August 10, 2014

Gallery | Miami artist Marcelo Holzinger hosts Midtown reception to benefit children's charities

2014-08-09 Marcelo Holzinger exhibit 024

Friends and fans packed Omega Décor in Miami's Midtown neighborhood on Saturday night to celebrate artist Marcelo Holzinger and an exhibit to benefit two charities.

2014-08-09 Marcelo Holzinger exhibit 018Holzinger attended with his husband, psychotherapist David Kessler.

The exhibit benefited UCP Baby House Project for children and young adults with cerebral palsy, and God's Innocent Angels Foundation for children and families impacted with RETT syndrome.

Excelsior Wines provided refreshments.

Click here to view a gallery from the event. Photos by Steve Rothaus / Miami Herald Staff.

August 09, 2014

David Vance photographs legendary singer Dionne Warwick and her granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott


Aspiring singer Cheyenne Elliott has yet to release her first album, but she's already showing off her Grammy: legendary pop star Dionne Warwick.

Miami celebrity photographer David Vance has long been associated with Warwick. In 2012, he photographed her for the album, Now.

Vance on Friday photographed Elliott, who is readying her first album.

"I've been doing photos of Dionne since 1982 and now her granddaughter has recorded her first CD," Vance says.

Vance shares with us an outtake from the photo session, a portrait of Grammy and granddaughter.

Vance, who's also famous for photographing beautiful men, describes Friday's Miami session as "a great shoot."

"Cheyenne is one stunning and charming 19 year old. Very sweet," he says. "We were were having such a good time before I knew it it was after 6 pm. It's always great to see Dionne, after 30 years, when she's here it's like a relative is visiting."

From Elliott's Facebook page:

Cheyenne Elliott was born into a world of song. Hailing from a family of musical royalty, which includes her grandmother - five-time Grammy Award winner Dionne Warwick, cousin - Whitney Houston, aunts - Dee Dee Warwick & Cissy Houston and uncle - Damon Elliott (hit music producer), it comes without question that Cheyenne would have an innate vocal talent herself. To bring it all full circle, her father - David Elliott - is an accomplished vocalist and songwriter, who is best known for penning Luther Vandross’ Grammy Award winning hit, “Here and Now.”

August 08, 2014

Gay state Rep. David Richardson automatically reelected after judge rules against opponent


TALLAHASSEE -- A Miami Beach publicist won’t be on the ballot in Florida House District 113, a judge ruled Friday.

Republican Laura Rivero Levey was disqualified from the race last month after a check she submitted to the Florida Department of State bounced.

SunTrust Bank accepted responsibility for the returned check, and Levey sued to have her candidacy reinstated. But on Friday, Leon County Judge Charles Francis said he could not extend the now-passed qualifying deadline to allow her to run.

State law is clear, Francis said: Candidates must pay the filing fee before the qualifying period ends.

“I find this to be a very harsh decision,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think there is anything the candidate could have done differently that would have changed what happened during the week… But I am bound by the precedent that says when the legislature speaks as to a particular item, I am not to guess at what it means.”

The ruling means incumbent Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, will be automatically re-elected.

Click here to read more.

'South Beach On Heels' wins best feature documentary at Madrid International Film Festival

Previously: Palace drag queens star in ‘South Beach On Heels’ at Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

South Beach On Heels, a locally produced film starring Palace drag queens Tiffany Fantasia and Noel Leon, won best feature documentary at the recent 2014 Madrid International Film Festival.

"We got the Best Feature Documentary 2014 Award!!! So happy since we competed with amazing documentaries and won!!!" writes filmmaker Dmitry Zhitov of Miami Beach.

Zhitov attended the screening with his partner, Jose Canto.

South Beach On Heels premiered in May at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It will be screened Aug. 24 at the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Ala.

You'll soon have another chance to see South Beach On Heels in South Florida. It will be screened in October at the Fort Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Stay tuned for details.

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Attorney General Pam Bondi: Let the U.S. Supreme Court decide gay marriage, not Florida courts

Updated: Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, at 2:44 p.m.


Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a filing late Thursday that Florida should stop fighting the gay-marriage battle at the state level and wait until the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue nationally, once and for all.

“Neither this Court nor the Florida Supreme Court can decide this federal issue with finality,” Bondi wrote to the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal. “The United States Supreme Court, however, ‘has the final word on the United States Constitution.’”

Bondi told the appeals court she expects the U.S. Supreme Court will act soon on the gay marriage issue. She cited filings this week from the states of Utah and Oklahoma asking their gay-marriage cases be heard by the nation’s highest court.

“A ruling from the United States Supreme Court would end the constitutional debate, end this appeal, and end all related cases,” Bondi wrote. “The State of Florida will respect the United States Supreme Court’s final word. In the meantime, this Court should preserve taxpayer and judicial resources by staying briefing until the United States Supreme Court rules.”

Lawyers for eight same-sex couples, who last month won the right to marry in Monroe and Miami-Dade circuit courts, say they want the cases heard as soon as possible at the Florida Supreme Court.

“Justice need not be patient,” said Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who co-represents six couples and Equality Florida Institute in the Miami-Dade case. “In my law practice, I see the real-life damage done to same-couples each day because of the failure to allow us to marry or to recognize our out-of-state marriages. For Florida's attorney general to argue that they should continue to wait, asserting both that there is no real urgency and, somehow, the Florida Supreme Court is incapable of resolving the matter statewide is insulting to Floridians and to our judiciary.”

Bondi’s filing came as a response to motions by the eight same-sex couples, whose lawyers want the cases to be consolidated and sent from the appeals court directly to Florida’s Supreme Court.

The attorney general agreed to consolidating the cases, but said there is no rush to conclude the Florida cases. Bondi’s filings did not mention rulings this week in Broward and Palm Beach counties that also declared Florida’s 2008 gay-marriage amendment as unconstitutional.

The appeals court has not said whether it will keep the cases or send them to Florida’s Supreme Court.

So far, no same-sex couples have been married in Florida. Rulings by Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel have been stayed until the cases are appealed.

Bondi believes the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the issue, perhaps before the Florida cases are resolved.

“If the United States Supreme Court rules before this court does, there will be nothing left for this Court to decide,” Bondi wrote.

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, disagrees. The ACLU and LGBT-rights group SAVE represent about a dozen same-sex couples in a separate marriage-recognition case in Tallahassee federal court.

“Florida couples and families shouldn’t be forced to wait to be treated equally to secure health insurance for a spouse and children, to ensure greater economic security for their families,” Simon said. “These families should not suffer just because our attorney general has chosen a legal strategy that has plagued her with awkward and embarrassing media coverage.”

Bondi, whose own marital history (she has been divorced twice) has been scrutinized since she began defending Florida’s gay-marriage ban, said whichever way the U.S. Supreme Court rules, the Sunshine State will accept the decision.

“Despite the vigorous policy and legal debates surrounding same-sex marriage, there is little disagreement about this: If the United States Supreme Court holds that States must sanction same-sex marriage, then Florida’s contrary laws must fall,” Bondi wrote. “And if the United States Supreme Court holds that States may choose, then Plaintiffs’ contrary legal claims must fall, and it would be up to Florida’s voters to effect any change. Either way, this appeal would be over, and it would end without consuming any further taxpayer resources and without burdening Florida’s judiciary.”

Bernadette Restivo, an attorney for Key West plaintiffs Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, said there is no guarantee the U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether states can ban gay marriage and that Bondi, who is up for reelection in November, is “more worried about the voters than fundamental rights.”

“We’ve had four very scholarly judicial opinions, all concluding that fundamental rights cannot be put to a vote. Absolutely not,” Restivo said. “Her response was so cavalier to the essence of our clients’ case. The civil rights that are being addressed go to the very core of our being. To expect our clients and other hundreds of thousands who are similarly situated — to put their lives on hold — is outrageous.”

August 07, 2014

Nan Rich endorsed for governor by Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance

News release from Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance:

Recognizing her consistent advocacy for the rights of Florida's LGBT community, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance this week endorsed Nan Richfor governor.

"Nan Rich has always been a passionate advocate for minorities and women.  She not only speaks to the cause of full LGBT equality, she has led the fight to achieve it," said Voters Alliance Chair Rand Hoch. "Nan Rich will be an effective Governor for all Floridians."

In 2007, Rich was the first co-sponsor of legislation introduced in the Florida Senate by then-Senator (now Congressman) Ted Deutch to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. Deutch introduced the bill at the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

Rich also opposed both Florida's ban on adoptions by same-sex couples and the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Rich helped one of the couples who sued to overturn the adoption ban by raising funds for their legal team. She has repeatedly called for state officials to stop defending the ban on same-sex marriage in court.

"I am very pleased to have the endorsement of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council,"Rich said. "I've always believed that Florida should recognize and support families of all types, and that no one should be discriminated against because of who they love. Florida needs a governor who believes in equality, and that is exactly the governor I will be."

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council Voters Alliance is Florida's oldest non-partisan LGBT rights organization which endorses political candidates.  

Since 1988, the organization has been dedicated to electing public officials committed to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. The Council promotes equality, through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation, and community outreach.

Charlie Crist: Rick Scott and Pam Bondi don't have to defend Florida's gay marriage ban in court


Democrat Charlie Crist, who as a Republican governor in 2008 supported a statewide constitutional ban against gay marriage and civil unions, criticized Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi on Thursday for defending the state’s gay marriage ban in court.

“It’s unfortunate that Rick Scott and Pam Bondi feel this way about gay marriage and are not embracing or tolerant of it. It’s embarrassing, frankly,” Crist said. “The rest of America is moving forward and they’re still on the wrong side of history on this issue. But we can fix it and they call it an election. Only 89 days away, so help is on the way.

“They should cease and desist on fighting gay marriage — same-sex marriage — and equality. The time has passed to do that.”

Crist, the former Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat who is now running for governor, made his remarks Thursday as he accepted the LGBT-rights group SAVE’s endorsement at City Hall the Restaurant in Miami.

When asked where he stands on gay marriage, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has said he “supports traditional marriage, consistent with the amendment approved by Florida voters in 2008, but does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for any reason.”

In recent weeks, South Florida judges have called the state gay marriage ban unconstitutional. Right-to-marry and marriage-recognition rulings in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been stayed pending appeals by Bondi. A Palm Beach ruling has not been challenged, but the judge ordered it only applie in the case of a Pennsylvania man whose husband died in Boynton Beach.

“Same-sex marriage is something we should embrace and not stand in the way of anyone. I have that view. I feel that way.”

Crist‘s record on gay marriage was rated a “Full Flop” by PolitiFact Florida.

“Looking back through his political career in Florida, we found that Crist’s opinion has traversed the spectrum,” PolitiFact Florida reported in May 2013. It noted that as a Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2006, Crist signed a petition to help get a gay marriage ban on the Florida ballot and said he supported “traditional marriage.”

While governor in 2008, Crist voted for the ban. As a Senate candidate in 2010, he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, saying he supported civil unions that afforded the legal benefits of marriage. Last year, he announced his support of gay marriage.

On July 29, Crist announced that if elected governor he would immediately sign an order banning discrimination against gay and transgender employees at agencies under his control and their contractors.

“Gov. Crist is one of the many Americans, like Presidents Obama and Clinton, who have made the personal journey from opposition to support for LGBT equality,” SAVE board member Joseph Falk said in a statement.

SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima said Crist "has stated in no uncertain terms that he supports LGBT people."

"He has put actions behind his words by announcing his support for marriage equality in Florida and filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the gay and lesbian couples in the Miami-Dade marriage equality lawsuit," Lima said. "He has promised executive action on equality on day one of his term. I'm confident he will work to ensure that the LGBT community has equal rights."

August 06, 2014

Three federal judges in Ohio weigh four states' same-sex marriage cases


CINCINNATI -- Three federal judges weighing arguments in a landmark gay marriage hearing Wednesday peppered attorneys on both sides with tough questions, with one judge expressing deep skepticism about whether courts are the ideal setting for major social change and another saying the democratic process can be too slow.

The judges in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considered arguments in six cases from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, setting the stage for historic rulings in each state that would put more pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue once and for all. Wednesday's hearing was the biggest so far on the issue.

The cases pit states' rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs' attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.

While questions and comments from two of the judges all but gave away how they'll rule, one in favor of gay marriage and one opposed, Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton vigorously challenged some of each side's assertions.

Click here to read more.

Key West readies for annual 'all-male, all-adult' Tropical Heat celebration Aug. 14-17

Tropical Heat  Toga Party at the Equator Resort

Gay Key West and the Key West Business Guild are preparing for the annual Tropical Heat celebration, Aug. 14-17, featuring drag shows, pool parties and a toga get-together.

Here's the news release:

The offbeat island of Key West is known for its year-round subtropical weather, but temperatures are predicted to rise dramatically Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 14-17. The cause is the annual gay Tropical Heat celebration, an adventurous long weekend of all-male all-adult fun, a presentation of Gay Key West and the Key West Business Guild.

Tropical Heat offers four days of sizzling happenings in the island city whose openness and respect for diversity have made it a world-renowned gay vacation destination. The festival’s intriguingly decadent events range from drag shows to pool parties to late-night gatherings at island clubs.

The heat wave begins at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14, with a kick-off party with Manhunt, a noted online gay dating service, at Island House, 1129 Fleming St.

On subsequent days, festival attendees can try naked paddleboarding with Nomadic SUP, compete for “best dressed” at a tropical toga get-together at Equator Resort, 818 Fleming St.; bid and buy at the Silver Key Lingerie underwear auction (a repeat of last year’s highly popular event,) turn up the heat at late-night parties at Saloon One, 504 Petronia St.(known for their fetish parties,) and Bourbon St. Pub, 724 Duval St. (you don’t want to miss the famous foam party)  and much more.

A variety of land-based and on-the-water activities are offered each day. They range from clothing-optional snorkel and kayak tours with Key West’s Blu Q to explorations of island museums and nature centers.

Nightly drag shows are staged at Aqua, 711 Duval St., and the 801 Bar, 801 Duval St. In addition, Saturday’s schedule features an acclaimed trolley tour showcasing Key West’s LGBT heritage and hotspots.

Sunday’s festival finale is an island city tradition: tea dance at La Te Da, 1125 Duval St.

Tropical Heat VIP access passes are available for $149 per person in advance at which represents a $71 savings from the $220 price if one attended all of the events.  Alternatively, attendees can pay individual event admissions.

For more information visit the web site at: or call the Key West Business Guild at 305-294-4603.

Fundraiser to help defray Huntsman-Jones gay marriage legal costs 6 p.m. Thursday in Key West

A fundraiser will be held 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Bottle Cap Lounge in Key West to help defray legal costs for the case of Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, the two gay bartenders suing to marry.

Here's the news release:

Mayor Craig Cates cordially invited the Legal team of Restivo, Reilly & Vigil-Farinas to Key West, Florida on Aug 7th to attend the LoveisloveKW kickoff fundraiser at the Bottle Cap Lounge @ 1128 Simonton St Key West Fl, 33040.

Funds are needed to defray legal costs. The attorneys filed a Motion in the Third District Court of appeal to move the case directly to the Florida State Supreme Court on behalf of Aaron Huntsman and William ‘Lee’ Jones.  This motion, if granted, will move the case quickly to the Florida Supreme Court, and will decide this issue of marriage equality for all Floridians, not just those in Monroe County.

Fundraisers are being planned countywide in anticipation of a vigorous appeal and challenges from the State and other anti-LGBT groups.

This kickoff event will be held from 6pm to 9pm Thursday Aug 7.

A future fundraiser is planned for Key Largo, attorney Bernadette Restivo says.