Posts Tagged 'LGBT Rights'

Two Recent Victories for LGBT Rights

By Daniel Tilley
ACLU of Florida LGBT Advocacy

This week witnessed two steps forward in the movement for LGBT equality in Florida. First, courageous students at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola successfully established a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), the first of its kind in the Escambia County School District.

When students tried to form the club last fall, the school denied their application. The ACLU of Florida intervened, and within days, the school reversed course. Now that the school has brought itself into compliance with federal law, the GSA – which is made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, along with straight allies – can work to end bullying, harassment, and discrimination against LGBT students and others.

As the school’s initial resistance to the club shows, this discrimination all too often comes not only from peers but from the very adults who are charged with protecting Florida’s students. The ACLU of Florida applauds the work of these brave students at Booker T. Washington High School.

In a second recent victory, the Board of County Commissioners for Pinellas County voted 6-1 to approve the creation of a domestic-partnership registry (DPR) in Pinellas County, a county with more than 900,000 residents. Through a DPR, same-sex couples can get access to important protections that would otherwise be denied to them, including access to domestic-partner health-insurance coverage and other benefits through a participating employer plan, visitation rights in medical facilities, emergency notification, and rights to certain medical decision-making.

Although the bundle of benefits is small, these benefits are among the most important a couple can have. The ACLU of Florida and other coalition partners, such as Equality Florida, played a substantial role in this effort. Notably, this victory comes on the heels of eight other DPR victories in Florida, and the ACLU of Florida continues to work successfully with coalition partners and provide technical assistance and support to pass such registries.

Meet the New Northwest Florida Regional Organizer

Sara Latshaw
Northwest Florida Regional Organizer, ACLU of Florida

Life has certainly changed from the days of speedy mopeds, spicy curries, and the balmy offices of Art Relief International. My time in Thailand as the Executive Director of Cultural Canvas Thailand and Art Relief International has come to an end. While I can say that the transition between two very different worlds is not an easy one, it is something that I could not be more excited about.

Last week, I began my new job as Regional Organizer for the ACLU of Florida. With each passing day, my enthusiasm grows—a likely effect of the contagious excitement to preserve the rights and liberties of others that seems central to everyone working here. The roles that I will be playing our area continue to unfold as I delve into the diversity of projects in which the ACLU is involved.

Half of my time will be dedicated to developing, organizing, and implementing advocacy campaigns to advance and defend the rights of LGBT people in Northwest Florida. My first mission is to reduce discrimination in high schools, working with educators to prevent bullying and facilitate student-led Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). GSAs will be a fantastic way to make school a safer place for students.

In addition to my work with the LGBT rights, I will be working on other ACLU priority issues, including criminal justice reform, women’s rights, and drug policy reform. I am learning about Florida’s struggle with over-incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline—issues that I am eager to work to counteract.

I see the work that the ACLU is doing and it is important. I am grateful to be involved with such a thoughtful and passionate organization. While the sunny, bustling ACLU office in downtown Pensacola is a huge change from my life in Thailand, I can say one thing for certain: I feel at home.



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