October 07, 2015

Bill allowing pastors to refuse same-sex weddings clears House panel


A bill allowing religious groups to deny marriages to same-sex couples cleared its first hurdle in the Legislature on Wednesday, passing a House panel.

The Pastor Protection Act (HB 43) was written in response to increasing uncertainty in the law after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage this summer, bill supporters say. It passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee on a 9-4 vote along party lines, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against.

Sponsors Reps. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Bob Cortes, R- Altamonte Springs, said the legislation is necessary to give pastors additional protection, clarifying the religious freedoms in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"As everyone knows, there's been numerous changes in the law and the culture recently, so this law is designed to make clear in Florida statutes that no religious organization will have to perform or solemnize a marriage that violates their religious beliefs," Plakon said to the committee.

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August 27, 2015

MSNBC: Miami gay couple featured in Jeb Bush memoir won't vote for him


In his newly-released e-book, “Reply All,” Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush shares a tense email exchange over same-sex marriage with a man described by the former Florida governor as “a gay friend.” That’s a term the now 50-year-old Xavier Cortada, the gay friend in question, can’t dispute. But it doesn’t mean Bush will be getting his vote.

“I can separate my friendship from my politics,” Cortada told msnbc during a phone interview Wednesday. “Which is why I’m not voting for my friend, Jeb Bush.”

A longtime supporter of so-called “traditional” marriage, Bush has said repeatedly that he disagrees with the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex nuptials across the nation. But the new memoir of his governorship, as told through dozens of email exchanges like the one with Cortada, offers a little more insight into his enduring opposition to same-sex marriage.

Eleven years ago, on March 3, 2004, Cortada reached out to then-Gov. Bush about his support for a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to unions between one man and one woman. The effort failed at the federal level, but ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage in nearly a dozen stateshelped energize social conservatives and, ultimately, reelect Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush.

More here.

August 13, 2015

Married same-sex couple sues Florida to list 2 moms on babies' birth certificates


via @SteveRothaus

The first same-sex couple to legally marry in Florida went back to court Thursday, one week after they had twins and the state refused to list the non-birth mother on the babies’ birth certificates.

Catherina Pareto and Karla P. Arguello of Coconut Grove, along with two other same-sex married couples who recently had children, sued Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong and state health department registrar Kenneth Jones in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee.

“Here we go again. It’s ridiculous,” said Pareto, who with Arguello, five other same-sex couples and Equality Florida Institute, successfully sued in 2014 in for the right to marry in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

“Our twins were born last Thursday at Baptist Hospital,” Pareto said. “When it came time for Vital Records to prepare the birth certificates, when Karla requested that I be added as the second parent, I was denied.”

So far, the Florida Health Department has not publicly responded to the lawsuit. Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Pam Bondi, said the attorney general’s office “is not a party to this lawsuit” and has not discussed it with the health department.

More here.

Photo credit: Walter Michot, Miami Herald staff

July 08, 2015

Florida drops appeal of Miami-Dade, Keys same-sex marriage cases

via @SteveRothaus

Eleven days after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex couples have the right to marry everywhere in America, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday officially dropped her appeal of the state’s first two gay marriage victories, in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

One year after Bondi became a national symbol in the conservative fight against gay marriage, she submitted one sentence just before 5 p.m. to Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal: “Pursuant to Rule 9.350(b) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, Appellant State of Florida hereby voluntarily dismisses these appeals.”

Said Miami Beach attorney Elizabeth Schwartz, who helped represented six same-sex couples in the Miami-Dade case: “We are grateful that this misguided attempt at defending an indefensibly bigoted law has at long-last been abandoned.”

More here.

June 30, 2015

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler explains why he signed same-sex marriage proclamation

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, who voted against a same-sex resolution last year, signed a proclamation Friday celebrating the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seiler has tried to stay on the sidelines of the same-sex marriage debate.

A married Catholic who has four children, Seiler told the Miami Herald in 2013 that he had no position on the issue of same-sex marriage but supported civil unions and domestic partner benefits for city employees. In June 2014, Seiler voted against a city resolution in support of same sex marriage. The former state representative and Wilton Manors mayor has been mentioned as a potential future statewide candidate but his position on same-sex marriage could put him at odds with other Democrats.

The proclamation, which says it's in recognition of the "Marriage Equality Landmark Decision," was read in part at a rally Friday at the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse by City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, the city’s first openly gay commissioner. The proclamation states that Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of same-sex households in the nation, according to the 2012 Census.

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June 27, 2015

Fort Lauderdale mayor signs same-sex marriage proclamation

via @AmySherman1

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler signed a proclamation Friday celebrating the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's hardly surprising for his city, with its robust gay population. But it's a little surprising for Seiler, who in the past had tried to stay on the sidelines of the same-sex marriage debate.

The proclamation, which says it's in recognition of the "Marriage Equality Landmark Decision," was read in part at a rally Friday at the Fort Lauderdale federal courthouse by City Commissioner Dean Trantalis.


June 26, 2015

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen explains how she changed her mind on same-sex marriage


The New York Times compiled audio from eight leaders explaining how they came around to supporting same-sex marriage. One of them is U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, who on Friday called the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing the marriages one that "reflected our values."

"I did not have an 'A-ha!' moment. I evolved just like society did," she told the Times. She also spoke about her son Rodrigo, 29, a transgender man who was born Amanda Michelle.

"People look at me and they think, 'Oh, it's because of her family situation that she thinks the way she does now," she said. "It really is not because of that. I would have evolved to that position. Certainly Rigo sped it up for me and made it more personal for me."

Listen here.

Gay community celebrates in Broward

Jeff Bloom, 72, recalls decades ago when gay men got arrested in New York City for dancing together and when the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by psychologists labeled homosexuality a disease.

On Friday, Bloom witnessed a major milestone in the advancement of gay rights when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex marriage nationwide.

“To me, I never thought in my lifetime I would see something like this,” said Bloom, a single gay man while getting his hair cut at the Richard’s Men’s Hair Shop in Wilton Manors. “They recognized love is love.”

Customers and staff watched the news on the TV at the hair salon on Wilton Drive, the heart of Broward’s gay community.

“All of us started jumping up and down and screaming,” said David Krombholz, manager of the shop.

Older members of the gay community said they hope that younger generations will learn about the struggles they faced but acknowledged they will now grow up in a different time. Many recounted how they spent years of their lives hiding their relationships at work and elsewhere and now have seen the highest court declare equality.

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Florida politicians react to SCOTUS legalizing same-sex marriage


The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states Friday. Here's how Florida politicians reacted to the 5-4 ruling, updated as they come in:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida and 2016 Republican presidential candidate

I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage. This is a constitutional duty, not a political opinion. Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom, and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is compelled by law to violate their conscience.

I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, 2016 Republican presidential candidate

Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage.  I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.  I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.  In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.  It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida

Today's ruling reaffirms one of the paramount principles of America that we're all created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

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With 5-4 ruling, U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

via @MichaelDoyle10

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court made history on Friday, ruling that the Constitution ensures the right of same-sex couples to marry.

In a resounding decision that caps a remarkably fast transformation across the social, legal and political landscapes, the high court overturned marriage restrictions in Kentucky and three other states.

“Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

The court’s 5-4 majority concluded the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection ensures the same-sex marriage rights.

The decision locks in same-sex marriage rights nationwide, guaranteeing that marriages that have already been performed must be recognized in every state. The only way to unravel the court’s action would be to amend the U.S. Constitution, a longshot that has fallen from political favor.

“The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity, “ Kennedy wrote.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer joined in the majority decision. All were appointed by Democratic presidents, and their support for same-sex marriage was never in question.

In dissent, Republican-appointed justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito likewise voiced their positions foreshadowed by their prior opinions. Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. also dissented.

More here.

This story has been updated.