September 13, 2014

Man wins fight to get same-sex union recognized in Arizona


PHOENIX  - In a ruling that calls into question Arizona's gay marriage ban, a judge handed a victory Friday to a gay man who lost his spouse to cancer last month and was denied death benefits because the state prohibits same-sex unions.

U.S. District Judge John Sedwick allowed Fred McQuire to be listed on his spouse's death certificate, marking another development in the national debate over gay marriage as state and federal judges across the country have struck down bans in more than a dozen states at a rapid rate since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.

Friday's decision only applied to McQuire, but the judge signaled that Arizona's gay marriage ban may not hold up after he hears a broader challenge to the constitutionality of the law.

"The court has not yet decided whether there is a conflict between Arizona law and the Constitution, but the court has decided that it is probable that there is such a conflict that Arizona will be required to permit same-sex marriages," said Sedwick, who was nominated to the federal bench in 1992 by President George H.W. Bush.

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September 12, 2014

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appeals several gay-marriage rulings statewide

Associated Press

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed appeals late Friday on several rulings overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage.

The motion argues the sole legal issue is the constitutional validity of the state ban and any changes should come from voters, not the courts. Florida voters approved the ban in 2008.

Bondi’s office said the agency joined the appeals to promote an orderly and consistent resolution after several judges around the state recently overturned Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage. Bondi has asked judges to stop ruling on same-sex marriage cases until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether states can ban gay marriage. A number of similar rulings around the country have been put on hold while appeals are pursued.

Judges in four Florida counties – Palm Beach, Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward– have overturned the ban. A federal judge has also overturned the ban. U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle in Tallahassee ruled on Aug. 21 that the ban violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Hinkle issued a stay delaying the effect of his order, pending possible appeals.

The latest Florida ruling came in a pair of lawsuits brought by gay couples seeking to marry in Florida and others who want to force Florida to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states.

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Joan Rivers’ executive producer speaks at Stonewall museum screening in Fort Lauderdale

The Stonewall National Museum and Archives in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday screened Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, a 2010 documentary about the comedy legend, who died Sept. 4 at age 81.

Larry Ferber, former executive producer of The Joan Rivers Show and a three-time Emmy nominee, presented the film and shared anecdotes about Rivers.

Click here to view and tag Facebook photos from Stonewall event. Photos by Jon Schwenzer, South Florida chapter president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA).

September 11, 2014

Music legend and ‘Fifth Season’ Bob Crewe dies at 82

kicksKaren Ocamb of reports that Four Seasons music legend Bob Crewe died Thursday at age 82.

Two years ago, Crewe’s brother, Dan, posted online that Bob suffered from dementia and lived in a Los Angeles nursing home.

Crewe, a gay man, ironically wrote the big ‘60s hit, Music to Watch Girls By.

Two years ago, I interviewed actor Jonathan Hadley, who toured for years playing Crewe in the national company of Jersey Boys.

Here’s my article about Crewe published Jan. 11, 2012:

'Jersey Boys' pals sing praises of unsung Fifth Season, songwriter-producer-performer Bob Crewe


Known in the music business as “the Fifth Season,” songwriter-producer-performer Bob Crewe is the creative talent behind Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, Lesley Gore and a legion of ‘60s American pop stars.

“He was responsible for that signature Four Seasons sound. He’s an unsung hero,” says actor Jonathan Hadley, who for four years has portrayed Crewe in the touring company of Broadway’s Jersey Boys, now at the Broward Center for Performing Arts.

Crewe produced the Four Seasons’ 1962 breakthrough hit Sherry, written by Bob Gaudio, and co-wrote (with Gaudio) Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag DollandWalk Like a Man. All were No. 1 hits that catapulted the Seasons — Valli, Gaudio,Tommy DeVitoand Nick Massi — into superstardom.

“[Crewe’s] an artist. He’s got the best ears in the business,” says Rick Elice, who in the early 2000s co-wrote Jersey Boys with Oscar-winner Marshall Brickman (Annie Hall).

Elice, whose play Peter and the Starcatcher (based on the Peter Panprequel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) is being readied for a spring opening on Broadway, says it was Crewe’s concept to overdub Valli’s falsetto on early Four Seasons recordings.

“He’s very hip to new producing techniques,” Elice says.

In his prime, Crewe also produced music for Michael Jackson, Bobby Darin and Patti LaBelle (he co-wrote Labelle’s Lady Marmalade). In 1967, he scored three big successes: co-writing Valli’s No. 1 Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You: scoring Jane Fonda’s film Barbarella; and performing the No. 2 instrumental Music to Watch Girls By.

Now 80, Crewe suffers from dementia and lives in a Los Angeles nursing center, according to a recent blog post by his brother, Dan, president of The Bob Crewe Foundation for aspiring artists, AIDS research and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.

In the early days, Crewe quietly identified as bisexual, Hadley says.

“We knew something was different about this guy but, back then, we thought Liberace was just theatrical,” says Hadley, 47, who is gay.

Right from the start, Jersey Boys is up front about Crewe. “My first line in the show is, ‘Watch your mouth Toto, we’re not in Newark anymore,’ Hadley says. “Right away, the audience says ‘Gay.’”

Elice says he and Brickman consulted with Crewe, Valli and Gaudio while writing Jersey Boys.

Crewe believed that in the early days, no one knew his sexual orientation. Wrong, according to Valli and Gaudio, who told Elice that “if you looked up gay in the dictionary, you’d see Bob.”

“It just didn’t matter to them. You’d think they’d be the kind of guys that it would be a problem. But they didn’t give a s--- if he was gay, straight or whatever,” says Elice, whose partner, actor Roger Rees, recently starred on Broadway in The Addams Family — book by Elice and Brickman.

Elice, 55, says Crewe made only one request of the Jersey Boys script: “That he not be represented as a screaming queen.”

“He’s not a screaming queen,” Elice says. “And Jonathan doesn’t play him that way.”

World OutGames Miami 2017 to host 2nd annual community reception on Tuesday, Sept. 16

News release from World OutGames 2017:


MIAMI BEACH – September 11, 2014 – The host committee of World OutGames Miami 2017 will present the 2nd Annual World OutGames Miami Community Reception on Tuesday, September 16, 2014, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in the B Ballroom, second level, Miami Beach Convention Center. During the reception, members of the host committee will review the accomplishments of the past year and explain what lies ahead in the planning process for World OutGames Miami when the city expects to welcome more than 15,000 participants and spectators from around the world.

The reception is free and open to the public with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and 2-for-1 Happy Hour cocktails. RSVPs are requested to by September 15.

In addition to updates from the host committee, civic and community leaders will be on hand to share some special surprises and voice their support of World OutGames Miami. Volunteer and participant opportunities will also be showcased where individuals can join the organizing effort or register to compete in the Games.

In addition to sporting competitions in more than 30 individual sports, World OutGames Miami will feature cultural activities that highlight the local flavor of South Florida and a global Human Rights Conference to discuss issues being faced by the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex) community from around the world.

Dates for World OutGames Miami are May 26 to June 4, 2017 with events taking place at venues throughout Miami Beach and Miami.

The Miami Beach-Miami Sports & Cultural League is the non-profit host organization for World OutGames Miami 2017. World OutGames is licensed by GLISA International (the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association) and takes place every four years in a different global city. 2017 will mark the first time that the Games have been held in the United States. Previous hosts have been Montreal, Copenhagen and Antwerp.  World OutGames is open to all who wish to participate, without regard to sexual orientation, and all competitions are arranged according to the skill level of the athletes.  Cultural and human rights components make the event a well-rounded experience for athletes and non-athletes alike. For more information on World OutGames Miami 2017, visit

World OutGames Miami 2017 is made possible with the support of the Florida Sports Foundation, Greater Miami Convention and Visitor Bureau, City of Miami Beach, and Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority.

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s Chuck Wolfe announces his departure as president


Chuck Wolfe, an Eagle Scout who grew up in South Florida and became Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles’ closest gay advisor in the 1990s, announced Wednesday he is stepping down as president of the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

Reports the Washington Blade:

“The Victory Fund and our supporters have endorsed and helped elect thousands of LGBT Americans who have been brave enough to put their names on a ballot, and their honesty has been key to changing politics wherever they serve,” Wolfe wrote in an email to Victory board members. “This work is as necessary as ever, especially in places where our community still feels powerless or lives in fear.”

Victory’s mission is to increase the number of openly LGBT officials in all levels of government and Wolfe has headed the group for 12 years.

Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT activist group, on Thursday applauded Wolfe’s tenure at Victory:

“Thanks to Chuck Wolfe’s tireless leadership and advocacy during his years at the Victory Fund, LGBT people are far better represented in elected office across America – more so than many in this community ever thought possible. During Chuck's tenure, Victory has helped to more than triple the number of openly LGBT Americans serving in elected and appointed office, and the number of out members serving in Congress has gone from just two to 8. Throughout history, government has virtually never been a leader on issues of equality. But Chuck Wolfe and the Victory Fund have helped to change that, ensuring that LGBT people are represented in the institutions with the power to address the vital needs of our community.

“We are sad to see Chuck leave. But at this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, the Victory Fund is in a powerful position to make great progress for the LGBT community throughout the nation. We look forward to a continued partnership with the organization and whoever is fortunate enough to take its helm. The entire HRC family wishes Chuck the very best, and the entire LGBT community owes him our deepest gratitude.”

The Blade reports that “in recent months, Wolfe has been struggling with health issues.”

“As he acknowledged during the Victory Fund’s annual brunch in D.C. this year, he had suffered a heart attack and was in the process of recovery,” according to the Blade.

September 10, 2014

Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival to screen ‘Cupcakes’ on Sept. 18


The Ft. Lauderdale Gay and Lesbian Film Festival on Sept. 18, 2014, presents Cupcakes, directed by Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox.

From the festival:

“Beloved Israeli auteur, Eytan Fox (Walk on Water, Yossi and Jagger) returns with a sweet, bubbly and downright delicious concoction that will appeal to the entire GLBT community. When a group of tightknit friends (Including a gay man and a lesbian) accidentally enter a Eurovision-style musical contest, their endearing tune is picked to represent Israel. Thrust into a world of glamour and high expectations, the friends struggle to navigate around the sharp elbows of the pop music business, along the way getting into plenty of hilarious hijinks.”

Cupcakes will be screened at Gateway Theatre, 1820 Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $10 (festival members), $12 (guests) and $7 (student with valid ID). Click here to purchase.

Same-sex marriage heading for Supreme Court vote?


WASHINGTON -- Both sides in the gay marriage debate agree on one thing: It's time for the Supreme Court to settle the matter.

Even a justice recently said she thinks so, too.

The emerging consensus makes it likely that the justices soon will agree to take up the question of whether the Constitution forbids states from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. A final ruling isn't likely before June 2015, but a decision to get involved could come as soon as the end of this month.

"I don't see a lot of reasons for them to wait," says Dale Carpenter, a gay rights expert at the University of Minnesota law school. "You have almost no one at this point opposed to certiorari," the legal term for high court review.

Officials in five states in which marriage bans were struck down by federal courts have rushed their appeals to the Supreme Court, in time for consideration by the justices when they meet in private on Sept. 29. Moving at breakneck speed, at least for the legal system, Indiana and Wisconsin filed appeals on Tuesday, just five days after the federal appeals court in Chicago struck down their state bans. The Chicago decision itself came just nine days after judges heard arguments, extremely fast for a process that usually is measured in months. Officials in Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia also have appealed to the Supreme Court.

Click here to read more.

September 09, 2014

Broward judge vacates gay marriage ruling, says state wasn't properly notified


The Broward judge who last month declared Florida’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional vacated his own order on Tuesday, after learning the lawyer for a woman seeking a same-sex divorce had not properly notified the state when the case began.

“It has come to this Court’s attention that the Petitioner, Heather Brassner, has failed to comply with [state law] by failing to notice the Office of the Attorney General of these proceedings by either registered or certified mail,” Broward Circuit Judge Dale Cohen wrote in his order. “Therefore, this Court vacates its prior ruling declaring Article 1, section 27 and Florida Statute 741.212 unconstitutional.”

Cohen canceled a hearing set for Wednesday afternoon at the Broward Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale to finalize the dissolution of Brassner’s 2002 Vermont civil union with ex-partner Megan Lade, and wrote that “the Parties may schedule a rehearing” in the case.

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office said Tuesday it had not been in touch with the judge and “will continue to monitor the case,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.

On Aug. 4, Cohen became the third South Florida judge in 18 days to declare Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional, following judges in Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. Since then, a Palm Beach County and a federal judge in Tallahassee also have ruled against the ban, which Florida voters passed in 2008.

Bondi’s office did not intervene in the Brassner case or appeal Cohen’s declaratory judgment against the marriage ban.

Thirty days after Cohen ruled, Brassner’s attorney, Nancy Brodzki, declared victory and expected Brassner’s divorce to become final on Sept. 10. She and other LGBT activists hoped the ruling would pave the way to gay marriage in Broward.

Brodzki said Tuesday she got a call from Cohen’s judicial assistant, after the judge realized the state had not been properly notified.

“The judge, being a very thorough judge, obviously was doing all his research prior to tomorrow’s ruling and came across a rule of civil procedure as well as the Florida Statute, and recognized that that rule and statute had not been strictly complied with,” said Brodzki, a Coral Springs divorce lawyer. “He is being scrupulous that he, as the judge, and we, as the petitioners, have dotted every I and crossed every T. He found one and wants to correct it, so that his judgment, when it is entered, is not attacked on procedural grounds.”

Brassner, a Lake Worth art dealer, said she is disappointed by the delay, but not angry with Brodzki. “It was just an oversight,” Brassner said.

Miami Shores reverses course, passes resolution in favor of gay marriage

2014-09-08 Miami Shores Council meeting 009


The Miami Shores Village Council reversed itself Monday night, voting 4-1 to support a non-binding resolution in favor of gay marriage.

“I am very happy to move the resolution in front of you,” said Mayor Herta Holly who voted against an earlier version, which lost 3-2 on July 15.

2014-09-08 Miami Shores Council meeting 041Holly and Councilman Hunt Davis changed their votes after a large segment of Miami Shores’ LGBT community expressed anger toward the council’s decision not to take a stand for gay marriage after the previous vote.

Holly said Monday that she supports gay marriage, but was advised by some residents that the Village Council shouldn't get involved in the debate.

Councilman Jim McCoy remained the sole voice against the resolution.

McCoy said gay marriage along with capital punishment, abortion rights and other politically sensitive issues should not be debated by the village council.

The original resolution was supported by Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma and Vice Mayor Jesse Walters.

“There’s been a sea change of opinion,” Walters said Monday night of gay marriage. “Please don’t allow the people to think it’s 50-50.”

Walters called the council’s reversal “democracy in action.”

“I’ve never seen a crowd fill this room, fill this lobby,” he said. “I am proud again to live here. I can see there’s real hope for us. The majority of people who live in our town are not bigots.”

Click here to view more pictures. Photos by Steve Rothaus / Miami Herald Staff.