Archive for the 'LGBT Rights' Category

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.


Coming to Sarasota: Our New Domestic Partner Registry

Daniel Rein
Board Member, ACLU of Florida Sarasota Chapter

Despite Florida’s well-earned reputation as a bastion of conservative views regarding social issues, the LGBT community has seen changes reflecting a moderating of that reputation.

An increasing number of counties and municipalities are adopting ordinances recognizing same-sex couples as “family.” These take the form of registration of domestic partnership, usually with a city or county clerk, who then enters the names into a government data base. While these domestic-partner registries do not confer the legal weight of marriage, they generally give the couple certain important rights:

  1. Recognition of their union by the government entity;
  2. Notification of a life-threatening emergency by public authorities;
  3. Visitation rights in hospitals and jails;
  4. Medical and other healthcare decisions for an incapacitated partner
  5. Planning for a funeral/disposition of remains.

The couple must also agree to take care each other financially.

It is important to note that these Domestic-Partner Registries (“DPR”) are also particularly useful for opposite-sex couples who have children or other responsibilities from a previous relationship and who do not want to be married for estate-planning or other reasons.

The first of these DPRs in Florida went into effect in Key West in 1998.

The ACLU Sarasota Chapter, along with Equality Florida and Ken Shelin, a former Sarasota Commissioner, has been in the forefront of pushing for a DPR in our city. And on October 1st, the first reading of our proposed ordinance was passed unanimously by the Sarasota City Commission. The final vote will be today, October 15th, and ACLU supporters in Sarasota are encouraged to attend the meeting. Assuming the same result that we saw on the 1st, the law will go into effect ninety days later.

This is a huge step forward for equality in our city. Next step: watch out, Sarasota County!

Join us at the Pensacola LGBT Film Festival

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida

We are excited to announce the Pensacola LGBT Film Festival, the first-of-its-kind event in Pensacola. Spanning four days and four different venues, the Pensacola LGBT Film Festival highlights the artistic contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) films and filmmakers, both nationally and internationally.

The festival features award-winning films from around the world, as well the regional premiere of Unfit: Ward vs. Ward, a documentary recounting a Pensacola mother’s tumultuous fight to keep her daughter.

In presenting these films, the festival aims to stimulate dialogue in the Pensacola area about the LGBT experience, providing the region with a unique opportunity to experience cinema that transcends stereotypes and expose viewers to new experiences.

By creating this dialogue and celebrating the identities and stories that are often misrepresented or unheard, the Pensacola LGBT Film Festival seeks to create a stronger and more inclusive community. All of the screenings are free, so join us in strenghtning our community at the festival.

The festival is sponsored by the ACLU of Florida along with the University of West Florida, Pensacola Care Center, the UWF Gay-Straight Alliance, the PNS GSA, the Red Ribbon Charitable Foundation, Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida, Okaloosa AIDS Support & Informational Services, GLAAD, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

We look forward to seeing you at the festival!

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.


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.

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.

Welcome to the ACLU of Florida Blog of Rights!

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida.

Hello and welcome to the ACLU of Florida Blog of Rights! This blog is a resource for friends of liberty to learn about civil liberties news in Florida and the work that the ACLU is doing to defend the constitutional rights of Floridians.

In case you’re not familiar with the ACLU of Florida, we are freedom’s watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Florida Constitution, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

On this blog, we will share news on civil liberties stories going on in Florida, projects that the ACLU of Florida is working on, and opportunities for you to get involved and help us protect civil liberties in our state!

If you have a story that you would like to have featured on the blog, feel free to send a message to with “Blog of Rights” in the subject line.

Thank you and once again, welcome to the ACLU of Florida Blog of Rights!