Folks, I’m taking a week off and won’t be filing regularly until Labor Day.
Thanks for reading and have a great holiday weekend!
Steve Rothaus' Gay South Florida - for and about (but not just) LGBT people
Click here to ask me a question, which I'll answer online.
Folks, I’m taking a week off and won’t be filing regularly until Labor Day.
Thanks for reading and have a great holiday weekend!
Take Me Out, the Tony-winning Broadway hit about a professional baseball player named Darren Lemming who suddenly announces he's gay, runs through Oct. 4 at Rising Action Theatre, 840 E. Oakland Park Blvd..
The Richard Greenberg play is well-acted by co-stars Laris Macario, Larry Buzzeo, Terry Cuzzort and Ted Dvoracek.
The show features the cast in several extended nude locker room/shower scenes, which may or may not have contributed to it being sold-out when I saw it Saturday night. Buy tickets in advance or risk being shut out.
Performances are Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 7 p.m. Reserved-seat tickets are $35; a dinner package at nearby Primavera restaurant is $60 including the show. Visit the theater's website or call 800-595-4849 to buy tickets.
All photos by STEVE ROTHAUS / Miami Herald Staff
Co-star Terry Cuzzort (Shane Mungitt).
Co-star Larry Buzzeo (Kippy Sundstrom) receives roses after the show.
Co-stars Larry Buzzeo and Laris Macario (Darren Lemming) after the show.
Rising Action Theatre artistic director David Goldyn, second from left, joins the cast.
The backstage crew joins the cast.
(Click pictures to enlarge.)
As lawyers for a North Miami man seeking to adopt his two foster kids squared off with the state in an appellate courtroom last week, an irony pervaded the hearing: Martin Gill is a terrific foster dad to the boys and should be allowed to keep them, the state admitted. He just can't adopt them because he's gay.
Gill, who was asked to foster the two brothers in 2004 after their mother's cocaine abuse led to persistent neglect, has presented perhaps the most serious challenge to date to Florida's 32-year-old law banning adoption by gay people. The case now is before the Third District Court of Appeal in Miami, which heard arguments in the case last week.
One member of the three-judge panel suggested the state Department of Children & Families might have been defending a state law the agency didn't really like.
``Aren't there two messages you are sending?'' Judge Vance E. Salter asked a lawyer representing DCF at the oral arguments. ``Child welfare officials, all up the chain, all seem to be saying it is in the best interests of the children to be adopted.''
And, Salter added, administrators seem to be saying they ``wish the restriction wasn't there.''
In 2006, Salter said, when the two boys first became eligible for adoption, foster care workers never took steps to remove the boys from Gill or to find another home in which the parents could adopt. ``Isn't that administrative action really committing the state to a position?'' Salter asked Timothy D. Osterhaus, a deputy solicitor general.
``I don't think so,'' Osterhaus replied.
Shot back Salter: ``In 2006, everything was known . . . and yet the state allows the placement to continue [and] takes the children off the adoption exchange. . . . I don't see what the state did to go forward with its rights.''
DCF Secretary George Sheldon -- who voted against the gay adoption ban when he was a state lawmaker in 1977 -- declined to discuss the case in great detail last week. Echoing the public statements of his top lieutenants in recent months, Sheldon said the law was in the books, and he had to enforce it.
``The Legislature has made a policy decision on the issue, and it is my obligation to defend the statute,'' Sheldon said.
Sheldon said it did not matter how he voted three decades ago. And, he added, ultimately, the dispute will likely be settled by the state's highest court.
``There are a lot of things I voted against -- and for -- 32 years ago,'' Sheldon said. ``My role is not a legislative role now. I'm part of the executive branch. The legislative branch makes laws, and the executive branch carries the laws out. The judicial branch has the responsibility to determine whether there is a basis for them.
``In due course, it will probably wind up before the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court will revisit the issue.''
What the state's highest court will encounter is a vastly different landscape from the one that spawned the adoption law in 1977, or the one it saw in April 1995, when it last reviewed -- and upheld -- the adoption law.
In the 1960s, same-sex relationships were illegal in Florida. In 1967, for example, a Miami appeals court upheld a municipal ordinance that forbade gay people from working -- or even being served -- at bars or restaurants that served alcohol.
The law, the appeals court wrote, was rational in that it served ``to prevent the congregation at liquor establishments of persons likely to prey upon the public by attempting to recruit other persons for acts which have been declared illegal.''
The state's highest court, in 1971, struck down the law making same-sex relationships a felony; the law had declared them an ``abominable and detestable crime against nature.'' The Supreme Court did, however, let stand a statute that allowed gay people to be prosecuted for ``unnatural and lascivious'' conduct, a misdemeanor.
In the Gill appeal, more than 30 child welfare advocacy or legal groups signed ``friend of the court'' briefs supporting the prospective adoptive father, including the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of Social Workers, the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar.
About a half-dozen groups sided with the state, including the Liberty Counsel and the Christian Coalition of Florida.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, who attended the arguments and spoke outside the courtroom later, did not question whether Gill had been a fine caretaker for the two boys. Rather, he said research showed it was ``always'' better for children to be raised in a family with both a mother and father.
The ``vast majority'' of children in foster care, Stemberger said, can be adopted into traditional families, regardless of their age, ethnicity or disability. ``If we put these two children up for adoption, I can find 10 families for them, no question,'' Stemberger said.
``We should focus on what is best for kids, not on what we can get by with,'' he said.
Gill has maintained he never set out to strike down the law, but was forced to take action after the foster children had remained with him for several years -- forging a new family. To remove the boys now, he said, would be devastating. And to force them to stay in a legal limbo would deprive them of the rights all other children enjoy, including inheritance.
In an unusual twist, DCF has essentially agreed with Gill.
In court papers submitted at the children's adoption trial last fall, the state agency submitted ``stipulations'' -- essentially a series of facts the agency would not dispute -- to the judge. In court papers, the boys are identified only as John and James -- which are not their real names.
• Since the two boys were taken to Gill's home in December 2004, child welfare administrators ``have deemed this placement to be in John and James' best interests.''
• Gill and his longtime partner ``are providing a safe, healthy, stable and nurturing home for John and James and meeting their physical, emotional, social and educational needs.''
• John and James ``are bonded'' with their new family. Bonding, or attachment, is important for foster children, many of whom have difficulty forging relationships with new families after ping-ponging from home to home.
• ``But for [Florida's adoption law] DCF would have approved [Gill's] application to adopt John and James.''
• In a department review, a foster care caseworker wrote: Gill and his partner ``have been model foster parents throughout the duration of the dependency case involving this child. There should be more foster parents of this quality and caliber.''
Florida is the only state that excludes all gay men and lesbians from adopting, though it allows gay people to be foster parents.
Last year, voters in Arkansas passed a measure forbidding adoption by single people after a court there dismissed a state rule excluding gay people from fostering children. And in Utah, a state law prohibits cohabiting adults from adopting, though not single people.
Adam Pertman, who heads the not-for-profit Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a New York-based research and education program, said there is no evidence so far that shows children have been harmed by being raised in a family headed by gay men or lesbians, and most states do not hesitate to allow gay people to adopt.
``In the overwhelming number of states, it happens every single day that a professional on the ground will think that it serves the best interests of kids to be adopted by a gay man or lesbian -- and there is no harm whatsoever,'' Pertman said.
``Why would they do this if they thought itwas bad for kids?,'' he added.
Eight years ago, the young chairman of the Broward Republican Party appealed to his cohorts to stay out of a divisive petition drive to overturn the county's gay rights law. ``GOP UNITY'' read the banner he unfurled as he walked through a hushed crowd, arguing that the petition would distract from the party's true goal -- electing Republicans.
The young party leader was George LeMieux, tapped by Gov. Charlie Crist on Friday to fill Mel Martinez's unfinished Senate term until the governor can win the post himself in the 2010 election.
The shortcut for a Republican who never won elected office to America's most exclusive political club began in the state's Democratic stronghold. The anti-gay petition drive failed, while LeMieux mobilized a turnout befitting a presidential candidate for Gov. Jeb Bush's reelection. Like Crist, he learned a politically calculated lesson that winning -- not ideology -- is what matters.
Actually the story began a few years earlier, during LeMieux's first and only bid for public office in 1998. LeMieux, 29, took on a popular Democratic incumbent, Tracy Stafford, who had served in one public office or another for two decades.
LeMieux outworked Stafford and nearly matched him dollar for dollar. He knocked on 10,000 doors with the slogan, ``When was the last time your state representative knocked on your door?'' He even sought to peel off support in the district's large gay community by taking positions in favor of gay adoption and health benefits for same-sex couples.
Three weeks before the election, doctors amputated the lower half of Stafford's left leg. Some said LeMieux might have won the race if not for the sympathy fueled rally by Democratic activists around Stafford in the home stretch.
Losing the election was the best thing that ever happened to LeMieux. It freed him up to head the local party and led him to Crist, who took him to Tallahassee in 2002 as his deputy attorney general and made him chief of staff after he became governor.
``And the rest, as they say, is history,'' said Fort Lauderdale attorney Ed Pozzuoli, who preceded LeMieux as chairman of the local party. ``Sometimes you can learn more from disappointments than from successes. George has learned from them all.''
Broward Republicans, outnumbered by Democrats more than 2 to 1, are a special breed. ``God's Country,'' is how LeMieux affectionately refers to the county where he was born and raised.
He may live in Tallahassee now, but as far as Broward Republicans are concerned, he is Florida's first U.S. senator from their home turf. About 125 people gathered in the chambers of Fort Lauderdale City Hall Friday evening to give their ``native son'' a couple of standing ovations.
``This is a monumental day for Broward County to have one of our own with a voice in the Senate and within the corridors of power in the nation's Capitol,'' said Chip LaMarca, the current chairman of the Broward GOP.
But as the hometown cheers fade, the pick starts to feel hollow. Crist looked high and low, approached more than a dozen people from every corner of the state -- from a black state lawmaker in Jacksonville to a Cuban-born former prosecutor in Miami to a retired, veteran congressman in Fort Lauderdale -- and ended up picking the guy who used to work down the hall. Crist's critics immediately accused him of cronyism and assailed LeMieux for profiting from his close ties to the governor.
Voters should also be asking questions about where LeMieux stands. Will he try to explain away the positions he took during his 1998 campaign -- in favor of gay adoption, limits on offshore oil drilling and waiting periods at gun shows? Will he be a seat-warming proxy for Crist or a principled warrior for the people of Florida?
LeMieux will likely heed the lessons he learned in Broward. He'll follow the same politically moderate, occasionally conservative philosophy that's kept Crist popular through a rotten recession. It's also a please-everyone-and-no-one, keep-em'-guessing, say-as-little-as-possible type of politics that rankles Democrats and conservative Republicans to no end.
``I've learned working with this governor that the people want a problem solver,'' LeMieux told the Fort Lauderdale crowd Friday evening. ``And I will seek to be a problem solver in Washington, D.C., and I will do so like this great governor does, with the principle of limited government always on my mind.''
Where does LeMieux go from the U.S. Senate? Probably, anywhere he wants. He could work in the next Republican administration, run for federal or statewide office or prosper in the private sector.
Said Pozzuoli: ``George is very good at moving from one arena to another with tremendous ease and comfort.''
Beth Reinhard is the political writer for The Miami Herald.
Clearly, Lippi needs to take an eye-opening trip to Milan.
There's a gay soccer team there, competing weekly in an amateur league. The players' sexuality doesn't affect how they play. The ball, after all, is round for everyone.
Last season, Nuova Kaos Milano finished a creditable fourth in its league of 16 teams, not bad considering their opponents frequently try harder against them to avoid the "dishonor" of losing to gay players, says Nuova Kaos defender Klaus Heusslein.
"Here, people think, 'They have to share the same changing room. Who knows what might happen if they have gays in the locker room? They might attack people,'" says Heusslein, a 48-year-old German who lives and works in Milan.
"In Italy, it will take another 100 years to get rid of these misconceptions."
It's a terrible blemish on soccer that homophobia remains so rife in the sport. As long as there are no openly gay players in the English Premier League and elsewhere at the top of the game, the shiny gloss bought by soccer's wealth - in new stadiums, multimillionaire players and such like - is nothing but cheap veneer.
That players have their own perfume and fashion lines but still don't feel safe enough to be able to say that they are gay is a damning indictment on the sport. The smoke-filled backrooms may have vanished, but archaic mentalities remain. That was proved by the hooliganism that scarred an English League Cup match between West Ham and Millwall this week, where several hundred people confronted each other and hurled bottles and bricks at police officers. Those likely were the same kind of so-called fans who have taunted players with racist and homophobic abuse.
True, soccer is not alone in being behind the times. Institutional intolerance in many sports has meant that far too few top-level athletes have felt comfortable saying they are gay. All the more reason, therefore, why the world's most popular sport should take the lead. Peddling outdated views, as Lippi did this week, does soccer no favors. His comments were particularly unseemly given recent violence that has targeted gays in Rome.
Lippi, in a video interview with the Internet-broadcast program KlausCondicio, said he would advise gay players to stay in the closet. Because of the huge amount of attention that soccer gets in Italy, a gay soccer couple would create scandal if they came out, he argued.
"If a player came to me and confessed his homosexuality, I'd advise him not to express it, because it would create problems and could be exploited," he said. "I don't think it would be possible in football to have a relationship of this type. Maybe it already exists, I don't know."
Somewhere in Italy, perhaps in the national team he coaches or in the Serie A sides that Lippi once managed or played for, secretly gay players must have been shaking their heads.
Heusslein, the openly gay amateur, certainly did.
"It's just repeating the same old stereotypes," he said. "He's either blind or he's stupid."
"He should ask himself what really would be the problem if he had gays on his team. Would that change his capacity to play, would it change his skills?" Heusslein asked. "People should see what they are doing on the field, not what they doing in their own bedrooms."
According to British gay-rights campaigners, mentalities are only moderately more enlightened in the Premier League. The chanting of homophobic abuse by fans has been banned, on paper at least, at grounds since the start of the 2007-2008 season, and police this year charged 11 men who hurled abuse at former England defender Sol Campbell.
Nevertheless, the only top British player to date to have gone public was Justin Fashanu. The former Nottingham Forest and Norwich City striker hanged himself in 1998, fearful that because he was gay he wouldn't get a fair trial in the United States on sexual assault charges.
Activist Peter Tatchell, a friend of Fashanu's, says he knows of several gay players in the Premier League who want to come out but dare not because they are concerned that their clubs and sponsors wouldn't support them. This despite the fact that Tatchell believes British soccer has progressed sufficiently since Fashanu's death for gay players to be able to go public.
"They'd get a rough ride from some teammates and some fans for a while, but eventually it would calm down and most people would accept them," he says. "They'd also get quite a lot of support and admiration from liberal-minded fans."
That day, when it comes, will be a moment to celebrate because it will show that soccer is becoming the all-inclusive sport it professes to be. As a leader in the sport, Lippi should be a force for such progress, not standing in its way.
Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this column.
John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Texas' liquor board fired two agents and a supervisor, disciplined two other supervisors and changed several policies in the wake of a raid at a gay bar that left a customer with a serious head injury, officials announced Friday.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said agent Christopher Aller and agent trainee Jason Chapman, who participated in the June 28 raid at the Rainbow Lounge, were fired Friday. Their supervisor, Sgt. Terry Parsons, was not at the Fort Worth bar that night but also was fired, effective Sept. 2.
Aller and Chapman failed to report that they used force when arresting the customer or that he was seriously injured, according to a report on the agency's investigation released earlier this month. They also were accused of participating in the raid without their supervisor's approval, disrupting the business during the raid and wearing improper attire, the report states.
Parsons failed to ensure that the agents submitted a report on using force during the arrest, did not take appropriate action after learning they didn't wear proper attire during the raid and did not notify supervisors that multiple arrests had been made that night, the report states.
The commission said Parsons' direct supervisor, Lt. Gene Anderson, would be suspended without pay for three days and be on probation for six months for his lack of monitoring the training of new agents and inadequate oversight of his employees and their activities.
Also, Capt. Robert "Charlie" Cloud, who oversaw the Dallas and Fort Worth TABC offices, has received a written reprimand for not following the incident notification policy, inadequately monitoring new agents' training and inadequately supervising Fort Worth employees and their activities, the agency said.
In announcing the disciplinary actions Friday, the agency's chief of field operations, Joel Moreno, said he was confident that Anderson and Cloud could make the necessary improvements.
"The first step is by working more closely with their employees, mentoring them and serving as positive role models by exemplifying the agency's four cornerstones: service, courtesy, integrity, and accountability," Moreno said in a statement. "It is essential that every employee understands our core value: We do the right thing, not what we have the right to do."
TABC Administrator Alan Steen, who will make the final decision on any appeals, was not available to comment Friday, agency spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said.
The five may protest their disciplinary actions by submitting a written grievance in the next 10 working days.
Aller, who had worked for the agency for five years, and Chapman, who was hired in April, had been on desk duty during the investigation. Parsons had planned to retire Sept. 2 after completing 20 years with the agency but had been using vacation time.
Another sergeant will be transferred from the Fort Worth to the Dallas office next week "for the betterment of the agency and to create change in the office," but that is not considered disciplinary action, Beck said.
Aller and Chapman accompanied six Fort Worth police officers on a raid of the Rainbow Lounge in what police initially billed as a routine liquor license inspection for a new business. Six people were arrested for public intoxication, and one patron, Chad Gibson, was hospitalized with a severe head injury he suffered while in the agents' custody, the agency and police have said.
Gibson was hospitalized for a week but has said he has a blood clot behind his right eye.
Since the raid, the agency has changed several policies - including how it uses force in certain situations - and is shortening agents' shifts, increasing cultural diversity training and reviewing the agent trainee field training program, Moreno said. Many of those changes were in the works before the raid, Beck said.
"Most of these were not as a direct result of this incident, but we hope they will prevent a similar incident from happening," he said Friday.
A report addressing whether the agents' use of force was appropriate during the raid is expected to be released in September.
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Lawmakers in Uruguay have approved a bill allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt.
Despite opposition from Uruguay's Roman Catholic Church and some of the political opposition, the 99-seat Chamber or Representatives on Thursday passed the bill 40-13, with the remaining members absent.
It goes next to the Senate, which approved an earlier version of the bill in July but must now vote again on modifications.
If it becomes law, Uruguay would be the first country in Latin American to allow adoption by gay and lesbian couples.
The law supported by socialist President Tabare Vazquez's Broad Front coalition, which has already legalized gay civil unions and ended a ban on homosexuals in the armed forces.
A news release from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Community Center regarding performances by Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton, who lives part-time in Tamarac:
Performances by "Faggots Must Die" Singer Canceled in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AEG Live/Goldenvoice (producer of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival) and Live Nation, parent company of House of Blues, all announced last night that they have canceled their respective concerts by Buju Banton. The cancellations followed a huge outcry from people all over the country, angry that these companies were promoting a singer whose lyrics glorify the murder of gay people.
Banton was to perform at Los Angeles' Nokia Club (Oct. 14), in San Francisco (Oct. 10), Philadelphia (Sept. 12) and at the House of Blues in: Chicago (Oct. 1), Las Vegas (Oct. 15), Dallas (Oct. 20) and Houston (Oct. 22).
"I hope this victory sends a deafeningly loud message to other promoters and concert venues, that singers who glorify violence against LGBT people, or any group of people, should never be welcomed," said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean. "It shouldn't be necessary for us to pressure promoters to do the right thing; people like Banton should never have been booked in the first place."
Hours after the Center issued a news release yesterday morning and launched a Facebook group: "Cancel Shows for 'Faggots Must Die' Singer," hundreds responded with phone calls and email messages to the companies and signed the Center's online petition, demanding that AEG Live/Goldenvoice and Live Nation cancel the concerts. Gay Liberation Network, based in Chicago, had been protesting against Live Nation for a week.
Through his music, Banton promotes a culture of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, singing in his most notorious song "Boom, Bye Bye" that "faggots get up and run" when he comes, that "they have to die," and that he will shoot them in the head or "burn them up bad."
"In his home country of Jamaica, Banton and his fellow performers of 'murder music,' have helped to create and sustain a culture in which violence against LGBT people is not only tolerated, it's sometimes celebrated," said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean. "The Center is an ardent supporter of free speech and artistic expression, but we cannot--and will not--tolerate speech in any form that promotes violence against LGBT people."
In 2004 the House of Blues responded to pressure from the Center and the LGBT community, eventually canceling a concert at its West Hollywood venue by Capleton, a reggae singer who also promoted violence against gay people. And just a year later, the company eventually agreed to cancel a West Hollywood concert by Sizzla, a performer who sang lyrics that included: "I go and shoot queers."
About the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center
Since 1971 the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has been building the health, advocating for the rights and enriching the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Our wide array of services and programs includes: free HIV/AIDS care and medications for those most in need; housing, food, clothing and support for homeless LGBT youth; low-cost counseling and addiction-recovery services; essential services for LGBT-parented families and seniors; legal services; health education and HIV prevention programs; transgender services; cultural arts and much more. Visit us on the Web at: www.lagaycenter.org.
From SAVE Dade:
CONGRESSMAN LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART IS FIRST FLORIDA MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO SIGN ON TO LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR RYAN WHITE HIV/AIDS ACT EXTENSION
On Monday, August 24, 2009, three members of Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart's staff met for an hour with C.J. Ortuno, Executive Director for SAVE Dade, Georg Ketelhohn, Vice-Chair for SAVE Dade and chair of Organizations United Together (OUT) Advocacy Network, and Michael Rajner, South Florida OUT member living with AIDS. The meeting was a dialogue on various issues of importance to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Miami-Dade.
Michael Rajner provided the Congressman's staff with a proposed letter in support of the Ryan White program and requested the Congressman's support. The day after the meeting, Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart's office made known the Congressman's decision to sign on to the letter. The letter calls on Chairman Henry Waxman and Ranking Member Barton of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce to swiftly pass a three-year extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act. The current law expires on September 30th, 2009, and, without an extension, countless low-income Americans living with HIV/AIDS would lose critical benefits.
SAVE Dade and OUT Advocacy Network extend thanks to Congressman Diaz-Balart for his swift action in support of this important program, and urge other Florida members of Congress to do the same.
"We cannot allow essential care for people living with AIDS to falter. I commend the Congressman for urging swift action on this issue," said Rajner.