the summit as a "once-in-a-generation moment" to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Africans.

According to the two groups, 37 African countries with more than 800 million residents have laws criminalizing LGBT relationships, and leaders of 32 of those countries have been invited to the Aug. 4-6 summit.

Among the invitees are Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, who signed harsh anti-gay laws earlier this year.

In response to Uganda's law — which strengthens penalties for gay sex and makes life sentences possible for violators — the U.S. imposed visa bans on some Ugandan officials and halted or redirected funding from institutions involved in human rights abuses.

Click here to read more.

July 29, 2014

Tickets on sale for Pridelines Youth Services’ annual Masquerade Ball fundraiser on Aug. 16

News release from Pridelines Youth Services:

image004Pridelines Youth Services, South Florida’s oldest LGBTQ service agency, is proud to announce its annual gala to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community. Pridelines’ Masquerade Ball, presented by Jim Tyrrell, Jay Richard DiBiaso and Roger Thomson, will take place Saturday, August 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Tickets are on sale now for $150 per guest or $1,500 for a table of 10.

“An evening of elegance and romance, reminiscent of Venice’s Carnival, ‘Pridelines' Masquerade Ball’ will undoubtedly be one of the community's most enjoyable events of the year,” said Victor Diaz-Herman, executive director of Pridelines. “Masquerade will feature a silent auction, cocktail reception, and a formal dining experience along with entertainment and dancing,” he added.

Performing at Masquerade will be Noel Leon, JesiMixx and DJ Sayho. Guests are encouraged to wear elaborately decorated masks in keeping with the Masquerade theme, Diaz-Herman said, adding that Beatnix in South Beach is offering a 20% discount on masks to customers who mention the Pridelines Masquerade Ball.

Proceeds benefit Pridelines Youth Services, South Florida’s oldest service agency dedicated to the lesbian,gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community and their straight allies. Pridelines’ mission is to support education and empower South Florida’s LGBTQ youth in safe and diverse environments, and to promote social change through dialogue. Pridelines provides nightly programs, Youth Enrichment Activities, HIV testing and support groups, meals and snacks, a David Bohnett Cybercenter, and the only drop-in center in Miami-Dade County for the LGBTQ community. Most importantly, Pridelines provides referral services for youth who are at-risk of or dealing with issues such as suicidal ideation, substance abuse, physical abuse, as well as emotional abuse at home, in school or on the streets. Pridelines is also dedicated to providing wrap-around services, safe spaces, and affirming environments for Homeless LGBTQ youth.

Tickets are available at www.pridelinesmasquerade.com. Table host and sponsorship opportunities are also available on the website or by contacting Diaz-Herman victor@pridelines.org or 305-571-9601 ext. 3.

Charlie Crist: If elected, I’ll ban discrimination against LGBT state employees, contractors

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ST. PETERSBURG -- Former Gov. Charlie Crist says he will sign five executive orders on his first day back in office if he's elected in November.

Crist made the announcement Tuesday. He said he would order agencies under his control to require that contractors pay employees at least $10.10 an hour.

He also said he would sign orders banning discrimination against gay and transgender employees at agencies under his control and their contractors, and another to require equal pay for women.

Contractors would be required to, whenever possible, hire Florida companies as subcontractors.

And Crist said he would sign an order to require agencies to provide public records at the lowest possible cost to the public.

Crist served as a Republican governor from 2007 to 2011 and is now running as a Democrat.

UFC fighter Kyle Kingsbury drops shorts at weigh-in, revealing pink 'Legalize Gay' underpants

Kyle Kingsbury

UFC Light Heavyweight champ Kyle Kingsbury made a statement before his last fight on Saturday – he stripped off his shorts at weigh-in revealing a pair of pink "Legalize Gay" underpants.

Alas, Kingsbury lost the fight to opponent Patrick Cummins and retired from fighting.

Click here to watch the UFC video.

July 28, 2014

Keys men who won marriage case ask appeals court to send case to Florida Supreme Court

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
SROTHAUS@MIAMIHERALD.COM

Pushing for a decision that would topple Florida’s gay-marriage ban in all 67 counties, lawyers for two Monroe County men who won the right to marry asked an appeals court Monday to move the case directly to state's Supreme Court.

“The constitutionality of Florida's laws barring same-sex couples from marriage is an issue of great public importance that has a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the state,” lawyers Bernadette Restivo and Elena Vigil-Fariñas, who represent Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, wrote to the Miami-based Third District Court of Appeal. “There is a need to bring finality to this issue on a statewide basis so that clerks of court throughout the state have uniform guidance as to whether they must issue marriage licenses on an equal basis to otherwise qualified same-sex couples.”

According to the attorneys, “a decision from the Supreme Court would also provide uniform direction and guidance to government, public and private entities throughout the state, including the judiciary, which make decisions on a daily basis with regard to the provision of benefits or rights to persons based in whole or in part on their marital status.”

The lawyers describe the case as “an issue of great public importance that directly and profoundly affects same-sex couples throughout the state, as well as their children and other family members, by excluding them from a right the Supreme Court has declared to be ‘of fundamental importance for all individuals.’”

The appeals court gave Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office has appealed the men’s legal victory, 10 days to respond.

On July 17, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia declared Florida's 2008 gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, ruling against Bondi, whose office defended the ban. Huntsman and Jones have not been allowed to marry: Florida law mandates that an automatic stay pending appeal is triggered when a public official loses a court case.

The Monroe County case mirrors one in Miami-Dade, in which Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel on Friday ordered that six same-sex couples also be allowed to marry, but stayed her ruling pending appeal.

Preventing same-sex couples from marrying, Zabel said, “serves only to hurt, to discriminate, to deprive same-sex couples and their families of equal dignity, to label and treat them as second-class citizens, and to deem them unworthy of participation in one of the fundamental institutions of our society.”

The gay-marriage battle is being waged across the nation. Currently, gay marriage is legal in 19 states and Washington, D.C.

A federal judge last week ruled Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. And on Monday, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that Virginia’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, a decision that could topple similar prohibitions in the Carolinas and West Virginia.

Late Monday afternoon, North Carolina’s attorney general announced his office will no longer fight lawsuits seeking to overturn the state's ban, according to the national advocacy group, Freedom to Marry.

“Attorney General Roy Cooper is the ninth state attorney general across the country who has refused to defend a state marriage ban,” Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson said in a news release. “Cooper's decision follows similar moves from the attorneys general in California, New Mexico, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Virginia, Oregon, and Kentucky. Each of these attorneys general refused to defend anti-marriage laws in their states, declaring them unconstitutional and indefensible, as have nearly 30 consecutive rulings in state and federal courts across the country.”

According to Freedom to Marry, LGBT advocates have won more than 25 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.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the constitutionality of state marriage bans.

It is likely that the Monroe and Miami-Dade cases will be appealed together and that whatever decision is reached by the appeals court will affect both.

“Florida's same-sex couples have waited long enough for marriage equality so, while we respect whatever decision is made by the Third District Court of Appeal with regard to certification of this pressing matter, we do hope to proceed directly to the Florida Supreme Court,” said Elizabeth Schwartz, a Miami Beach attorney helping represent the six same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute in the Miami-Dade suit. “Our team is working very closely with the Monroe County case's counsel, coordinating strategies and providing drafting support. I'm confident that together our cases will serve to be another nail in the coffin of these bigoted marriage bans.”

Restivo said whichever side might lose at the Florida Supreme Court could then “petition the United States Supreme Court to take the case.”