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Florida House Subcommittee Passes Anti-Trans Bathroom Bill

State lawmakers in Florida have given their initial stamp of approval to a bill that would force transgender men and women to use public restrooms matching their biological sex rather than gender identity. 

The bill passed the House Civil Justice Subcommittee Wednesday along party lines, with nine Republicans in support and four Democrats opposed. The bill was filed by Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami) following the December vote by the Miami-Dade County Commission to extend non-discrimination protections to transgender people

The Tampa Bay Times reports:

ArtilesEven some Republicans have raised concerns that the bill may go too far in the name of protecting public safety. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, the subcommittee's chairwoman, said she doesn't think most lawmakers understand transgender issues. She supported the measure Wednesday, but said she hopes to see changes before voting on it again in the Judiciary Committee.

Artiles (right) filed the bill in February, and lawmakers have already inserted a litany of exceptions to account for janitorial staff and parents helping young children use the restroom. More could be coming, including a change to allow sports reporters to enter team locker rooms after games.

What likely won't change is the core assertion of this bill: Allowing people to use facilities that don't correspond with their biological sex is dangerous.

"I think that's common sense," Artiles said. "Whether or not a transgender person or a transitioning person falls into the description, we have to look at the consequences of this law."

Equality Florida Institute reacts to the bill via statement:

"It's dehumanizing," said Gina Duncan, a transgender woman who works with the advocacy group TransAction Florida. "This bill invents a problem that simply doesn't exist. Transgender people need to use the restroom the same as anyone. If anything, we want and need to be protected from undue attention and harassment -- not be told we're committing a crime if someone thinks we're in the wrong place."

 The bill also makes schools and businesses liable for monetary damages. A person can collect a financial award if they feel they've encountered a person in a public single-sex facility who shouldn't have been there.

 "This poorly written bill is a lawsuit factory," said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida, the state's largest organization advocating on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

 "How could it possibly be enforced except as an invitation to harass people in the bathroom -- with a financial incentive attached!"

 


Gay Florida Couple Encounters Another Benefits Roadblock Despite Successful Lawsuit Against State

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Jim Brenner and Chuck Jones, the gay Tallahassee couple who successfully sued the state of Florida over denial of spousal benefits, encountered another roadblock as the Department of Management Services recently told the couple they couldn’t change their pension plan, reports The Tallahassee Democrat:

On Friday, Brenner was told by a DMS official that despite [Judge Robert] Hinkle's ruling, he would not be able to pick the option he wanted in the first place. He said he was told by DMS that under Florida law, he could only make changes to the plan within the first month of entering DROP, a time that has long since passed. Brenner said a personnel official at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services tried to intervene on his behalf but also was told no by DMS.

"I feel like I'm being made to beg for what I'm entitled to," said Brenner, fire-management administrator for the Florida Forest Service. "It was one of the original reasons for us filing the lawsuit. And now we're being told we're not entitled. It's our perception that the judge told us we are."

DMS officials, however, announced on Tuesday afternoon that they’re working on a plan to resolve the issue. Said DMS communications director Kendra Parsons:

"The Department of Management Services is developing a plan to contact all (Florida Retirement System) recipients and provide them necessary information on how to receive spousal benefits in light of the court's recent decision,"

 


Hear Why This Florida Gay Man Is Refusing Jury Duty to Protest Homophobic County Clerk: VIDEO

   Chapman

Chuck Chapman, a 63 year-old gay Floridian who refused jury duty in protest of Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, has been allowed to abstain without facing charges for being in contempt of the court. Chapman explained that while he was proud, tax-paying Floridian eager to do right by his state, he could not abide by Fussell’s petulant attempt at denying gay people to marry.

FussellFussell (right) and two other clerks representing other Florida counties decided that they would no longer issue marriage licenses at the courthouse to any newlywed couples be they gay or straight. The move was a last ditch effort to snub U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's ruling that legalized gay marriages earlier this year.

"If the clerk of the court doesn't feel comfortable performing same sex marriages, as an openly gay man, I don't know how I can feel comfortable in court,” Chapman explained to the court judge after being asked whether he held fast to any prejudices. "I'm a taxpayer in this community. I'm a citizen in this community. My rights should be across the board just like anybody else has and anybody else wants and anybody else needs."

He continued:

"The clerk of the court said they would not perform anyone's wedding, heterosexual, homosexual, anyone. There were 1900 weddings performed in the courthouse in 2013. There's a chapel in that courthouse for weddings. There's money being lost on that courthouse because the clerks of the court do not feel comfortable marrying same-sex partners.

I hope this brings some awareness to the clerk of the courts. This is Duval County. Until this community gets in a position and embraces diversity, we'll never move forward."

Watch a First Coast News report on the story, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Hear Why This Florida Gay Man Is Refusing Jury Duty to Protest Homophobic County Clerk: VIDEO" »


Florida Ex-Deputy Accused of Sexually Assaulting Male Undocumented Immigrants Sentenced to Five Years

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Jonathan Bleiweiss, a former Broward County, Florida sheriff's deputy, has been sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly sexually assaulting a number of undocumented male immigrants. Bleiweiss is thought to have used his authority as a police officer to coerce twenty different men into various sexual acts under threat of arrest and deportation.

Bleiweiss, who was well recognized and celebrated within the community, was originally arrested in 2009, though the rumors of his abuse first surfaced back in 2008. As word spread of the officer’s excessively aggressive pat-downs, pictures of his face began circulating through the immigrant community along with warnings to stay away from him.

Not long after Bleiweiss was suspended from the Sheriff’s office and he was subsequently arrested. According to the Sun-Sentinel in the weeks following Bleiweiss’s initial arrest, some 70 charges were eventually leveled against him from a number of different men. Bringing a case against Bleiweiss proved to be difficult given the specific circumstances under which many of the men claimed to have been harassed.

A number of lawsuits against Bleiweiss were settled, while others were dismissed. The bulk of the cases that would have resulted in significant jail time for Bleiweiss fell apart, however, due to witnesses being deported or too afraid to come forward and testify for fear of deportation.


Florida Lawmaker Wants To Throw Transgender People In Jail For Going To The Bathroom

Artiles

A Florida lawmaker wants to throw transgender people in jail for, well, using public restrooms. 

Representative Frank Artiles, R-Miami, introduced a bill this week that would make it a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, for transgender people to use public restrooms — or fitting rooms or locker rooms — according to their gender identity. On top of that, the bill would allow people to file lawsuits against those who violate the law, as well as owners of businesses where violations took place, and recover attorneys' fees. 

We're not kidding, folks, this is actual legislation that's been introduced in the nation's fourth-largest state.

Artiles reportedly filed it in response to Miami-Dade County's recent decision to ban discrimination based on gender identity in public accommodations. He told The Miami Herald his No. 1 concern is public safety, but needless to say he cares nothing about the safety of transgender people. 

“The purpose of this act is to secure privacy and safety for all individuals using single-sex public facilities,” House Bill 538 states. “Single-sex public facilities are places of increased vulnerability and present the potential for crimes against individuals using those facilities, including, but not limited to, assault, battery, molestation, rape, voyeurism, and exhibitionism.”

From The Miami Herald

“It’s not that the transgender or the gender identity community is dangerous by any means,” Artiles said, “but [the ordinance] creates a giant loophole for criminals, sexual deviants and sexual predators to walk into a shower, a woman’s locker room under the cover of law.

“A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there. Someone can say, ‘What are you doing there?’ Under the ordinance, I don’t have to respond. It’s subjective. If I feel like a woman that day, I can be allowed to be in that locker room. I don’t know about you, but I find that disturbing.”

Artiles' bill drew swift condemnation from LGBT advocates and Democratic lawmakers, the Herald reports:

The ACLU of Florida also weighed in:

“This ‘show your papers to pee’ bill denigrates both transgender and non-transgender people alike,” said Daniel Tilley, the group’s LGBT-rights staff attorney. “In addition to dehumanizing transgender people in particular, it invites humiliation and harassment of anyone who is not considered sufficiently feminine or masculine in the eyes of the beholder. Will girls in soccer uniforms be stopped at the bathroom door and asked to produce their birth certificates?” ... 

If you really want to know how badly Artiles' hateful bill is going over, check out his post about it on Facebook. The comment thread should be required reading for lawmakers who are considering similar legislation in other states — and also perhaps for officials who want to include transgender bathroom exemptions in nondiscrimination laws. 


11th Circuit Puts Same-Sex Marriage Cases in Alabama and Florida On Hold Until SCOTUS Rules

11thThe 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has put appeals to Alabama and Florida's same-sex marriage bans on hold until the Supreme Court hears and rules on the four cases it decided to take up from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee that challenge whether a state has the right to ban same-sex marriage. This comes despite the 11th Circuit's decision yesterday not to extend the stay of a federal judge's decision striking down Alabama's marriage ban. From the court's order:

Pursuant to the Court’s direction, the appeals in case numbers 14-14061, 14-14066, 15-10295,and 15-10313 are held in abeyance pending the United States Supreme Court’s issuance of an opinion in DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F.3d 388 (6th Cir. 2014), cert. granted, — S. Ct. —, Nos. 14-556, 14-562, 14-571, 14-574, 2015 WL 213650 (Jan. 16, 2015).Any other current or future appeals that are filed in this Court raising the same or similar issues as the appeals listed above will also be held in abeyance pending the Supreme Court’s issuance of an opinion in DeBoer v. Snyder.Within twenty-one (21) days of the date the Supreme Court issues its opinion in DeBoer v.Snyder, the parties are directed to notify this Court in writing what issues, if any, remain pending in these appeals.

14-14061 - 11th Circuit Marriage Appeals on Hold by Equality Case Files


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