Archive Page 3

Dr. Rosalind Osgood speaks at ACLU of Florida’s Let Me Vote forum


Dr. Rosalind, Secretary of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, shared her personal story of overcoming barriers to participate in our democracy when she spoke at our “Let Me Vote” forum in Miami.

“Nothing in my history has led me to doubt that an empowered community will always overcome the most insurmountable challenges before them. I am a testament to that; So many of you in this room today are a testament to that; And across the country in the face of voter suppression, millions are standing together as testament to the strength of an empowered electorate.”

Watch Dr. Osgood’s remarks here:

For more information on the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, visit

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!

What is Amendment 8 – the Misleading-Titled “Religious Freedom” Amendment?

Howard Simon
Executive Director, ACLU of Florida

Howard Simon, Executive Director, ACLU of FloridaFor 127 years, Florida’s constitution (and that of 36 other states) has protected one of our oldest American values, the separation of church and state, by the following principle:

No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.

The provision applies to every religious group. No group is singled out. It requires that government funds not be used to fund any religion. It requires that religious programs are to be funded by parishioners, not taxpayers.

The provision was re-enacted by the voters in 1968, 1978 and again in 1998.

The constitutional principle barring government funding of religion – the heart of separation of church and state – prohibits taxpayer funds for churches or religious purposes. Religiously-affiliated charities continue to receive contracts from government agencies – but these contracts are for programs that serve the needs of the community (hospitals, soup kitchens, vocational training, substance abuse counseling and many others), not to further religion.

This protection for government contracts has been reiterated in the two cases that are inexplicably cited by proponents of Amendment 8 as the reason why the “no aid” provision threatens the work of religiously-affiliated organizations. Both cases (the DCA decision in Bush v. Holmes and the DCA decision in Council for Secular Humanism v. McNeil) state emphatically: “…nothing in the Florida no-aid provision would create a constitutional ban to state aid to a non-profit institution that was not itself sectarian, even if the institution is affiliated with a religious order or religious organization.”

That is not all. Amendment 8 would repeal our constitutional tradition of separation of church and state and replace it with the following:

Except to the extent required by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, neither the government nor any agent of the government may deny to any individual or entity the benefits of any program, funding, or other support on the basis of religious identity or belief.

This goes beyond the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and creates an entitlement under the Florida Constitution for any individual or entity (whatever that may be!) that calls itself a religion to receive any government “benefit.” No oversight or accountability is required for how the taxpayers’ funds are spent.

The “benefit” could include not only a voucher for a religious education at a church-run school but a health program that denies information about contraception to victims of human trafficking.

For example, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has refused to provide contraception or referrals for contraception in programs funded by grants under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The Bishops claim they have a religious freedom right to get the government contract and withhold services that violate their religious beliefs — regardless of the requirements of the contract and even though the funds were allocated to cover the full range of health care services for this vulnerable population. A federal court has ruled that, under the U.S. Constitution, a religious group cannot use taxpayer funds to impose its beliefs by denying vital health care services. The Bishops have appealed.

Amendment 8 is an attempt to legalize this practice in Florida by amending our state Constitution.

To learn more about the campaign to defeat Amendment 8 in Florida, visit

You can also download this fact sheet as a PDF to share with your friends.

ACLU hosts informative breakfast for Miami-area Hispanic media

By Bill Lara Director/Editor In Chief International Press Club Miami

In the midst of the GOP and DNC national conventions, the trenches are filled with the local activists of one political persuasion or another clawing at the wheels within the wheels of local government politicking. The ACLU is right in the middle of the fight and, it has its hands full.

Thursday morning, the ACLU hosted a breakfast for the Miami-area Hispanic media. The breakfast was organized by the Florida Association of Hispanic Journalists and the International Press club-Miami. On this occasion, the main objective was to muster some support for the ACLU’s legal and political battle against Florida Governor Rick Scott’s administration, which they are suing to oppose number of amendments (5,6 & 8) and, specifically at this moment, what the organization calls the “Voter Suppression Law,” a.k.a. HB-1355.


After a brief but energetic video greeting from Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, Howard Simon, the Florida Director of the ACLU and most senior member of the entire organization, gave a brief introduction to the program and began to enumerate all the arenas the ACLU is involved in, but emphasized the current problem with the apparent intent of these laws to make it harder for minorities, elderly and students to exercise their right to vote.

Even though the challenges to the legislation are individual and will have to be disputed independently of each other, they all stem from one single set of basic facts — there is an almost insignificant amount of documented cases of voter fraud (1/4 of 1 percent in Florida and 81 out of 300 million voters nationwide). However, the laws the legislature is attempting to pass would deny the right of vote to hundreds of thousands of legitimate voters while trying to prevent a crime for which fewer 100 people have been accused in the past few years.


The featured amendments singled-out by the ACLU in Florida are politically complicated. According to the ACLU presentation and handout literature, Amendment Five gives elected officials more control over the courts making judges vulnerable to the influence of said politicians. Amendment Six allows politicians to get involved in decisions traditionally only between a private individual and his/her doctor. And finally, Amendment Eight would allow religious groups to get government financial support and yet keep their tax exempt status.


In this occasion, and fortunately for the organizers, the turnout was excellent and the interest in the subject matter was so strong that there was an extended discussion way past breakfast with lively participation from the guests. The attending media included the Editor of the very popular and long standing Diario Las Americas, Mexican Consul Juan Miguel Gutierrez Tinoco, the Hispanic Affairs Director for the Israeli consulate, and representatives of the Florida Association of Hispanic Journalists as well as for the International Press Club-Miami, to name a few.


To access the material that was distributed during the event please visit:

To read the welcoming remarks by Howard Simon, Executive Director of ACLU of Florida, please click here 

To see the presentation power point, click here

To see the welcome video in Spanish by National ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, click here

Post edited for space. Full story at:

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.

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.)