July 27, 2014

View the photos | Miami Beach Bruthaz 2014 weekend 'for same gender loving men and women'

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Miami Beach Bruthaz recently held its annual conference in South Beach and shares photos from events from July 17-20, 2014.

MMB Pool Party (141) (1)From the group's Facebook page:

"Miami Beach Bruthaz was founded in July 2006 as an annual summer lifestyle event for same gender loving men and women from across the country.

"Through a series of social, knowledge-filled and personalized activities, this event promotes unity, camaraderie and a sense of belonging among its attendees."

Photos by Ramses Frederick. Click here to view more pictures.

July 26, 2014

Register now for 2014 Ujima Men's Collective conference, for ‘Black same gender loving men’


From Lorenzo Robertson, conference coordinator of the Ujima Men’s Collective.

“Our conference is scheduled for October, but we need people to register now,” Robertson says.

According to the website: “The Ujima Men's Collective was formed to create a collective of Black same gender loving men and those that love and work with them to meet, educate and build a strong network where they live to address issues of equality, enlightenment for our greater community, safety and health concerns in their community.”

Robertson has provided details of the conference:

The Ujima Men’s Collective will hold its annual conference at the Westin Hotel Fort Lauderdale, October 24-26, 2014. The conference theme is Dare 2B AWARE, and keynote speaker Phill Wilson (CEO, Black AIDS Institute) will address delegates and lead discussion on the importance of genuine social equality, enlightenment for our greater community and health and HIV concerns in the Black same gender loving (SGL) community. Filmmaker Amir Dixon will screen his award-winning documentary, Friend of Essex at the conference and entertain a Q and A with conference attendees.

The Ujima Men’s Collective believes that personal responsibility is simply a moral choice. In addition, The Ujima Men's Collective conference comes at a critical time when more Black same gender loving men are plagued with challenges of health issues, bullying, homophobia and self-hatred.

During the past ten years, the Ujima Men’s collective initiated a number of sustainability initiatives, and committed to a prominent campaign to build a network of Black SGL men. These men are dedicated to making strides in areas of leadership, advocacy, spirituality, relationships and health & wellness.

Alongside the keynote addresses, delegates to the conference will also have access to a range of workshops on leadership, advocacy, spirituality, relationships and health & wellness. This is an initiative of Ujima Men’s Collective Conference Coordinator Lorenzo Robertson, who believes Black SGL men and their supporters should have the opportunity education, empowerment and encouragement in a non-threatening environment. Contact us, if you are interested in facilitating a workshop.

"Learning techniques and applying them to your personal life can create significant changes for Black same gender loving men and their supporters; and the conference will give many a unique opportunity to learn from other Black same gender loving men," he says.

"This is something I believe that the conference is an exceptional occasion for Black same gender loving men learn and grow, and I am proud that Ujima Men’s Collective is taking a determined lead to address the issues concerning Black same gender loving men."

The Ujima Men’s Collective Conference, Dare 2B AWARE will be held at the Westin Hotel, Fort Lauderdale, Friday-Sunday, October 24-26, 2014. We will have a keynote address and discussion by Phill Wilson. Register early for attendance and/or facilitating a workshop, log onto www.ujimamen.com.

Busted ASAP: Orlando man charged with grand theft, accused of predatory towing at 2014 Gay Days


ASAPORLANDO -- Authorities have arrested a man they say illegally towed cars during Orlando's 2014 Gay Days celebration.

Orange County Sheriffs deputies arrested 45 year-old Jason Combs for towing more than 100 vehicles between June 5 and June 9. The annual festivities draw tens of thousands to the area. The arrest comes after numerous complaints that Combs' ASAP Towing company targeted victims based on their sexual orientation.

Combs' attorney did not immediately respond to email and phone messages left by The Associated Press Saturday. Authorities say ASAP Towing made at least $16,000 towing the cars but lacked permission to do so. Investigators are also looking into collusion with cab companies who lined up to take the drivers to the tow lot. Combs is charged with 29 counts of grand theft auto.

Watch it: Gay Fort Worth, Texas, police officer Chris Gorrie releases recruiting video for department

Detective Chris Gorrie of the Fort Worth, Texas, Police department this week released a recruiting video for the department.

"I've been asked along with several other 'diverse' members of our department to tell you our story. ... You may be asking yourself, 'What does this 30-year-old white guy have to do with diversity? Well, the short answer is, 'I'm gay.' Believe it or not, we exist."

Read more at the Houston Chronicle.

July 25, 2014

Miami-Dade judge: Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional; six couples can wed, but not yet

Updated Friday, 9:15 p.m.


A Miami-Dade judge declared Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional on Friday, in a sweeping ruling that cut a wide swath through American history — from the Declaration of Independence to slavery to Jim Crow to equality for women — as much as it drew from recent Supreme Court decisions.

Preventing same-sex couples from marrying, Circuit Judge Sarah 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.”

Zabel became the second South Florida judge in eight days to declare that Florida’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process clauses.

Last week, a Keys judge also ruled the ban unconstitutional. That ruling was stayed when the state attorney general’s office appealed, and Zabel stayed her own order Friday pending an appeal, saying she understood her decision would not be the “final word” on the issue.

In the Miami case, six same-sex couples in January sued Miami-Dade County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for marriage licenses.

“I’m excited. I’m thrilled. My phone has blown up with text and emails of congratulations. I’m elated,” one of the plaintiffs, Jorge Isaias Diaz, said Friday evening. “We came into this knowing it probably would go the long haul. We’re confident justice will prevail and we will go as far as we need to go.”

Diaz and his partner, Don Price Johnston, of Miami, sued, along with Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Todd and Jeff Delmay of Hollywood, and Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation.

Equality Florida Institute, a statewide gay-rights group, also is a plaintiff in the case.

“It’s a beautiful opinion,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said. The judge “states so clearly and so powerfully that marriage is a fundamental right and that denial is a violation of our constitutional rights and our dignity.”

Among other landmark Supreme Court cases, Zabel cited Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case in which the court threw out all state prohibitions against interracial marriage.

“We’ve said all along that the Loving case is parallel to our case,” Price said. “It just shows that discrimination against any class of people is nothing more and nothing less than discrimination. The U.S. society has no stomach for discriminating against anyone.”

In 2008, about 62 percent of Florida voters voted to amend the Florida Constitution and define marriage as between one man and one woman. The attorney general’s defense in the case cited the vote and said the judge should respect the will of the state’s voters.

But Zabel said fundamental constitutional rights are not subject to majority approval. “A state’s constitution cannot insulate a law that otherwise violates the U.S. Constitution,” she wrote. “The United States Constitution would be meaningless if its principles were not shielded from the will of the majority.”

John Stemberger, who led the 2008 campaign to amend the state constitution, was vehemently critical of Zabel’s decision, especially her reference to the Supreme Court case on interracial marriage.

“Wow,” said Stemberger, president and general counsel of the conservative Florida Family Policy Council in Orlando. “Race and ethnicity are not an inherent property of marriage. Gender, however, isan inherent property of marriage. This is why her reliance on Loving is misplaced. Loving in essence said any man can marry any woman irrespective of race and ethnicity.”

The gay-marriage battle is being waged across the nation. A federal judge this week ruled Colorado’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional. According to the group Freedom to Marry, LGBT advocates have won more than 20 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.

Zabel referred to the growing number of decisions overthrowing gay-marriage bans in the aftermath of the Windsor decision.

“As case after case has come out, unified in their well-reasoned constitutional condemnation of the deprivation of one class of person’s right to marry, the answer to the question of whether it is constitutionally permissible to deprive same-sex couples of the right to marry has become increasingly obvious: Of course it is not,” the judge wrote.

Anthony Verdugo, president of the conservative Christian Family Coalition, called Zabel’s ruling “corrupt” and “simply illegitimate.”

“It goes against Windsor because Windsor says the states have the right to regulate marital relations,” Verdugo said. “It goes against that precedent. She has inserted herself into that federal document to overthrow eight million votes. Voter rights is a fundamental freedom. She has overthrown and violated voter rights.”

But Elizabeth Schwartz, a Miami Beach lawyer for the six Miami-Dade couples, said Zabel’s ruling “makes it crystal clear why the Florida marriage bans are unconstitutional.”

“Judge Zabel considered, enumerated and rejected the meritless arguments of the anti-equality forces,” Schwartz said. “We’re anxious to move forward to appeal on the strength of this soaring order.”

The Miami-Dade case mirrors the lawsuit in Monroe County, in which two Key West men, Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, successfully sued County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license, saying Florida’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

After Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled in favor of Huntsman and Jones, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi swiftly announced she would appeal. Her office issued a statement saying that “with many similar cases pending throughout the entire country, finality on this constitutional issue must come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

By filing the appeal notice, Bondi triggered the automatic stay in the case.

This week, lawyers for Huntsman and Jones asked Garcia to lift the stay. He declined, as did Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, which now has the case.

A separate lawsuit is pending in Tallahassee federal court seeking to overturn the state’s gay marriage ban and force the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

In her ruling’s conclusion, Zabel touched on the history of “inalienable rights” stemming from the Declaration of Independence, and how the interpretation of those rights has evolved through slavery, women's rights and longtime discrimination against Native Americans.

“Notably absent from this protracted march towards social justice was any progress for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community until quite recently,” Zabel wrote. “However, as evidenced by the avalanche of court decisions unanimously favoring marriage equality, the dam that was denying justice on this front has been broken.”

Miami Herald's Greg Cote to Tony Dungy: Michael Sam is a distraction to embrace, not avoid


It’s no surprise that Tony Dungy’s comments this week about Michael Sam — comments that on the surface seemed more benign than inflammatory — have created such a national tempest. Sports are a Petri dish for argument and debate under any circumstances, and when you add the politics of religion and gay issues to the mix, the chances of a quietly civil discussion have pretty much left the building.

So Dungy, the former coach turned TV analyst, says he would not have drafted Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, because of the “distraction,” and a media frenzy commences. Dungy has since led the league in hopeless attempts to “clarify” his comments.

The problem here is that Dungy’s well-known religious beliefs are inseparable from the reasons why he might think of Sam as an unbearable distraction — or at least the reasons why we might think he thinks that. The ex-coach’s idea of family values does not include gay marriage, for example. He believes his Bible tells him homosexuality is a sin. Part of his clumsy “clarifying” was to say, of Sam, “Even though I don’t agree with his lifestyle, I love him.”

His “lifestyle.” In the dictionary of religious intolerance, that’s code for the wrongheaded, disproved notion that being gay is a choice. (Quick aside: The heterosexual “lifestyle” could itself use some better PR in that half of all biblically approved man-woman marriages end in divorce).

Isn’t it crazy how religion is so pliable that it can be used to justify anything? Your God’s will may be to deny same-sex marriage. My God’s will may be to lovingly treat all equally. We are both absolutely right, of course! And we wonder why wars start in God’s name?

Dungy is a widely respected man who has sort of taken on an elder statesman, voice-of-conscience role in the NFL, but it’s tough for even a well-respected man to explain the difference between a coach (or ex-coach) thinking a gay player is a sinner and a coach thinking a black player is less of a man. Prejudice is prejudice. Equal rights are equal rights.

Can you imagine there being a head coach in the NFL who uses the N-word? No? But is that so different than there being a head coach in the NFL who is anti-gay-rights?

I also got a chuckle over Dungy’s sudden fear of “distraction,” considering that he, more than anyone else, championed Michael Vick’s return to the NFL from an incarceration for dog-fighting crimes.

There are distractions all over sports and the NFL, almost all of them unnecessary, almost all of them because athletes are volunteering themselves as buffoons.

Just Thursday, the NFL suspended Ravens running back Ray Rice because he assaulted his fiancée; Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon was busted for marijuana (yet again); two Texas Longhorns were arrested for sexual assault; and Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin began serving a 25-game suspension for PEDs.

There is a similar sad rap sheet, almost daily, throughout sports.

Handling distractions is part of what coaching has become.

A major one, Bullygate, swallowed the Dolphins’ 2013 season because a few knucklehead Neanderthals were loose in the locker room. Now, as Miami opens training camp on Friday, Joe Philbin will be answering questions about the suspension of former No. 1 draft pick Dion Jordan for using a banned substance.

These are all avoidable distractions by athletes who voluntarily did wrong.

Then again, if you believe being gay is a chosen “lifestyle,” not to mention a sin, perhaps you think Michael Sam falls into the same category.

Something I have not heard in this week’s Dungy/Sam palaver that bears emphasizing here as well is that Michael Sam is a good distraction, a positive one, a distraction America needs to experience. Distraction is a cousin of attention and discussion, and all of that falling on this otherwise obscure St. Louis Rams rookie is a good thing.

Besides, if Sam himself isn’t unduly distracted by this, who are the rest of us to be?

Most NFL distractions are silly or dumb.

This one is important, and righteous. It is necessary. Somebody had to be first. And, like all of the greatest distractions we have experienced in America, this one serves to illuminate, to open eyes, to make us better.

What a distraction it must have been in the 1910s when women in this country were protesting for the simple right to vote, just like men.

What a distraction it must have been in 1947 when the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson broke the color line in baseball.

What a distraction it must have been in 1955 when Rosa Parks dared to sit where she wished on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala.

What a distraction it is in 2014 when a man who happens to be openly gay is trying to make it in the NFL.

This is a distraction Dungy and plenty of others might want to avoid, but it’s a distraction America should embrace and, if we’re lucky, maybe learn from.

Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival now seven days, with screenings Oct. 10-12 and 16-19


The Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will expand to seven days in 2014, running from Oct. 10-12 and 16-29, with screenings at the Classic Gateway Theatre and Cinema Paradiso.

Here's the news release:

The 6th Annual Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (FLGLFF) is doubling the number of films it will present and extending the schedule to seven days this year, announced Mark Gilbert, board chair and interim festival director. The expansion comes following a hugely successful FLGLFF in 2013 that saw record attendance and ticket sales. Dates for the 2014 event will be Friday, October 10th through Sunday, October 12th, picking up again the following weekend, Thursday, October 16th with the Centerpiece film and party and continuing through Sunday, October 19th, 2014.

“Absolutely, last year was the best Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival ever,” said Gilbert. “Moviegoers truly embraced our line-up of films, our parties and the special guests who came to town. Clearly, the Ft. Lauderdale community supports the film festival and we are thrilled to show our appreciation by bringing more films and more parties to this year’s event.

“As FLGLFF continues to emerge as a significant, stand-alone festival, it’s critical that we bring the best, newest films available to our audiences,” Gilbert continued. “While we will show a couple of the favorite films from last May in Miami, the Ft. Lauderdale festival will definitely not be ‘Miami, the Sequel’. It will be its own, unique experience.”

To bring that unique experience to FLGLFF, Gilbert has hired noted film festival programmer Joe Bilancio from the Rehoboth Beach and Miami gay and lesbian film festivals as programmer for FLGLFF 2014.

Along with a new programmer and the expansion of FLGLFF films, a new venue has been added this year. Films will now be shown at The Classic Gateway Theatre, 1820 East Sunrise Boulevard, and Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE 6th Street.

As screenings and special events are finalized, Gilbert says filmgoers should check the website frequently and sign up for e-mail announcements at www.flglff.com. Follow FLGLFF on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FLGLFilmFest, on Twitter @FLGLFF, and on www.Instagram.com/FLGLFF.

July 24, 2014

LGBT gaming community posts video honoring marriage ‘regardless of race, origin, state and gender’

Posted July 19, 2014, to YouTube:

In honor of Yoshida-san allowing marriage in the game to happen regardless of race, origin, state, and gender, Rough Trade Gaming Community (the world's largest LGBT guild) wanted to provide a video of thanks. We also want to remember Erotes, one of our own players who was tragically murdered in the Calgary stabbings a month before this video took place. Even when tragedy affects our community, there's still a reason to keep on marching.

Keep on being fabulous, gamers. If you are tired of hate speech and are 18+, please fill out an application and join us on Gilgamesh. You can be you in your own fantasy. rtgc.enjin.com/ffxiv

Final Fantasy XIV is a respected trademark of Square-Enix, Copyright 2010-2014. Rough Trade Gaming Community supports Final Fantasy XIV as players but does not represent or reflect the views of Square-Enix or its affiliates.

Obama intends to appoint former SAVE board chair Joseph Falk to Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board

joseph_falkPresident Barack Obama has announced his intent to appoint Joseph Falk of Miami a member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Falk, 60, is former board chairman of SAVE and a public policy advisor at Akerman in Miami. He grew up in Coral Gables and currently is active in Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign.

From the White House:

Joseph Falk has been a Public Policy Advisor at Akerman LLP since joining the firm in 2003.  Previously, he was President and CEO of the Metropolitan Mortgage Company in Miami, Florida, where he worked from 1978 to 2001.  Mr. Falk is currently Vice Chairman of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Miami, Florida and a member of the Board of Directors of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.  He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers since 1995, and served as its President from 2001 to 2002.  He was on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ Consumer Advisory Council from 2007 to 2009.  Mr. Falk received a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Thirtieth anniversary White Party 2014 to be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29, at Perez Art Museum Miami


This year’s 30th-anniversary White Party seeks to return to its white roots: Lots of glamour and no torn shorts or T-shirts.

“Oh, no! I want this to be the highest level of formal wear so they can show their elegance,” said Jonathan Welsh, marketing and development manager of Care Resource, the agency that presents and benefits from the annual fundraiser. “A fantastic world of white.”

White Party, from 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Nov. 29, also has a new outdoor venue: Perez Art Museum near downtown Miami.

“We have hundreds of international visitors who come from Brazil  and France and Israel and they want to be outside,” Welsh said. “They want to see the bay, they want to see the city, they want to see Miami.”

White Party is centerpiece of White Party Week, which runs during the Thanksgiving holiday from Nov. 26 through Dec. 1.

For more than 25 years, White Party was an early-evening soiree at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens popular with thousands of middle-age gay men.

In 2010, Miami-Dade County sought nearly $60,000 to rent Vizcaya for the 2011 event and Care Resource said no.

White Party moved to Miami Seaquarium, then to a club in Wynwood. The event also shifted from early evening to late night, hoping to attract thousands of young gay men in club attire.

Results were lackluster and this year Care Resource has decided to shift back to an early-evening party it hopes will attract a more diverse audience.

“Our goal is to bring in a larger spectrum of people from Miami,” said Steve Beko, Care Resource’s events coordinator. “White Party isn’t just an LGBT event, it’s a Miami event. Something our city can be proud of.”

White Party is centerpiece of White Party Week, which last year grossed  nearly $600,000 for Care Resource. For decades, the agency has been known for HIV/AIDS care, but now also provides adult primary medical care, women’s healthcare, dental and pediatric care.

“We are a federally qualified health center,” Welsh said. “White Party Week grossed $592,425 in 2013 with 86 cents of every dollar going back towards programs and services offered to our South Florida community.”

Entertainment this year will be provided by a 30-piece White Party Symphony conducted by Miami musician Sam Hyken, along with a one-hour performance by DJ David Knapp.

Returning to White Party will be drag queen Elaine Lancaster, acting as emcee for the 16th year.

“Sixteenth year in a row. Can you believe it? I’m still here honey,” said Lancaster, who has done HIV/AIDS fundraisers since the early 1980s.

“AIDS is still important, still a crisis,” Lancaster said Thursday. “People are not even practicing safe-sex anymore because they don’t think it’s a crisis. What idiots!”

Miami/Fort Lauderdale is No. 1 nationally in new HIV/AIDS diagnoses, according to recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“White Party started 30 years ago with an urgency to save lives,” Beko said. “It’s 30 years later and this pandemic is something that can be medically treated. But the urgency still exists because people are getting infected more and more in our community.”

If you go

White Party Week tickets go on sale Aug. 1 at www.whiteparty.org

Admission to White Party at Perez Art Museum, 1103 Biscayne Blvd.: $200, including all-night open bar and hor d'oeuvres from 7 to 9; $250 day of event.

There will be no welcome center this year. All event tickets should be printed from the website at time of purchase. Wrist bands will be mailed until just before White Party Week.