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Tallahassee Mayor John Marks Speaks Out for Marriage Equality: VIDEO

Mayor john marks tallahassee

Mayors for the Freedom to Marry is a nonpartisan group of mayors who believe that all people should be able to share in the love and commitment of marriage.

500 mayors from more than 40 states and Washington, D.C., have so far signed the Mayors for the Freedom To Marry statement.

Founded in 2012, The six chairs of the group are Kevin Faulconer (San Diego), Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles), Michael Nutter (Philadelphia), Annise Parker (Houston), Kasim Reed (Atlanta) and Greg Stanton (Phoenix).

In a video supporting marriage equality, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks says “this is the right thing to do. Individuals have rights and freedoms, and we need to allow everybody to have those same rights and those same freedoms."

Watch Mayor Marks explain why he supports same-sex marriage, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Key West Couple Takes Challenge to Florida's Gay Marriage Ban Before Judge Today

Huntsman

Aaron Huntsman and Lee Jones, a Key West couple of 11 years, went before a judge in Monroe County, Florida together in a case filed in April challenging the state's ban on gay marriage.

Freedom to Marry profiles the couples:

"We're just like every other couple," Aaron explained to Freedom to Marry. "We share the same banking account, we share the same values, the same bills, the same insurance. We want to have a home, have children, and build a family together. But laws in Florida tell us that we are not the same. And that's hurtful."

Beyond that, Aaron and Lee explained more about the real harms of denying the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

"We don't have the right to make medical decisions for each other," Lee said. "If something were to happen, we wouldn't be protected. What would happen to our home? How would we be impacted by Social Security? We just want to be seen as the same as any other committed couple."

Lee and Aaron met just over 11 years ago at Pride Weekend in Key West. Aaron was the reigning Mr. Pride in Key West, and they were introduced to each other by their co-worker, Donny Burgdorfer.

Equality Florida was at the hearing and reports that there will be no immediate ruling today. Huntsman and Jones were prepared to marry instantly if the judge had ruled from the bench.


St. Petersburg, Flordia Gay Resort Sues County For Discrimination

Cabana

In an interesting legal kerfuffle, a St. Petersburg, Florida Resort has sued Pinellas County, questioning the line between niche markets and discrimination, according to The Tampa Bay Times. Representatives from the hotel in question, The Flamingo Resort (pictured), are claiming that the establishment's tax bill is too high, and that this is because they cater to a gay clientele.

Pinellas Property Appraiser Pam Dubov is familiar with a previous complaint of The Flamingo Resort's, and she doubts the validity of this new one. Said Dubov: "I categorically deny that we have any intent toward discrimination against the gay and lesbian community."

Dubov gives an example of how appraisers ballpark a property's value. For example, a restaurant that markets itself to small children might do less business, but it does not change the value of the property where the restaurant sits. In the example of The Flamingo Resort, the establishment took in $673,222 in 2012, but the property appraiser calculated a potential $1.1 million

The reasons given for this valuation were numerous. The building is old and requires considerable maintenance, there have been no renovations on the resort since construction, and the Flamingo operates under a 28 percent occupancy rate. According to the board records, the representative is specifically quoted as saying the hotel is "functionally obsolete" because of "the substandard location, and older furniture, fixtures and equipment that cannot be updated."

The board is also quoted as saying "It is difficult to determine whether or not this property could generate more net operating income if it did not appeal to a niche market."


Former GOP Florida Governor Charlie Crist Files Amicus Brief In Support Of Same-Sex Marriage

Former GOP governor of Florida and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist previously apologized for a blatantly anti-gay political track record. Now he has made good on part of his promise to do everything he can to help achieve equal rights for same-sex couples and the LGBTQ community. He filed an amicus brief today in support of same-sex marriage in the Pareto v. Ruvin case set for a July hearing. 

CristEquality Florida reports:

"As former Governor, and as someone who previously supported this measure, Charlie Crist's words matter a great deal,” said Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida. “He has taken the same journey the majority of Floridians have taken in realizing that this ban serves no purpose but to disparage and discriminate against gay couples and our children."

In the brief, Crist stated that as a former Governor and Attorney General who previously supported the ban, he is in a unique position to provide the court a perspective on why it is wrong, harmful to Florida and harmful to gay couples and children who are denied the protections only marriage provides. 

In his brief, Crist references his own evolution, in conjunction with the American public's:

“Thus, with the arc of history now, in fact, bending toward justice, this issue of marriage equality will almost certainly not even be an issue for the children and grandchildren of this State. But it is still the duty of those in the present to recognize that the legitimacy of government depends upon its willingness to fairly, transparently, and equitably administer the law. That goal is frustrated by denying an entire class of citizens equality in the institution of marriage simply because of who they are and whom they love.”

Crist's brief is an exciting addition to this case, following others filed by the Orlando and Miami Beach city councils. 


Michael Carroll’s ‘Little Reef And Other Stories’: Book Review

BY GARTH GREENWELL

The characters in the moving, innovative stories of Michael Carroll’s debut collection always find themselves just to the side of the world’s attention. In the beautiful “Referred Pain,” the lonely wife of a famous writer entertains graduate students desperate for his approval. In “Barracuda,” a young woman working at a PR firm meets the pop star who is their biggest client. In all of these stories, Carroll explores, with confidence and humanity, lives torn between awareness of all they have and bitter grasping for what they still want.

Little ReefIn the first of the book’s two sections (largely set in Florida), New York City represents the success that the characters long for. In “From the Desk of…Hunter B. Gwathmey,” the book’s first story, a young writer wins a high school writing contest and meets the local literati. For all that at first they strike him as glamorous, he soon realizes they aren’t living the kind of life he hopes for. “I hated Jacksonville, but then it occurred to me, in a sickening, sneak-preview-of-real-life type of revelation, that not everybody could live in New York, and that even some smart, talented people ended up having to make do in the provinces.”

It’s a realization that haunts this collection and its various talented, almost successful characters. “Not everyone was going to be successful,” Carroll writes at one point, “and it was cruel to ask them to try to be.”

Much of the pleasure of the book’s first half lies in Carroll’s depiction of the south. “Florida was a nutty business,” Carroll writes, and he excels at capturing the bizarre mix of awkward politeness and hysteria that characterizes so much of the southern manner. These stories offer one of the most convincing representations I’ve seen of southern speech—not by mimicking accent or dialect, but by tracing the shape of southern talk, with its suspensions and redirections, its sudden fits and starts.

The unpredictable drift of southern conversation may lie behind the unconventional shape of many of these stories. In an interview with the writer Andrew Holleran, Carroll speaks about his desire to break free of the traditional structure of the short story, in which rising action leads to climax, resolution, and epiphany or realization. Instead, he allows his stories to find their way in a looser, less predetermined way, allowing for sudden juxtapositions and unexpected turns and constant, vivifying surprise.

MichaelCarrollIt also allows for the emergence of what may be Carroll’s greatest strength, his ability to inhabit the deep consciousness of his characters. “What was writing except a direct line into someone’s head,” the wife in “Referred Pain” muses, and what makes Carroll’s characters so vivid is the access we’re given to their experience of their own lives.

And so, in “Referred Pain,” when the protagonist has an affair with one of her husband’s students, we experience it with an intimacy beyond mere explicitness: “He dropped his head next to hers and drove the side of his face into the pillow looking the other way. Her hand motions got wider and she felt his thighs relaxing and when he rose up she kissed his chest, too desperately, she thought. You didn’t do anything too desperate, so then she cooled off, tried to make a joke, yet keeping her hands near him.”

This experience of consciousness is nowhere more intense, and nowhere more moving, than in the five linked stories that make up the book’s second half. Each of these stories, which are told in both first and third person, centers on an aspiring writer who is in a long-term partnership, then marriage, with an older, much more successful novelist whose health is in decline.

In everything we learn about their lives, and also in the description Carroll offers of the older writer’s work, we’re invited to imagine that these characters are thinly disguised versions of Carroll and the legendary writer Edmund White, whom Carroll recently married after a relationship of nearly two decades. Like White, the fictional Perry has suffered a series of strokes, and his younger partner, who has spent years preparing manuscripts and keeping house, finds himself increasingly taking on the role of nurse.

“My job was to shop and cook and clean,” says Scott, the younger member of the couple in these stories, “and his was to create.” It’s easy to hear bitterness in the line, and these stories are extraordinarily candid in their depiction of a loving but not easy relationship. “There was no plan for who we were. Night was long for us. We’d go to bed separately. I read, which had become my coping strategy. I could live with him as long as we slept separately.” 

And yet what’s clearest in the stories of Scott and Perry, especially in the extraordinary “Admissions,” is their care for one another, and Scott’s terror at the prospect of an unbearable loss. It’s this terror—the awareness of death—that gives these stories their moral force, and that translates the grasping for fame or achievement into a profounder struggle. And it’s love that finally allows Carroll’s characters to escape—only for a time, but no less authentically for that—from their self-made prisons of jadedness and need.

Invoking the southern religious language that haunts these pages (“One day the Bible would have no effect on Scott at all. But not yet”), the protagonist of “Barracuda” casts a bit of hope in the way of her gorgeous, promising, limited friends: “From emotional midgets—too beautiful to live inside their awfully conflicted selves—sometimes came great, kind gestures, and perhaps they, too, would be saved. Despite their sweet bastard selves.”

Previous reviews...
Francine Prose’s ‘Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932’
Mark Gevisser’s ‘Lost and Found in Johannesburg: A Memoir’
Emma Donoghue’s ‘Frog Music’
Tatamkhulu Afrika’s ‘Bitter Eden’

Garth Greenwell is the author of Mitko, which won the 2010 Miami University Press Novella Prize and was a finalist for both the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award and a Lambda Award. His new novel, What Belongs to You, is forthcoming from Faber/FSG in May 2015. He lives in Iowa City, where he is an Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


Orlando City Council Files Brief In Support Of Same-Sex Marriage

FloridaIn a 5-2 vote yesterday, the Orlando City Council decided to file a brief in support of same-sex marriage, and in favor of overturning a 2008 ban. The brief argues that marriage equality will provide for a safer and more humane living environment as well as encourage higher levels of job recruitment and tourism in the state of Florida. Currently, attorney general Pam Bondi has vowed to argue against same-sex marriage in several lawsuits (including one filed by six couples in January) but this brief (along with one filed by Miami Beach) is the first to be submitted by a city in Florida and indicates that Bondi has a tougher fight on her hands.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

Though the city is not party to any of the cases now pending in state and federal courts, Mayor Buddy Dyer sought permission from the City Council on Monday to file a friend-of-the-court brief arguing in favor of same-sex marriage.

The council approved that request in a 5-2 vote. Commissioners Jim Gray and Tony Ortiz, the council's two Republicans, voted no. Gray said it's an issue that doesn't belong before the City Council. Ortiz said his east Orlando district is "very conservative."

BuddyDyerSeveral of the council members articulated quite eloquently the need for same-sex marriage in Orlando (which approved a domestic partnership registry in 2011 and banned workplace and housing discrimination in 2008), and in the state of Florida.

"It's so important to be able to love the person of your choice and have that respected by your state and federal governments," [openly gay commissioner Patty Sheehan] said. "Anybody who stands for discrimination can't just say they have gay friends. … Equality is for everyone, not just who you decide to be friends with."

Dyer (left) argued that being seen as an inclusive city helps with economic development and tourism.

"If you're a city that promotes inclusion and fairness and equality, then you're more likely to attract this generation of knowledge workers who are going to make our city successful in the future," Dyer said. "If you are seen as a city that promotes diversity, you are head and shoulders above those that do not."

Dyer has continually been supportive of equal rights for the LGBT community, and would like to see Orlando as a beacon of progress in the state of Florida.


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