July 22, 2014

Fred Grimm proposes that twice-divorced Pam Bondi’s ban on gay unions is mindless, outmoded


With five divorces between the two of us, Pam Bondi and I aren’t exactly paragons of marriage stability.

Nothing in Florida law, however, would keep either one of us from denigrating that hallowed institution once again. The state would not object if, say, one or the other of us wandered into the Elvis Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.

No law or constitutional amendment denies us our sacred right to a marriage ceremony officiated by a gaudy Elvis impersonator, decked out in “memorable gold lamé” or a rhinestone-sequined jumpsuit. (I’ll let Pam decide.)

Florida goes along with most any kind of marriage as long as they entail two people, no matter how drunk, of the opposite sex. Even an Elvis-themed heterosexual marriage against the backdrop of a pink 1955 Cadillac convertible would be considered integral to “stable and enduring family units.”

That’s what marriage is all about in Florida, according to Attorney General Bondi’s office, defending the state’s prohibition against gay marriage — mommies and daddies to crank out kiddies.

Last week, Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia found Bondi’s argument wanting. He ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.

Bondi’s office quickly filed an appeal, triggering an automatic stay before gay folks in the Keys could apply for marriage licenses. (On Monday, Garcia denied a motion to lift the stay.) All Bondi is really accomplishing, as she fritters away our tax dollars in the appellate courts, is to postpone the inevitable.

Back in 2008, voters approved the ban after political demagogues warned that gay unions would somehow undermine traditional marriage. But with gay marriage now legal in 19 other states, there’s no longer any reason for Bondi’s lawyers to pad legal briefs with mushy speculation about the imagined horrors. We’ve now got 19 laboratories out there. If gay marriage was indeed detrimental to “traditional” man-woman marriage, Bondi ought to be able cite hard evidence.

Conservative religious groups added their own Amici Curiae briefs to the state’s defense of ban, citing Florida’s interest in the enterprise of baby-making. But Garcia noted “procreation has never been a qualification for marriage.”

Besides, the notion of the superiority of the heterosexual family seems ever more absurd with each awful revelation about the Florida Department of Children and Families’ failures to safeguard children in overwrought foster homes or troubled “traditional” family settings. It has been a long time since Ozzie and Harriet provided the marriage template in Florida.

John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, was riled by Garcia’s ruling. “Every domestic partnership, every single civil union, every couple that cohabitates,” he insisted, “dilute and devalue marriage.”

That was the same Stemberger who attacked Bondi back back in 2011, when she was running in the Republican primary for attorney general. He said, “Personally, she has no children and lives with her 60-year-old eye doctor boyfriend.”

Bondi’s still childless, still living with her ophthalmologist boyfriend. And the notion that their relationship “dilutes and devalues marriage” is just as mean and mindless and outmoded as her own defense of the ban on gay marriage.

The Task Force presents $227,509 donation to Miami Foundation’s GLBT Community Projects Fund


With money raised from the annual Miami Recognition Dinner and Winter Party Festival, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has donated $227,509 to the Miami Foundation’s GLBT Community Projects Fund.

10488317_731458793566953_8946544074195849420_nThe Task Force presented a check to Miami Foundation during a reception Thursday night at Bacardi USA headquarters in Coral Gables.

Grant recipients in 2013 included Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; Family Counseling Services of Greater Miami.; Foster Care Review; Miami Beach Gay & Lesbian Film Festival; Pridelines Youth Services; SAVE; Survivor's Pathway Organization; and Switchboard of Miami.

Click here for more photos from the Bacardi USA reception.

Details about the Task Force donation are in this news release:

With more than 150 supporters, volunteers, charity representatives and VIPs in attendance, Russell Roybal, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, presented a giant check in the amount of $227,509 to The Miami Foundation’s GLBT Community Projects Fund.  The donation represents a significant share of the combined net proceeds from the 2014 Winter Party Festival and the 17th Annual Miami Recognition Dinner, both of which are held in Miami Beach. These proceeds will be distributed to local LGBT organizations via Foundation grants with the remainder of the proceeds going to support the important work of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to build power, take action and create positive, lasting change for LGBT people and their families throughout the country.

“The Task Force has been working in Miami since the days of Anita Bryant,” Roybal said. “We have a special and unique relationship with South Florida and the people here. It is thanks to these people – the volunteers, sponsors and guests who attend our two events – that this incredible donation has been possible.”

The donation amount was announced at a July 17 reception at Bacardi USA’s national headquarters in Miami with Charisse Grant, senior vice president for programs, accepting on behalf of The Miami Foundation.  Since taking over responsibilities for Winter Party Festival and the Miami Recognition Dinner, the Task Force has contributed more than $1.85 million to South Florida grassroots LGBT organizations.

"We are grateful to the Task Force and hundreds of volunteers and donors who pour their passion into making these events bigger and better every year," said Grant in accepting the donation. "They do more than give their time and charitable dollars. They give immeasurable inspiration and hope to the thousands of LGBT residents who benefit from the community programs their gifts support."

Also in attendance at the reception were several representatives from 2013 grant recipient organizations.  These leaders represented organizations as diverse as the South Florida LGBT and allied community itself, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; Family Counseling Services of Greater Miami, Inc.; Foster Care Review, Inc.; Miami Beach Gay & Lesbian Film Festival; Pridelines Youth Services; SAVE; Survivor's Pathway Organization; and Switchboard of Miami.

New Winter Party Festival Brand Identity Unveiling

Immediately after the giant check presentation, Roybal introduced Justin Bell, chair of the 2015 Winter Party Festival and president of Arc+Arrow Creative Group, the company that guided the Task Force through the re-branding process and created the new imagery and verbal identity for the 22-year-old fundraising event.

“As Winter Party Festival continues to grow year-over-year, we find a majority of our events selling out,” Bell said. “That’s a good problem to have. But to continue our growth trajectory, we must expand our audience, enhance our programming and evolve Winter Party Festival to truly take on the meaning of ‘Festival.’”

The strategy behind the updated brand identity was to capture the celebration of Winter Party Festival and showcase the ever-evolving innovation behind the globally recognized events produced each year, Bell added. The new color palette portrays a combination of colors symbolizing the warm Florida sun and cool ocean waves, while incorporating purple from the past palette to remind the community of the brand’s history and provide alignment with the Task Force’s national brand identity.

At the heart of Winter Party Festival’s new verbal identity is the new positioning statement, Bell said, which states, “Winter Party Festival is an annual fund- and consciousness-raising event committed to supporting, inspiring and activating LGBT communities worldwide through a celebration of identity, equality and unity that is designed to bring the community and its allies together to learn, live, love, laugh and forge lifelong relationships.” 

“This positioning statement, coupled with the creation of values, personality attributes, a brand story and promise, and a comprehensive messaging platform, redefines the Winter Party Festival brand and positions the brand for innovative evolution in the years to come,” he concluded.

Coinciding with the updated brand identity unveiling, Bell announced that the new Winter Party Festival website, in partnership with LGBT Creative, has now launched at www.winterparty.com.

Bartenders' lawyer to attorney general: Let's jointly take gay marriage case to Florida Supreme Court

Updated Tuesday at 3:24 p.m.

Bernadette Restivo, who represents Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones in their gay marriage suit against Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin, says the case should bypass the Third District Court of Appeal and go directly to the Florida Supreme Court.

"Last Friday afternoon, I called the attorney general's office and spoke to the attorney handling this case and made the suggestion that we jointly take this case directly to the Florida Supreme Court," Restivo said Tuesday. "I made the argument that it will obviously be more expeditious, save a lot of tax dollars and judicial resources."

Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum, who is representing Attorney General Pam Bondi in both the Monroe and Miami-Dade County lawsuits, did not indicate to Restivo whether he agreed.

"He said it was not his decision to  make, but that he would get back to us," says Restivo, who represents Huntsman and Jones with law partner Elena Vigil-Fariñas. "He has not."

From Jenn Meale, Bondi’s spokeswoman: “We are not commenting on the ongoing litigation.”

Reader: 'Steve, nothing like showing a pic of two homos in a lip lock. One of my grand kids lost her appetite'

A few emails and comments re: Motion denied: Judge won’t lift stay and allow gay Key West bartenders to marry on Tuesday:

Nice going, Steve, nothing like showing a pic of two homos in a lip lock. One of my grand kids lost her appetite this morning while scanning thru your column.

One thing for sure, no one will ever charge you with having taste or class.


F*@k a bunch of gay bartenders! I mean, Pleeeeze..Is the World going to collapse if these Faeries don't get a piece of paper?


Hey YQue, where's that hostility come from. why so emotional about gay guys? You want to be more angry than follow the constitution? That's some emotional investment you got on gays !! --


The minority want to overuled the Majority this "deviant" madeness must end!


Always an interesting read when the homophobes start writing. Bigotry and hatred is alive and well in America.


Steve Rot-hole has to be the ugliest gay in the entire world. He honestly looks like he might be retarded, and I think he is dragging down the gay community, and should be replaced by Dan Savage or any other gay that looks like a normal human being.

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith shares 'front-row seat to history' at Obama signing

Video: President Obama signs executive order protecting LGBT employees

Nadine Smith says she had a "front-row seat to history" on Monday when she attended the White House signing of President Barack Obama's executive order to protect LGBT federal workers.

Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, was among a few hundred people invited to Washington for the signing on Monday.

She shares photos of the signing from her personal Facebook page. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

July 21, 2014

Motion denied: Judge won’t lift stay and allow gay Key West bartenders to marry on Tuesday

Updated 5:16 p.m. Monday


Wedding bells will not ring Tuesday for gay Key West bartenders Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones. Or for any other same-sex couples planning to have a Conch Republic wedding any time soon.

Monroe Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, who last week overturned Florida’s 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban and ordered the two men be allowed to wed, on Monday denied their request to lift an automatic legal stay that prevents them or other gay couples from marrying immediately.

“Based on decisions of the United States Supreme Court and other courts to stay proceedings in similar challenges, this court DENIES the Emergency Motion,” Garcia wrote. “The automatic stay, currently in place, shall remain in place until completion of appellate proceedings or until further order of this Court.”

In his ruling Thursday, Garcia ordered that Huntsman and Jones and other gay couples seeking to wed be allowed to marry beginning on Tuesday.

“The court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country’s proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority,” Garcia wrote in his opinion.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi then swiftly announced she would appeal Garcia’s ruling to the Third District Court of 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 a notice of appeal, Bondi triggered an automatic stay in the case, meaning that Garcia’s ruling is put on hold. If Garcia had lifted the stay, Bondi would have needed to ask the appeals court to reinstate it.

Bernadette Restivo, who with law partner Elena Vigil-Fariñas represents Huntsman and Jones, asked Garcia on Monday to lift the stay.

“The Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples who wish to marry are suffering serious, irreparable harms every day [Florida’s Marriage Protection Act] remains in effect,” Restivo wrote to Garcia.

Bondi quickly responded, writing to Garcia that he should not lift the stay.

“The United States Supreme Court has issued orders staying lower court decisions regarding same-sex marriage lawsuits. So have several federal courts of appeals. And many trial courts have stayed their orders on their own. They have all acted to maintain the status quo while the issues presented are resolved. This Court should likewise maintain the status quo and leave the automatic stay in place until further appellate proceedings are concluded,” Bondi wrote.

Garcia’s original decision that the men should be allowed to marry applies only to Monroe County, because it was filed in front of a state judge who has jurisdiction only in the county where he sits. Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel has yet to rule in a similar case.

The Monroe case mirrors the suit in Miami-Dade, in which six same-sex couples and LGBT advocacy group Equality Florida Institute sued County Clerk Harvey Ruvin for the right to marry. In both cases, Florida Assistant Attorney General Adam Tanenbaum argued that the judges should not dismiss Florida’s constitutional gay marriage ban, which passed in 2008 with the support of 62 percent of voters. The state, citing a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, contended that the definition of marriage belongs exclusively to the state and is exempt from federal scrutiny.

After Garcia’s initial ruling, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski applauded Bondi’s opposition.

“Although this ruling is limited in scope — applying only to Monroe County — it represents another salvo in the ‘culture wars’ that ultimately seek to redefine the institution of marriage as solely for adult gratification,” Wenski said in a Catholic Church news release.

Huntsman and Jones, who met at a gay pride celebration and have been a couple for 11 years, sued Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin in April for a marriage license, saying Florida’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Ron Saunders, general counsel for the Monroe County Clerk’s office, said clerk’s office employees were prepared to issue marriage licenses if Garcia ordered them to do so.

Marriage licenses must be filled out in person by both spouses at any one of four Monroe County clerk’s offices. Forms cannot leave the office, Saunders said.

Monday afternoon, Huntsman and Jones were on their computer taking an online premarital class, which would have allowed them to marry Tuesday.

“Complete a Premarital Preparation Course for your Florida Marriage License and Avoid the 3-day Wait Period (or just because you WANT to!)” reads the website, floridapremaritalcourse.com.

The four-hour online course costs $30, and can be paid by credit card or Paypal. At least 34 of Florida’s 67 counties have approved the website for premarital counseling.

Two counties, Flagler and Monroe, require original documentation that a couple has completed the course. “They will not accept the emailed certificates,” according to the website.

If Garcia lifted the stay, Huntsman and Jones would have needed to have the original documentation delivered overnight to marry on Tuesday.

“We’re not doing this to be the first to get married,” Huntsman said. “We’re doing this to change the laws for everybody.”

Huntsman, who celebrated his 44th birthday Monday, said he wasn’t disappointed with Garcia’s ruling.

“It would have been cool [to marry] tomorrow, but it’s all going to change,” he said. “It’s all right.”

Miami Herald staff writer Cammy Clark contributed to this report.

Florida’s three-day waiting period

Florida law usually requires a three-day waiting period for any couple who applies for a marriage license. There are exceptions, however. From the clerk’s website:

* If both parties are Florida residents they must both attend a premarital class and present certification of the attendance to the clerk at the time of application. There is no waiting period. If no class is attended, there is a three (3) day waiting period (from the date of issue), before the marriage ceremony may take place. This class must be taken thru an authorized provider listed in Monroe County. Original certificate of completion is required at time of application. List of providers is available upon request.

* If only one of the couples is a Florida resident and the Florida resident takes the course, there is no waiting period.

* If both parties are out of state residents, there is no waiting period.

Updated with video: President Obama signs executive order protecting LGBT employees

Updated 1:20 p.m. Monday


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday gave employment protection to gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, after being convinced by advocates of what he called the "irrefutable rightness of your cause."

"America's federal contracts should not subsidize discrimination against the American people," Obama said at a signing ceremony from the White House East Room. He said it is unacceptable that being gay is still a firing offense in most places in the United States.

The fight over a gay discrimination ban for private employers has become embroiled in a dispute over whether religious groups should get an exemption.

Until last month, Obama long resisted pressure to pursue an executive anti-discrimination order covering federal contractors in the hope that Congress would take more sweeping action banning anti-LGBT workplace discrimination across America. A bill to accomplish that goal — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — passed the Senate last year with some Republican support, but has not been taken up by the GOP-controlled House. "We're here to do what we can to make it right," Obama said.

Click here to read more.

July 20, 2014

Minnesota Vikings suspend Mike Priefer for 3 games amid Kluwe allegations of anti-gay slurs and taunts


MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will suspend special teams coordinator Mike Priefer without pay for three games this season and donate $100,000 to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups, in response to former punter Chris Kluwe's allegations of anti-gay slurs and taunts made by Priefer.

The Vikings announced the punishment Friday as part of a summary of findings by outside lawyers hired in January to investigate Kluwe's accusations, which included a claim he was released because of his gay-rights advocacy.

The Vikings said Priefer's ban could be reduced to two games at their discretion, provided he attends individualized anti-harassment, diversity and sexual-orientation sensitivity training.

Such education has been required for all Vikings employees, coaches and players on an annual basis for the past several years, the team said, and the improvements for the programs will be considered.

Chris Madel, a former Justice Department attorney, and Eric Magnuson, a former chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, from the Minneapolis-based law firm Robins, Kaplan, Ciresi and Miller recently presented their report to the Vikings after interviewing 31 people and examining 121 gigabytes of data.

Click here to read more.

Watch: Steve Rothaus, Myriam Marquez, Katy Sorenson discuss Keys gay-marriage ruling on 'This Week in South Florida'

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Sunday, July 20, I appeared on Channel 10's This Week in South Florida hosted by Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg.

Other roundtable guests: El Nuevo Herald Executive Editor Myriam Marquez; and former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, now president and CEO of the Good Government Initiative.

We discussed topics including Thursday's ruling by Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia that overturned the state's 2008 Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed an appeal in the case. Garcia's ruling, only official in the Keys, has been put on hold, at least for now.

Also on the program: Key West gay-marriage plaintiffs Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, their lawyers Bernadette Restivo and Elena Vigil-Fariñas

July 19, 2014

No religious exemptions: Obama to sign orders protecting gay, transgender employees


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama plans to sign executive orders Monday prohibiting discrimination against gay and transgender workers in the federal government and its contracting agencies, without a new exemption that was requested by some religious organizations.

Obama's action comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that allowed some religiously oriented businesses to opt out of the federal health care law's requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge. Senior administration officials said Friday that ruling has no impact on non-discrimination policies in federal hiring and contracting.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

Since Obama announced last month that he would sign the orders, he's faced pressure from opposing flanks over the religious exemption and given no indication of where he would come down. Many religious leaders and conservative groups wanted him to exempt religious organizations from the order, while liberal clergy and gay advocacy groups adamantly opposed such an exemption.

Click here to read more.