Florida legislators wrap up a contentious session leaving the LGBTQ community relatively unscathed

By : Billy Manes
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Sine Die, they call it, the antiquated drop of the hanky to end the legislative session in Florida. On May 8, the bicameral bluster in Tallahassee came to an end following the approval of an $83 billion state budget that will siphon more taxpayer dollars to charter schools, and, remarkably, pull some power away from the state’s tourism driver, Visit Orlando. Those were the big headlines.

And while LGBTQ issues made their way around committees and lobbies, Equality Florida was there to fight back on some of the social issues.

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Sen. Rubio denounces gay Chechnya arrests on Senate floor

By : Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) denounced on the Senate floor Monday the ongoing reports of anti-gay arrests and detention in Chechnya, blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for allowing them to happen.

Rubio, who previously denounced the alleged atrocities on Twitter, called on the U.S. government to “do more to ensure that all people are protected and those who harm them are held responsible.”

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Transgender woman fatally shot in Miami area

By : Wire Report
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MIAMI (AP) – Authorities in Miami are investigating the fatal shooting of a transgender woman.

Authorities say Chayviss Reed was fatally shot at an intersection not far from the north campus of Miami-Dade College.

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Miami street to be renamed in honor of ‘Moonlight’

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL GAY MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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“Moonlight” will be getting a permanent honor in Miami.

Miami New Times reports that a street located in Miami-Dade County’s Liberty City will be renamed “Moonlight Way.” The street stretches from NW 22nd Avenue from NW 61st Street to NW 66th Street.

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Equality Florida, Democratic Progressive Caucus call for removal of Artiles from Florida state senate [UPDATE]

By : Alexis Vilaboy
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(Image from Florida House of Representatives website.)

UPDATE:

As of April 21, Sen. Artiles has resigned over the issue of his insensitivity.

“My actions and my presence in government is now a distraction to my colleagues, the legislative process, and the citizens of our great State,” Artiles wrote, according to the Miami Herald. “I am responsible and I am accountable and effective immediately, I am resigning from the Florida State Senate.”

“It’s clear there are consequences to every action, and in this area, I will need time for personal reflection and growth.”

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University of Miami moves forward with clinic to aid transgender people

By : Felicia Roopchand
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(Image from Med.Miami.edu.)

MIAMI – The University of Miami recently opened a LGBTQ Center for Wellness, Gender and Sexual Health. This will be one of the first in the southeastern region of the United States. This innovated clinic will provide a number of services to the LGBTQ community including comprehensive gender affirmation procedures.

“Gender affirmation surgery is major surgery that needs to be performed in a hospital setting rather than an ambulatory setting,” said Dr. Christopher Salgado, a gender affirming surgeon, professor of surgery, and editor of Gender Affirmation: Medical and Surgical Perspectives, according to a press release from the hospital.

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Equality Florida celebrates two decades of making change happen for our LGBTQ community

By : Billy Manes
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“Does this look OK?”

There are yachts. There is a breeze. There is Charlie Crist’s condo out of the corner of the eye. But on this day in St. Petersburg, March 22, there is only one figure that absolutely matters, and she’s sitting on a tree close to Cassis American Brasserie, posing for her cover shot.

Nadine Smith is the force behind most LGBTQ measures that have changed Florida’s societal landscape. Her calm tones weighted by heavy thoughts have come to define the nature of Equality Florida, the organization she formed with Miami’s Stratton Pollitzer 20 years ago. She played rugby at the Air Force academy, she says, but she didn’t know where the score would go thereafter.

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Anti-LGBTQ Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi racked up $253 million in taxpayer costs over six years

By : Wire Report
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TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott and other top Florida Republicans frequently complain about government spending, but they have quietly spent more than $237 million on private lawyers to advance and defend their agendas, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Florida taxpayers also have been forced to reimburse nearly $16 million for their opponents’ private attorney fees. That means an overall $253 million has been spent on legal fights in the last six years, including a water war with Georgia and losing battles to test welfare recipients for drugs, trim the state’s voter registration lists and ban companies that do business with Cuba from bidding on government contracts.

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LGBT activist interrogated at Miami International Airport

By : Michael K. Lavers of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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MIAMI — I left the Dominican Republic on Sunday with the expectation that my trip home to D.C. was going to be uneventful. An agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who was working at Miami International Airport ensured that it was not.

Here is what happened.

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State Representative David Richardson declares victory against conversion therapy in south Florida House district

By : Billy Manes
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Tallahassee – Gay state Rep. David Richardson took a stance early in this legislative session against so-called conversion therapy, the anti-LGBTQ means of “correcting” behaviors of the gay community. House Bill 273 presents a strong statement against the psychological manipulation of LGBTQ youth by therapists, arguing that conversion therapy – which can often include electric-shock therapy – must not be used on minors. In 2015, President Barack Obama made it clear that the nation, under his administration, would not accept “reparative” therapy, due to its destructive effects on patients.

“We share your concern about its potentially devastating effects on the lives of transgender as well as gay, lesbian, bisexual and queer youth,” his department said in a statement. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

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After 2 years, Florida court defines sexual intercourse

By : Wire Report
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) It took two years and three dictionaries, but the Florida Supreme Court finally determined Thursday that “sexual intercourse” isn’t just between a man and a woman.

The question arose during a case in which a man was charged with a third-degree felony for failing to reveal to his male partner that he was HIV-positive. His lawyer argued before the state’s high court in February 2015 that Florida laws were so narrowly defined that “sexual intercourse” didn’t apply to sexual activity between same-sex partners or any activity beyond traditional sex.

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Two state legislators aim to scrub contentious gun legislation from the Florida books

By : Billy Manes
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It may have seemed like a non-issue, especially considering that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled it unconstitutional just last month, but two Florida legislators are making a point of removing the controversial Firearm Owner’s Privacy Act from the state’s statutes. The law, passed in 2011, was television news fodder for weeks, as it challenged the ability of doctors to speak with patients about weapons in their homes. In 2011, a couple complained about being asked by their doctor about having firearms in their home. The confusion arose between limits on free speech and the Second Amendment. But it’s more than that, says state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, who just filed HB 6033 in tandem with Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Broward.

“It’s really important, because guns are a major cause of death and suicide,” Smith says. “Doctors simply ask about the common sense of their patients, like they ask about cleaning products, about chemicals in their pools. The fact that the Florida Legislature irresponsibly passed the first law of its kind is not only unconstitutional, it’s irresponsible.”

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