Archive for August, 2012

Talking about LGBT issues in Hispanic/Latina Communities

By Brian Pacheco, GLAAD’s Spanish-Language Media Strategist

-Disponible debajo en español-

Last week, GLAAD’s Director of Spanish-Language Media, Monica Trasandes, Carolina González, Public Information Officer for ACLU of Florida, and I facilitated a webinar about LGBT issues for local South Florida advocates and community members, who took the opportunity to ask important questions. The result? Dozens became more informed about LGBT issues, and were now equipped to share the information they learned with their peers and loved ones. Working with Hispanic and Latino community members around the country is my absolute favorite part of the work that I do. As a Latino, it warms my heart to hear stories of Hispanic/Latino families accepting their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family members, and it breaks my heart to hear stories of rejection. But more and more I hear about beautiful, emotionally moving stories of families coming around and loving and accepting their LGBT family members for who they are.

Last week’s webinar was only one step that GLAAD and the ACLU of Florida are taking to do just that: advance equality for LGBT people in Hispanic/Latino communities. This is why I am happy to be a part of the ACLU’s South Florida Hispanic Initiative. I get to help LGBT and ally Hispanics have those conversations with their families, friends and members of their communities, to help build respect, support and acceptance for those us in the Hispanic community that are LGBT. In fact, study after study shows that Hispanic support for LGBT people and issues is strong and ever growing: A 2012 Pew Hispanic Center study showed that 59% of Hispanics/Latinos said that homosexuality should be accepted by society. A poll by National Council of la Raza this year showed that 54% of Latinos support marriage between same-sex couples. A 2010 poll by Bendixen & Amandi showed that 80% of Hispanics/Latinos believe that the gay community faces discrimination often; 83% of Latinos support housing and employment non-discrimination policies; 75% of Latinos support school policies to prevent harassment and bullying students who are, or perceived to be, gay.

This is great news. Yet we still have a lot of work to do to educate our Hispanic community about the harm that rejection of LGBT family members causes to entire families. Studies by the Family Acceptance Project has shown that family acceptance and support correlates with better health outcomes for LGBT youth; and conversely, rejection of LGBT family members by their families can lead to depression, and high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse, unsafe sex, suicide, and skipping school due to feeling unsafe. And according to a report by the Center for American Progress, although only 5-7% of all youth is LGBT, they comprise nearly 40% of all homeless youth; and of this, 26% is Hispanic. But we have great reason to be hopeful for a better world, since Hispanic support is already so strong. Hispanic families are stronger when they are together and our—my—Hispanic community is stronger when it is together.This initiative will contribute towards that, so please consider joining us: ACLU-FL GLAAD.

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Hablando de temas relacionados con personas LGBT en comunidades Hispanas/Latinas

Por Brian Pacheco, Estratega de Medios en Español De la Alianza Gay y Lésbica Contra la Difamación (GLAAD)

La semana pasada, la Directora de medios en español de GLAAD, Monica Trasandes, Carolina González, Oficial de Información Pública de la ACLU de la Florida, y mi persona realizamos un seminario sobre temas LGBT (Lesbianas, Gay, Bisexuales y Transgéneros) dirigido a activistas y miembros de la comunidad del Sur de la Florida, quienes tuvieron la oportunidad de hacer importantes preguntas ¿El Resultado? Decenas de personas fueron informadas sobre los temas relacionados con las personas LGBT y fueron capacitados para compartir información sobre lo que aprendieron con sus conocidos y sus seres queridos. Trabajar con miembros de la comunidad hispana y latina de todo el país es mi parte favorita del trabajo que hago. Como latino, me alegra el corazón poder escuchar las historias de familias hispanas / latinas que aceptan a miembros de su familia lesbianas, gay, bisexuales y transgéneros, y me rompe el corazón escuchar historias de rechazo. Sin embargo, cada vez más oigo hablar sobre historias conmovedoras de familias que apoyan, amar y aceptar a sus relativos LGBT por lo que son.

El seminario por Internet realizado la semana pasada fue sólo uno de los muchos pasos que GLAAD y la ACLU de la Florida están tomando para hacer precisamente eso: promover la igualdad entre las personas LGBT en las comunidades hispanas / latinas. Por eso estoy feliz de ser parte de la iniciativa hispana de la ACLU de la Florida. Yo vine a ayudar a los hispanos LGBT y aliados hispanos a tener este tipo de conversaciones con sus familiares, amigos y miembros de sus comunidades, para ayudar a fomentar el respeto, el apoyo y la aceptación de los que integramos la comunidad hispana y que son LGBT. De hecho, estudios tras estudios muestran que el apoyo hispano hacia las personas y temas LGBT es cada vez mayor y más fuerte: Un estudio de Pew Hispanic Center, 2012 muestra que 59% de los Hispanos/Latinos dicen que la homosexualidad debería ser aceptada en nuestra sociedad. Una encuesta realizada por  National Council of la Raza este año muestra que 54% de los Latinos/Hispanos apoya el matrimonio entre parejas del mismo sexo. Una encuesta realizada en 2010 por Bendixen & Amandi muestra que  80% de los Hispanos/Latinos cree que la comunidad gay enfrenta discriminación frecuente; 83% de los Latinos/Hispanos apoya que se implementen políticas de empleo de no-discriminación; 75% de los Latinos/Hispanos apoya políticas escolares para prevenir el acoso e intimidación a estudiantes que son, o parecen ser gay.

Esto es una gran noticia. Sin embargo, aún nos queda mucho trabajo por hacer para educar a la comunidad hispana/latina acerca de los daños que el rechazo a familiares LGBT ocasiona a familias enteras. Los estudios realizados por el Proyecto de Aceptación Familiar han mostrado que la aceptación familiar y el apoyo se correlacionan con mejores resultados de salud para jóvenes LGBT, y por el contrario, el rechazo de familiares LGBT puede llevar a la depresión y conductas de alto riesgo, como el abuso de sustancias, prácticas sexuales de riesgo , suicidio, y ausentismo escolar debido a la sensación de inseguridad. Y según un informe del Center for American Progress, aunque sólo el 5-7% de todos los jóvenes pertenece a la comunidad LGBT, ellos comprenden casi el 40% de todos los jóvenes sin hogar, y de éste, el 26% es de origen hispano. Pero tenemos motivos para tener esperanza de un mundo mejor, ya que el apoyo hispano/latino es ya muy fuerte. Las familias hispanas son más fuertes cuando están unidas, nuestra -mi- comunidad hispana es más fuerte cuando está unida. Y esta iniciativa contribuirá a esta unión, así que por favor considere unirse a nosotros: ACLU-FL GLAAD.

ACLU of Florida at the RNC: August 28 – Volunteers and Voter Suppression

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

ACLU of Florida VolunteersOn Tuesday, August 28, the Republican National Convention in Tampa fully got underway, and the ACLU of Florida had volunteers on the ground to make sure people knew their First Amendment rights. Our volunteers were fantastic in their sheer numbers, in their work ethic and in their enthusiasm for protecting and celebrating the Constitution.

Most of our volunteers met at our Tampa office in the morning for a quick orientation before heading out to the downtown area to begin distributing information and making contact with protesters. We all collected materials at our mobile resource center, then three groups of volunteers went out to different areas of protest activity – one group to the “Romneyville” camp, one to the official march staging area, and one to the “public viewing area,” the 2012 RNC’s answer to earlier conventions’ “First Amendment Zone.”

The after-effects of Tropical Storm Isaac and the condensed convention schedule were still having an impact on the number of protesters out on the streets, but our volunteers made contact with multiple groups of demonstrators and made sure that they received our First Amendment Toolkits.

One group of volunteers even came across a group from Westboro Baptist Church and a surrounding group of counter-protesters. The First Amendment, after all, protects everyone’s speech, even groups diametrically opposed to one another.

ACLU of Florida Field Coordinator Nikki Fisher distributing material at the Rally Against Voter Suppression in Ybor CityIn the evening, staff and volunteers attended the “Rally and March Against Voter Suppression” at Centennial Park in Ybor City, a district known for its arts and nightlife to the northeast of downtown Tampa and site of many official and unofficial RNC parties.

Our board president, Ret. Col. Mike Pheneger was invited to speak to the crowd about our work fighting voter suppression in Florida (Note: by watching video, YouTube and Google will put a permanent cookie on your computer). But as with every protest event that our staff and volunteers attended, our primary purpose was to inform everyone about their First Amendment rights.

ACLU of Florida at Rally and March Against Voter Suppression After the rally, a few hundred protesters from many different groups and carrying many different messages marched the streets of Ybor City.

Even in their reduced numbers, it was an impressive display of First Amendment activity on the second official, but first full, day of the Republican National Convention.

(Note: Images or descriptions of protests during the Republican National Convention do not represent an ACLU of Florida endorsement of the individual, organization or message. The ACLU of Florida is in Tampa to promote the First Amendment rights of all groups.)

ACLU of Florida at the RNC: August 27 – Welcome to Tampa

Baylor Johnson
ACLU of Florida Online Advocacy Coordinator

Inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tropical Storm Isaac reduced the first day’s program for the Republican National Convention down to a 30-second introduction.

But there was still a full day of free-speech activity on the streets of Tampa. The storm may have diminished the size of the protests – busses dropping off out-of-town protesters from across the state and region wouldn’t drive into a tropical storm warning zone – there were nevertheless hundreds of protesters on the streets braving the wet to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Tampa Protesters: "Welcome to Tampa"After a quick morning conference call with our state headquarters in Miami, we headed out to our mobile resource center along the official parade route for the “March on the RNC,” a large rally and march scheduled for midday. Although their numbers were less than expected (event organizers had expected as many as 5,000, but they ended up with somewhere around 700-800), the crowd was nevertheless very vocal and welcoming of the ACLU of Florida and took hundreds of copies of our First Amendment Toolkit.

When the march arrived at the public viewing area, where police far outnumbered the protesters, a small group led an un-permitted march back up along the parade route. Police initially held them back, but ultimately relented and let them head back along the route which they came.

Following the March on the RNC, our staff headed up to “Romneyville,” delivering our toolkit to religious and medical policy groups we encountered on the way. Romneyville is the “Occupy”-style encampment on the north end of downtown. They were planning an unpermitted march through downtown, and we distributed materials to the attendees and answered questions about protesters’ rights before the march started.

Though our staff left before the march got underway, we heard from people who were present that the police in riot gear allowed them to march unpermitted for a few blocks and then ultimately stopped them. Protesters sat down locking arms, preparing for arrests, but a Tampa police official kneeled down and spoke with demonstrators at the front, explaining that the sidewalks were open. The crowd dispersed with no arrests.

Tampa Bicycle Police at the RNCMonday evening, I was given press credentials to go inside the convention center to talk to reporters about protesters’ rights and security. If the police presence around the protest areas was large, it was nothing like the security apparatus around the convention center and arena.

But in spite of the sheer numbers of police, the relationship of mutual respect that police and city officials worked to sustain with protest groups throughout the planning process and at our First Amendment forums seems to have held up during the first day of the convention. And as of Monday, there were only two arrests in Tampa related to the RNC.

But the ACLU has seen seemingly neutral security laws spiral out of control at these conventions in years past, which is why we started a national petition to the mayors of Tampa and Charlotte asking them to protect free speech. We’ll continue to make sure that people’s free speech rights are being respected and protected and celebrate free speech at the RNC.

(Note: Images or descriptions of protests during the Republican National Convention do not represent an ACLU of Florida endorsement of the individual, organization or message. The ACLU of Florida is in Tampa to promote the First Amendment rights of all groups.)

ACLU of Florida at the RNC – August 28: The Calm Before the Storm

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

Today was my first full day in Tampa for the Republican National Convention, but the time I spent with other ACLU staff distributing our First Amendment Toolkit to coalition groups and organizing volunteers was hardly the first day that I or the rest of the ACLU of Florida has been working on the RNC. In the past year, we’ve had forums with city and police officials and First Amendment experts (note: by watching video of the First Amendment Forum, Google and Youtube will put a permanent cookie on your computer), we’ve developed resources for protesters – we’ve worked hard to make sure that everyone’s rights are respected and protected during the convention. This weekend  marks the transition from that year-long preparation phase to the work of promoting and celebrating free speech on the streets of Tampa.

ACLU of Florida resource center vehicle at the RNCYesterday, just before the roads around the arena were closed for the week, our staff placed a rented vehicle full of ACLU materials and “Know Your Rights” resources at a spot along the official parade route to serve as our resource center inside the event zone.

Our spot, just four blocks from the arena, puts us right in the middle of where many protests will take place, so we can serve as a convenient resource for people seeking information about their rights as protesters, what some of the limitations are on protests during the RNC and what to do if stopped by police throughout the week.

For now though, we wait. Tropical storm Isaac has thrown a curveball at everyone whose work involves the RNC, from the convention planners, to city officials, to protest groups and organizations like the ACLU of Florida who work to protect their rights. The first day of the official convention schedule has been reduced to a quick pro forma meeting, and some of the other events planned for Monday around the convention have been cancelled or postponed.

So after spending our day with one eye on our preparations and one eye on the weather reports, we’ve made the decision to cancel volunteer activities tomorrow, August 28th, for safety and practicality reasons.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t still busy. ACLU of Florida Field Coordinator Nikki Fisher and I are spending our evening contacting volunteers, while others are distributing our First Amendment Toolkit at events in Tampa and St. Pete, including at a big rally at Tropicana Field. And our board president, Mike Pheneger, worked with one group today to secure their permit to do a major art installation in downtown Tampa. And tomorrow we will all

Tomorrow, Isaac will have its impact on Tampa, and on Tuesday, the protests and the convention ramp back up to their previously-expected intensity. And so today, as we prepare for the intensity of the coming days, we’re both literally and figuratively in the calm before the storm.

(Note: Images or descriptions of protests during the Republican National Convention do not represent an ACLU of Florida endorsement of the individual, organization or message. The ACLU of Florida is in Tampa to promote the First Amendment rights of all groups.)

Volunteers Needed: Join Us in Defense of Free Speech at the RNC

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

First Amendment

We’ve been preparing ourselves and our communities for months, and now it’s finally here. In just over a week, the eyes of the world will be on Florida when the 2012 Republican National Convention comes to Tampa.

Help us protect First Amendment rights on the streets of Tampa by volunteering with the ACLU of Florida.

With the help of ACLU supporters like you, we’ve held town halls, forums and webinars, we’ve created and distributed materials about First Amendment rights, and we’ve met with city and law enforcement leaders to make sure that people’s rights are being protected, all in preparation for what’s happening in our state in a few short days. Now is your chance to help us make sure that all of that work pays off.

While the world focuses on what’s happening inside the arena, there will be thousands of people outside attempting to exercise their First Amendment rights while navigating rules, restrictions and a major law enforcement presence. We need volunteers to help with a public education campaign to let demonstrators, journalists, activists and even local citizens know about their rights and the role of the ACLU in protecting those rights.

Sign up today to volunteer during the RNC and be a part of First Amendment history.

The RNC is coming. Is the Bill of Rights Ready?

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

First AmendmentAt the end of this month, thousands of protesters, journalists, and political activists will descend on the Tampa Bay area for the 2012 Republican National Convention. And with their arrival comes increased police presence, new local laws, and millions of dollars in surveillance and law enforcement equipment, all of which will change the way citizens in the area live their lives and understand their rights.

Join us on Tuesday, August 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. for 2012 RNC in Tampa: What You Need to Know, a free forum on what the RNC means for you and what you can do to protect your rights. We’ll discuss the rights of demonstrators and photographers, the permitting process and other rules and restrictions passed for the event, and take questions from the attendees on how you can stand up for your rights.

The event will feature leaders from the ACLU of Florida; First Amendment experts Dr. Bruce Friesen from the University of Tampa Human Rights Think Tank, and Prof. Louis Virelli of Stetson University College of Law; and civic leaders such as Public Defender Julianne Holt, Tampa City Attorney James Shimberg, and Tampa Police Department Assistant Chief John Bennett.

The event is co-sponsored by the University of Tampa and is free and open to the public. To RSVP or if you have any additional questions or comments, please contact our Mid-Florida Regional Director Joyce Hamilton Henry at jhamiltonhenry@aclufl.org.

Invite your friends, family, and anyone else who will be impacted by the RNC. We look forward to seeing you at the forum!

13,000 Rights Restoration Letters Gathering Dust in Tallahassee

Voting RightsThis week, we made a bombshell discovery in our work defending the right to vote in Florida against voter suppression. A public records request we filed with the Florida Parole Commission has uncovered 17,604 Restoration of Civil Rights (RCR) certificates that were returned to the Parole Commission as “undeliverable.”

That means over 17,000 formerly-incarcerated Floridians have had their voting and civil rights restored but haven’t received official notice from the state. After further investigation, we found that about 77% of the citizens who had the right to vote but haven’t received their notices – 13,517 Florida citizens – haven’t registered to vote yet, and may not even know that they have the right to vote at all.

The ACLU is encouraging Florida citizens who applied to have their rights restored but who have not received a response from the state to either:

  • call the Florida Parole Commission at 1-800-435-8286;
  • visit the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC) website at www.restorerights.org, and click “How to Restore Rights” to learn about checking your status.
  • or contact your local county Supervisor of Elections office for assistance in checking your status and determining whether you are eligible to vote.

It should be no surprise that Governor Scott, who rolled back the rights restoration reforms of his predecessor, hasn’t done more to help the Parole Commission contact these citizens about their voting rights. As ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon put it, “The contrast between the baseless claims that Governor Scott has made about voter fraud and the lengths to which he has gone to make voting more difficult, and the inattention to the thousands of voting rights restoration certifications gathering dust in the capitol could not be sharper.”

Read our press release to learn more about this week’s discovery, Florida’s system of lifetime disfranchisement for former felons, and the work the ACLU is doing to reform it.



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