Archive for November, 2012

Celebrating Forever Families on National Adoption Day

See the video.

Nikki Fisher,
Field Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

Thanksgiving and the year-end holiday season are right around the corner. During this time of year, families gather to eat together, laugh together and generally celebrate being together. In the past two years in Florida, those families have included gay men and lesbians who have adopted children and given them loving homes. But it hasn’t always been that way.

For 33 years, Florida law categorically banned gays and lesbians from becoming adoptive parents. As a result, many children who could have been placed in a loving, permanent home were denied that opportunity, spending years in the foster care system and in many cases, aging out without ever being adopted.

In 2009, the ACLU of Florida, along with the ACLU LGBT Project, represented Martin Gill, a Miami father who was trying to adopt two children who he was already a foster father for. After years of litigation, the ACLU successfully overturned the adoption ban in the fall of 2010.

This Saturday, November 17, is National Adoption Day and thanks to this victory, all adoptive and potential adoptive families in Florida, including those with gay and lesbian parents can celebrate this occasion designed to raise awareness of children in need of a loving adoptive home and the parents who give those children the care and permanency of a family

In honor of National Adoption Day and in celebration of these incredible last two years we have created a video telling the story of Martin’s family and how the adoption process has evolved in Florida over the last two years. The video also features Vanessa and Melanie Aleni, who adopted their son Ethan right after the Gill decision. They are two loving, doting, mothers that have provided their son with the most remarkable gift: a forever home.

Through interviews with people on the front lines in the fight to end the adoption ban, the video recounts the story of how and why Martin and the ACLU challenged the law, describes what the monumental change has meant for other gay men and lesbians who want to provide kids with loving homes, and celebrates the new opportunities for children to find forever families in the wake of the decision.

In the time since we began our campaign, the number of families directly impacted by the court’s decision has continued to grow. As of now, over 200 children have been adopted by lesbian or gay parents.

National Adoption Day is a time to reflect on the importance of family and to celebrate those who helped give a child one. Today I’m reflecting on a time when we were interviewing Martin for the video, and he asked his oldest son, “What does adoption mean to you?” He looked at his dad and said, “forever family.” I’m proud to say that this year, because of the work we’ve done, there are hundreds of kids who will share this and every other holiday with their “forever family.”


A Victory for Core Civil Liberties in the Defeat of Amendments 5, 6 and 8

Howard Simon,
Executive Director, ACLU of Florida 

In this election, we Floridians had to defend our constitution from assault by our own Legislature.

The defeat of Amendments 5, 6 and 8 is  a major victory for the people of Florida over the  legislature which tried to deceive us into voting to surrender  our civil liberties  with misleading constitutional Amendments. The fact that the legislature came up short is a triumph for the constitutional rights of Floridians.

Amendment 5 would have altered  the delicate balance and separation of powers between the legislature and the courts by making the courts subservient to the legislature. The defeat of Amendment 5 is a victory for the independence of the judiciary on which all of our rights depend.

The defeat of Amendment 6 also represents a victory over an attempted overreach by Tallahassee politicians –  overreach into the private medical decisions of Florida women. In voting this amendment down, Floridians demonstrated that we trust Florida women to make private medical decisions rather than let legislators force decisions on them.  We are thankful that the voters refused to amend Florida’s constitutional right of privacy, making sure that everyone remains protected.

The voters also saw through the deceptive and  misleadingly-titled ‘Religious Freedom’ Amendment and preserved historic separation of church and state.  The defeat of Amendment 8’s  means that the Florida Constitution’s no-aid to religious institutions provision will continue to protect us against the dangerous entanglement of government and religion that comes with  taxpayer funding of religion.

The legislature tried to pull the wool over the voters’ eyes, but  the people of Florida demonstrated that we weren’t going to be fooled.

We are grateful for the support of our members, supporters, volunteers and local ACLU chapters across the state who worked hard with us to defend the Constitution from the legislature’s overreach.

Madeline Pumariega, President of the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College, speaks at the ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum

Madeline Pumariega is the president of Wolfson Campus, located in the vibrant and cosmopolitan heart of downtown Miami. She began her career at Miami Dade College in 1992 and has occupied various roles throughout her tenure, including  Dean of Student Services at Wolfson Campus and Dean of Students and Administrative Services at Medical Campus. Pumariega serves on the boards of City Year Miami and Take Stock in Children, and was a national Kellogg Fellow for the League for Innovation’s Expanding Leadership Diversity in Community Colleges program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in education from Florida Atlantic University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. at Barry University.
Watch Madeline’s remarks here.
For more information on Miami Dade College, visit

Gilca Santos, a newly sworn-in U.S. citizen, speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum


Gilca Santos, a newly sworn-in US citizen, spoke about voting at our “Let Me Vote” forum.

“It was one of the happiest days of my life. The day I got married, the day we arrived in the U.S., the days when my three children were born, and the day I became a citizen. […] Now that I am a citizen, I want to exercise my right to vote. I just registered for the first time one month ago and I am very excited. I want to help people from my community, and if I vote I can do it.”

Watch Gilca’s remarks here.

For more information on the Florida Immigrant Coalition, visit

Fanny Rengifo speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum


Fanny Renfigo, a Columbian-born US citizen registering to vote for the first time, spoke at our “Let Me Vote” forum.

Today, I am registering to vote. Despite the fact that I’ve been a citizen for almost 5 years now, I felt alone and without any motivation to vote. But this election I am more motivated than ever. […]Today I have a group of friends that teach me, support and encourage me, and this year I will finally feel the joy of casting my vote to help others achieve their dreams, the way I wanted to achieve my dreams, the way my daughter is achieving her dreams too.”

Watch Fanny’s remarks here.

For more information on the Florida Immigrant Coalition, visit

Kisha’sha B. Sharp, speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote Forum

Kisha’sha B. Sharp, General Counsel of the NAACP, Miami-Dade Branch, spoke about battling voter suppression at our “Let Me Vote” forum.

“We have answered the assault by registering more voters, and most importantly educating them on the new rules to ensure they have full access at the ballot box and turn out to vote.  We have utilized mobile technology and social media to recruit volunteers and register and educate voters. […]The bottom line is that we will not let any of the tactics be an excuse for anyone to fail to exercise their right to vote.”

Watch Kisha’sha’s remarks here:

For more information on the NAACP, Miami-Dade branch, visit

Natalie Carlier speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote event

Natalie Carter, South Florida Regional Field Coordinator for Civic Engagement for the National Council of La Raza, spoke about drawing inspiriation from her family in overcoming barriers to the ballot box.

In 2008 on the morning of election day, my mother rushed into my room at 6am to force me out of bed because we were going to go vote together. […] We stood in line together that day, waiting for the polls to open, and I realized then that my mom had come a long way from Colombia to the U.S. to let her voice be heard. And if it was important enough for her, it was important enough for me.”

Watch Natalie’s’s remarks here.

For more information on the National Council of La Raza, visit