Florida Tourism Officials Want to Be Prepared if Same-Sex Marriage Given OK

Tourism leaders in Broward and Palm Beach counties are exploring ways to promote same-sex weddings in next year’s marketing plans in the event it’s legalized soon.
If the same-sex marriage ban is lifted statewide in coming months, tourism officials say they want to be ready to spread the word to the LGBT community that they can now legally tie the knot in the destination.

“We want to be literally ready to go,” said Richard Gray, managing director LGBT market for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.
For now, Gray is keeping mum on details. “We don’t
want to show our hand to the competition.”
Jorge Pesquera, president of Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s tourism marketing organization, said, “As we continue to work on our 2015 marketing plan, we are certainly taking into consideration the increasingly important LGBT niche market, among others.”
Earlier this month, Broward’s tourism bureau officially came out in support of overturning same-sex marriage bans in Florida. The gay-marriage nod follows nearly two decades of actively promoting the destination to LGBT travelers.
Last year, Broward welcomed a record-breaking 1.3 million LGBT tourists. And many more are expected to visit if gay marriage is legalized statewide, tourism officials say.

Palm Beach County Palm Beach County welcomed about 480,000 LGBT visitors in 2013 — roughly 8 percent of the 6 million people who visited that year, tourism records show.Local hotels such as the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood and il Lugano in Fort Lauderdale already have gay- wedding-certified specialists in house to cater to the needs of same-sex couples.
As part of its efforts to attract LGBT travelers, the tourism agency has made “tactical investments” in events such as the International Gay Polo Tournament, which will mark its sixth year in April 2015, Pesquera said Gay polo attracts between 5,000 and 10,000 people, he said. It also supports PrideFest of Lake Worth and The Palm Beaches, a two-day event set for March 2015.
Several same-sex couples are now battling in courts across South Florida for rights to legally marry in the state or have their marriage from elsewhere be recognized here.
Lawyers and civil rights groups lobbying for their rights have said it’s only a matter of time before the state joins 19 others that have legalized gay marriage. On Friday, a Miami-Dade circuit judge issued a ruling overturning Florida’s ban on gay marriage, but chances are, as in a recent Monroe County case, the state will appeal.
“We believe it will be happening,” Gray said of Florida’s legalization of gay marriage. “The economic impact will be phenomenal for us.”
In the first year after New York City legalized same-sex marriages, it reaped $259 million in economic impact, according to a survey by NYC & Co., the city’s tourism marketing firm. Some 8,200 gay-marriage licenses were issued during the period.

Judge Zabel struck down Florida’s marriage equality ban in Miami-Dade County

 Judge Zabel struck down Florida’s marriage equality ban in Miami-Dade County, affirming that the denial of marriage to same-sex couples in our state is unconstitutional.

“To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the... classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law,” Zabel wrote in her order, citing a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a state ban on interracial marriage.
John Stemberger, who led the 2008 campaign to amend the state constitution, was vehemently critical of Zabel’s decision, especially her reference to the Supreme Court case on interracial marriage.
“Wow,” said Stemberger, president and general counsel of the conservative Florida Family Policy Council in Orlando. “Race and ethnicity are not an inherent property of marriage. Gender, however, isan inherent property of marriage. This is why her reliance on Loving is misplaced. Loving in essence said any man can marry any woman irrespective of race and ethnicity.”

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gaysouthflorida/#storylink=cpy

On July 17, Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis Garcia also ruled Florida’s gay marriage ban unconstitutional and ordered that two gay Key West men be allowed to marry. That decision has also been stayed and Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones have not yet been allowed to marry in Florida.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/25/4255321/miami-dade-judge-floridas-gay.html#LoveIsLove#storylink=cpy
This decision, one week after the victory in Monroe County, signals that momentum for marriage is at an all-time high in Florida. But it’s too early to break out the wedding bells. The judge issued a stay on her ruling, meaning same-sex couples in Florida can’t marry just yet.
Still, today’s ruling brings us closer than we’ve ever been to the freedom to marry in Florida. Now this case also heads to a higher court which hopefully will result in a victory that will apply state wide! 

Today’s ruling didn't just come from nowhere; there’s no doubt about that. It’s the direct result of the historic movement supporters like you have helped build in every region of the state. Thanks for always being there to speak out and support this amazing movement in the Sunshine State. 

Read Miami Herald's Op-Ed

Time to move on, Ms. Bondi

Ms. Bondi has fulfilled her duty by battling to support the law, but there’s a point beyond which it becomes futile to keep fighting it out in court. She should support the move to get the case before the state Supreme Court as quickly as possible to get a dispositive ruling and be done with it as soon as possible without further needless waste of state resources.

Many Of Broward Schools To Add An Hour To School Day

An extra hour of school may sound like a nightmare to some students—and just that may be happening soon for some Broward County kids at the start of next year.
A total of 32 Broward elementary schools—mostly in the east, from Hollywood to Pompano Beach, and all but two run by the district—the Sun Sentinel reports are on Florida’s list of the 300 lowest-performing elementaries.
The state law requires schools add an hour of reading instruction—as the scores, for the schools mentioned, are only based on FCAT reading results, the paper reports.
Students, however, who earned the highest possible score on the FCAT are exempt.
Whether the hour will be added to the school day’s morning or afternoon remains a question.
“Honestly, we can’t afford the number of buses we would need to put on the road at that time in the afternoon,” Mark Strauss, director of school performance and accountability told the Sentinel.
Some parents told the paper they are concerned about how the added time will affect the child’s free time as well as family time.
The list of Broward elementary schools that will add an hour are:
North Side Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
West Hollywood Elementary, Hollywood
Colbert Elementary, Hollywood
Walker Elementary School, Fort Lauderdale
Oakridge Elementary, Hollywood
Broward estates Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
Watkins Elementary, Pembroke Park
Tedder Elementary, Pompano Beach
Larkdale Elementary, Lauderhill
Westwood Heights Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
Pompano Beach Elementary, Pompano Beach
Lake Forest Elementary, Pembroke Park
Plantation Elementary, Plantation
Lloyd Estates Elementary, Oakland Park
Palmview Elementary, Pompano Beach
North Fork Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
Castle Hill Elementary, Lauderhill
Martin Luther King Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
Fairway Elementary, Miramar
C. Robert Markham Elementary, Pompano Beach
Cypress Elementary, Pompano Beach
Oriole Elementary, Lauderdale Lakes
Royal Palm Elementary, Lauderhill
Park Ridge Elementary, Pompano Beach
North Lauderdale Elementary, North Lauderdale
Pinewood Elementary, North Lauderdale
Charles Drew Elementary, Pompano Beach
Thurgood Marshall Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
Rock Island Elementary, Fort Lauderdale
Park Lakes Elementary, Lauderdale Lakes
Broward Community Charter School, Coral Springs
Somerset Academy Hollywood

Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Deliver 7-Thousand Petitions To Attorney General

More than 7-thosuand petitions are delivered to the office of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi who is leading the legal fight against same-sex marriage.
PHOTO-credit Equality Florida
Supporters are asking Bondi to drop her legal fight immediately because it violates their equal rights.

A Monroe County judge ruled against Florida's ban, but the order is delayed because Bondi filed an appeal with the district court.
Gay couples say they have the same right to get married and start a family as everyone else.

Sen. Bill Nelson: The children at the border

Like many Americans I’m concerned about the recent surge of undocumented children crossing the southern U.S. border.

I want to share with you some information I’ve gotten as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

According to some of our military officials, part of the reason we’re seeing this influx is an increase in violence associated with the drug cartels - and that, in part, is due to big cuts in our drug interdiction in that region. 

I think they’re right. Here’s two links to watch what I've shared on the Senate floor about this topic: 

As always, thanks for your interest. 


Rick Scott stands to personally profit from a gas pipeline project that he approved as Governor in 2013

t turns out that Rick Scott stands to personally profit from a gas pipeline project that he approved as Governor in 2013. Can you say "conflict of interest,

Judicial Candidate Bailey: One Ad For Blacks, Another For Whites

Broward Beat is reporting:
Below are two similar handouts that judicial Broward Circuit Court candidate Dennis Bailey is passing out at speaking events.
On one side is a picture and the other side is Bailey’s resume.
I bet you can guess which one he confines to African American audiences.
On the left is a card which apparently is confined to the African American community.  It features Martin Luther King’s picture, also has the names of four African American leaders as Bailey supporters.
The card on the right is handed out to whites.
A supporter of another candidate in the circuit court race called the advertising “practicing segregation with his palm cards.”
You can decide for yourself.

Bailey ethnic literature
click to enlarge 

 See more at: CLICK HERE

Rick Scott Wrong on the Minimum Wage

Just when you thought it was never going to happen, after two weeks of ridicule and exasperation from Florida and national press, Rick Scott actually answered a question. 

For months, Rick Scott has refused to take a concrete position on raising the minimum wage, though his opposition was always pretty clear, having been caught saying: "When I hear a politician say that we have to raise the minimum wage so working families can make ends meet, I cringe."

Well now he's doubled down with a clear stance. And it's probably not the one hard-working Floridians wanted to hear.


Equality Florida Institute and four same-sex couples will deliver 7,000 petitions – signed by Floridians – urging Attorney General Pam Bondi to stop wasting taxpayer resources defending the state’s discriminatory exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage.

On July 17, Monroe County Chief Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia declared Florida’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional, while recent polling (http://bit.ly/1o9u0Ts) indicates that a full 57% of Floridians now support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

To date more than a half dozen Attorneys General in states across the country – including Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Virginia – have declined to defend bans that single out same-sex couples and deny their families the safety, protection and responsibility that comes with marriage. Equality Florida Institute stands with the majority of Floridians urging Attorney General Bondi to do the same.

The petition, which will continue to collect signatures in advance of Thursday morning, may be found here(www.eqfl.org/bondipetition).

Petitions will be delivered Thursday July 24th at 9:00 AM At Office of the Attorney General
Florida State Capitol, Tallahassee 
Please us the graphics on the right to sign the petition if you haven't already

Protesters Protest Gov. Rick Scott And His Hoodlum Supporters

Members of several civil rights groups held a last-minute demonstration against Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) outside the $10,000-a-plate fundraiser that was mocked by comedian John Oliver earlier this week, New Times Broward Palm Beach reported.
Scott’s appearance at the Boca Raton home of GEO Group CEO George Zoley was reportedly protested met by members of Florida For All, immigration rights group Dreamers Moms and the Dream Defenders.
“I think that Zoley is the CEO of a prison that is seemingly getting away with egregious practices speaks to people’s sense of right and wrong,” Florida For All spokesperson Ana Tinsly told New Times. “I think people are very upset to find that Rick Scott has such a cordial relationship with this CEO.”

According to WPLG-TV, the dinner at Zoley’s home was arranged after Mother Jones report revealing that the original host, real estate mogul James Batmasian, was convicted of tax evasion in 2008. Batmasian, who spent eight months in federal prison and completed a two-year supervised release program, also had his legal license suspended in Florida.
The fundraiser was also thrust into the national spotlight this past Sunday, when Oliverspecifically mentioned the GEO Group’s practices during a commentary on Last Week Tonight.
For example, he said, the staffing was so low at one facility in Mississippi that there were moments when only two guards were on duty to supervise as many as 256 prisoners, prompting a federal judge to observe that “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts” had been allowed to take place there.
“I know that GEO will say that presents an unbalanced picture of their company,” Oliver observed at the time. “So in the interest of balance, I would point out that they got an award from the state of Florida citing their bold and innovative cost-saving practices. Although I think we all know, when the state of Florida gives you an award, that award is basically sarcastic.
New Times reported that Scott evaded a question about Zoley’s business practices in a public appearance earlier in the day on Tuesday.
“He supports me because he believes in what we’re doing,” Scott told a member of the progressive super PAC American Bridge to the 21st Century. “He likes jobs creation; he likes the fact that I believe in the American dream. The fact that people like me can live the American dream, get a great education and a great job, build companies, and become governor of a great state.”
Watch Scott’s remarks, as posted online on Tuesday, below.

No Same Sex Marriage In Key West Today

Garcia refused to allow gay couples to marry on Monday, citing an appeal by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. The AP reports:

Garcia initially ruled marriage licenses could be issued in Monroe County beginning Tuesday to gay couples. But that was blocked by an automatic stay triggered when Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi immediately filed notice that the state will appeal.

Bondi's office filed papers later Monday urging Garcia to keep the stay in place and preserve the status quo until all appeals are sorted out and Garcia agreed. That means no gay marriages can take place while Garcia's original ruling is reviewed by the Miami-based 3rd District Court of Appeal, which could take weeks or months to issue a decision.
The judge who last week handed down a landmark decision, declaring Florida's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional, today refused to lift a stay, meaning no same-sex couples will get married today in Florida.

Circuit Judge Luis Garcia wrote that other courts have left stays in place on the same issue while appeals run their course, and that should happen in this case, too.

Yesterday the two Key West men who last week convinced Garcia to lift the ban filed paperwork, asking him to let the same-sex weddings begin today.

Please  click on the graphic to the right and ask Pam Boni to Stop her appeal 
The judge’s original  ruling is available here:http://freemarry.3cdn.net/112670b9c77c0c6fe0_4em6bqjl2.pdf

Obama signs executive order barring federal discrimination against GLBT people

President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Monday barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The order did not include new exemptions for religious organizations, a move that was welcomed by gay rights activists.

For a long time the White House has resisted issuing such an executive order, preferring instead to push

for legislation in Congress that would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in workplaces nationwide.
But that legislation stalled in Congress, and advocates pressed Obama to take action to bar such discrimination among federal contractors, who make up about a fifth of the U.S. work force.

“Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming. You organized, you spoke up, you signed petitions, you sent letters – I know because I got a lot of them,” Obama said to laughter from a crowd of advocates at the White House.
“And now, thanks to your passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of your cause, our government – of the people, by the people, and for the people – will become just a little bit fairer.”
In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson signed an order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating “against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Obama’s executive order added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories.
Obama urged participants to continue working for anti-discrimination legislation that would apply to all employers.
“Congress has spent 40 years – four decades – considering legislation that would help solve the problem. That’s a long time,” he said.
“But I’m going to do what I can, with the authority I have, to act. The rest of you, of course, need to keep putting pressure on Congress to pass federal legislation that resolves this problem once and for all.”

Democrat Charile Christ Picks Annette Taddeo As his Running Mate

Democrat Charlie Crist has picked former congressional candidate and Miami-Dade County Democratic Party chairwoman Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as his running mate.
Former Gov. Crist made the announcement Thursday in Miami.               

Taddeo-Goldstein was born in Colombia to an American father and Colombian mother, and spent the first 17 years of her life in the South American country.
The pick comes less than six weeks ahead of Florida's Democratic primary and will help shore up support among the party faithful. Crist is facing former Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich.
Political analyst Ana Cruz said Crist's pick will certainly help in the primary.
"This is a woman that understands what it's like to make ends meet, to live on minium wage, and as a small business owner to make payroll," said Cruz. "That’s what a lot of Floridians are going through as we speak. Charlie Christs’ decision in Annette is a real connection for a lot of people."
Taddeo-Goldstein is also a vice chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and is on the Democratic National Committee's executive committee.
"I want to ensure everyone in Florida has a fair shot to do the same thing," said Taddeo-Goldstein on Thursday. "Unfortunately right now, too many people across florida are feeling left out and left behind.
"We have a governor right now who looks out for those at the top. We need someone who will fight for a higher minimum wage, and for equal pay for women"

Meanwhile, Senator Nan Rich issued the following statement regarding Crist’s selection of his running mate.
"Because he’s been a life-long Republican, Charlie Crist might be excused for not knowing that Democrats typically don’t choose a running mate until they win the nomination.

What can’t be excused is his refusal to engage in the democratic process in a serious way. Crist’s record is in stark contrast to the values of the Democratic Party. He is anti-choice, has consistently opposed equality for the LGBT community, expanded private school vouchers, given the NRA a blank check, and appointed some of the most right-wing judges in Florida. More than 89% of Florida Democrats want a gubernatorial primary debate to discuss these issues.

Today Crist answered a question few voters are interested in. It is well past time for him to commit to debates and answer the questions voters do care about."
Information from News 13  was used in this report.

Read More About  Annette Taddeo-Goldstein

What does Key West's gay marriage ruling mean?

Within moments of the court's decision, AG Biondi and Gov Scott had filed a notice of intent to appeal. This was expected and is part of the process. Sadly, as part of the appeal, the 3rd District Court of Appeals has issued a stay on the order to issue marriage licenses in Monroe County.

Watch this space.

How does Attorney General Pam Bondi's appeal affect the ruling?
"The appeal automatically stays the decision, unless the judge lifts the stay," said Elizabeth Schwartz, the attorney in a Miami-Dade case where six same-sex couples are suing for the right to marry. "If the court decides to lift the stay, then yes, you can go and get married in Monroe County regardless of where you live."

If same-sex couples legally marry in Monroe County, are the marriages recognized by the rest of the state and the federal government?
"You'll be married, but you won't have all of the benefits that straight married couples have," said Rand Hoch, founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. "The state of Florida won't recognize it. The U.S. government will recognize it for almost everything with the exception of Social Security spousal benefits and Veterans Administration spousal benefits."

Can same-sex couples from out of state marry in Monroe County?
"Someone from out of state could come to Florida, as far as I'm interpreting it, and could marry in the Keys," said George Castrataro, a Fort Lauderdale attorney suing Florida Atlantic University to force Florida to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal. "When they go home, if their state doesn't recognize the marriages of other states, it would be pointless…or at least not valuable right now."

If same-sex couples get married in Monroe County, and the ruling is later overturned, do those marriages remain valid?
"There's no rule that binds everyone," Hoch said. "There's going to be a lot of confusion…Most likely the judge would say, 'If you were married, you're still married.' But there would be no more marriages."
"That has happened in a number of states where the floodgates got opened for a brief moment in time, then stopped," Castrataro said. "I've never known a state to have the ability to revoke a marriage that was entered into lawfully."
"If it were me, I would wait until the issue is settled and not be in some sort of legal limbo," Schwartz said.

What's next?
"There's about seven other lawsuits pending in Florida right now. So far, every judge that has looked at these – whether state or federal – has said this is discrimination," Hoch said. "As these cases move forward, ultimately there's going to be a ruling to bring marriage equality to Florida."
"I think there's going to be a culmination of legal opinions, that will not only make marriage itself a right that all Floridians can enter into, but it would also require Florida to recognize marriages from other states," Castrataro said.
"We're off to the appellate races and the conversation continues there," Schwartz said. "We've had an unbroken string of favorable opinions on marriage equality; it's certainly disappointing that our attorney general would continue to put resources behind what is a failing argument."

Wasserman Schultz Statement on Fla. Judge Overturning Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) issued the following statement today after a Monroe County judge overturned Florida's ban on same-sex marriage:

"Judge Luis Garcia took a bold and historic step today by declaring Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Even in the face of Attorney General Bondi's statement that she will appeal the decision, I believe in my heart of hearts that this is the beginning of the end of discrimination based on who you love in our state.

"There can be no denying the national march toward full marriage equality and Florida is overdue in finally falling in step with ensuring equal treatment under the law. Judge Garcia has taken the movement for marriage equality to the next step, and I know I speak for millions of Floridians when I say that I cannot wait to celebrate the day when marriage is just marriage, and love is just love, in our great state."