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GOP-Dominated Florida House Moves to Remove Language Banning Gay Adoption from Law

The Florida House of Representatives is likely to strike language banning gay adoption from its laws in an acknowledgement of the court ruling five years ago declaring the state's gay adoption ban unconstitutional, the AP reports. The body gave it an early approval on Tuesday:

CrisafulliThe full bill still needs a House vote, but it has wide support. The Senate and Gov. Rick Scott would also have to approve the bill before the gay-adoption language is deleted from law.

Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (pictured) said the vote isn't necessarily an endorsement of current policy that allows gays to adopt.

"Philosophically, I've never really been there on that, but I'm somebody who operates under the letter of the law," he said. "I recognize that this has been taking place for five years, so our bill is going to reflect that."

Basically, most of the Republicans are still against gay couples adopting children, they're just acknowledging they must abide by the law - five years later.


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!"

 


5 Day Trips To Do in Miami Right Now: Gay Travel

Coralcastle
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VISIT A CORAL FANTASYLAND OF ONE MAN'S MAKING

The Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida (which took the brunt of Hurricane Andrew way back), is the 28-year creation of a single man, Ed Leedskalnin, who carved this fantasy world himself. It's now a museum.

 

Venetian
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BATHE IN A CRYSTAL SPRING UNDER WATERFALLS

Have a swim at the Venetian Pool, a unique aquatic facility created in 1923 from a coral rock quarry. It's 820,000 gallons, fed by an underground aquifer with waterfalls and grottos. The pool was closed all through February for renovations but reopens on March 10, 2015.

 

Vizcaya
(instagram)

SEE HOW A CLOSETED MULTIMILLIONAIRE ART COLLECTOR LIVED

A gorgeous villa just south of downtown Miami, Vizcaya has played host to Miami's legendary White Party for many, many years and continues to operate as a venue for elegant balls and benefits. But you can visit during the day and check out its beautiful garden and grounds, situated right on the water.

James Deering, a closeted socialite, antiques collector, philanthropist, and executive at the International Harvester company, built Vizcaya between 1914 and 1922 with his "companion" Paul Chalfin.

2_vizcaya

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Stilstsville
(instagram)

CHECK OUT A PICTURESQUE 'VILLAGE' ON STILTS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEA

Stiltsville is a collection of seven houses that sit atop pilings in mud flats in the middle of the shallow water in Biscayne National Park. Stiltsville is on Biscayne Bay one mile south of Cape Florida at the tip of Key Biscayne. There are several boat tour companies that will take you out to see them.

If you're lucky, you'll run into this adventurer out there too:

2_stiltsville
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Everglades
(instagram)

SPOT A GATOR IN THE EVERGLADES

Visiting The Everglades is one of the best activities for wildlife lovers in South Florida. Many readers recommend a day trip. There are Everglades airboat rides if your conscience can stomach the idea that they disrupt the environment, but there are also hiking trails and more tranquil boat exploration. You're likely to see alligators, snakes, fish, and beautiful birds plus possibly a manatee or Florida panther, and obscenely beautiful landscapes and skyscapes.

A reader writes: "It's about an hour south of Miami. Lots of hiking and biking trails. The scenery is not like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite; it's best appreciated on a small scale, up close. The endless sea of sawgrass gets a bit boring, but hike into the hammocks and pinelands to see some beautiful wildlife."

Another writes: "Tamiami Trail into the Everglades. There are pullover lookouts for alligators and other wildlife. You can also take airboat rides which are unlike anything else. In season (November to April) you can end in Everglades City where the boats come in with Florida's specialty, stone crabs. Several restaurants right on the docks feature specials."

 

Robertishere
(instagram)

GET FRUITY

This is a place that our readers won't shut up about. Robert Is Here is south Florida's most famous fruit stand, open 7 days a week from 8 am until 7 pm. It has amazing shakes.

Writes one reader: "Robert is here! fruit stand down close to the Glades is an institution. Go on an airboat ride and stop on the way back for awesome fruit - gotta try the green monster fruit. It tastes like pineapple and banana together- amazeballs. Their milkshakes are also legendary."

Another adds: "Not a meal and a bit of a schlep, but if you have a car Robert is Here is a Fruit Stand that has the best shake you'll ever have. Located toward the Everglades about an hour south of Miami.  Foodies will love it and will definitely be taking home some of their homemade jams, jellies, BBQ sauces, locally sourced honey, etc."

Directions here.

Next Stop, Where to Go to the Gym and Bike in Miami Right Now...

Jump ahead to RESTAURANTS | COCKTAILS | HOTELS | NIGHTLIFE | BEACHES | DAY TRIPS | ART | FITNESS

If you have an exciting Miami travel tip to share with us, please email us at travel-at-towleroad.com and we'll check it out and consider adding it to this guide. Help us make it better!


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.


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