LGBT activists make their voices heard at Florida’s legislative session

By : AnitaHeading
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As the economic crisis continues to dominate lawmakers’ attention, Florida’s LGBT activists had to work double time to ensure awareness of key issues. When the session wrapped May 8, advocacy group Equality Florida had introduced four bills targeting LGBT interests: a repeal of the state’s ban on gay adoption, a civil rights bill that would make it illegal to fire an employee based on sexual orientation, a repeal of abstinence-only education in public schools, and a domestic partnership policy that would give domestic partners the same rights as spouses, written in the aftermath of the passage of Amendment 2.

The anti-discrimination measure and the adoption bill were also introduced last year. This year, the request to repeal the ban on adoption by LGBT parents has firmer language, changed to strike the ban outright.

“Tallahassee is a tough town in regards to LGBT issues,” said Mallory Wells, Public Policy Director for Equality Florida.

Despite the challenges, Wells said it was a positive year for LGBT activists and allies, with 87 co-sponsors for all of the bills and more than 300 lobby visits.

“We had more visits, more lobbying, and more co-sponsors than ever before, so there was a lot of positive action, in spite of a lack of actual legislative movement,” she said.

A highlight of that action was a rally on March 16 when more than 700 people gathered in the name of LGBT equality, including Harvey Milk’s nephew Stuart. Now that the session has adjourned, the focus is on keeping lawmakers’ attention on the key issues raised by the bills.

”The plan is to keep it in the forefront, keep people talking about it, more in-district visits and press conferences, and increased outreach to legislators,” Wells said.

The first step is a questionnaire for the 2009 elections, where key races for Central Florida include St. Petersburg city council seats and mayor, Largo City Council, and City of Miami City Commission. Wells said she hopes the results will encourage LGBT-positive voters to head to the polls, since turnout is historically low during off-year elections.

 

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