by Jesse Monteagudo -
SGN Contributing Writer
In the year that followed United States v. Windsor the cause of marriage equality has exploded across the USA. Nineteen states - California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington - plus the District of Columbia now grant Lesbian and Gay couples the freedom to marry. Same-sex couples in other states have gone to court to demand their marriage rights, as a result of which judges from Arizona to Virginia have ruled that their states' constitutional bans on 'Gay marriage' are unconstitutional.
In 2008 Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Two recent cases challenged that amendment. On July 17 Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia ruled in favor of partners Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones while on July 25 Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel ruled in favor of six same-sex couples seeking marriage. Many in the LGBT community mistakenly view those rulings as the beginning of the end of our fight for human rights; that once marriage equality is achieved we will have it made and no longer need to fight for our rights as Lesbian women, Gay men, Bisexuals and Transgender men and women.
Nothing could be further from the truth. For one thing, the fight for marriage equality in the State of Florida is far from over. Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the Monroe County decision, which put Huntsman and Jones's marriage plans on hold for the time being. (They have since asked the appeals court to send the case to the Florida Supreme Court.) Many, though not most, Floridians continue to oppose marriage equality: On July 21, members of the Christian Family Coalition delivered to the Miami-Dade County Court a petition with six thousand signatures, all in favor of the status quo. Powerful and influential politicians, such as Governor Rick Scott and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, continue to oppose 'Gay marriage.'
Nor is marriage equality the only issue that LGBT Floridians and our friends have to face. Still on our plate is the fight to end workplace discrimination, teenage suicide, anti-LGBT violence and AIDS, not to mention the homophobia and transphobia that still runs rampant in our society. To do all this we have to change Florida's political culture, no easy task in a state that is still largely conservative. As I said before, Florida is a wonderful state with horrible rulers, and the liberalism that we take for granted in Key West, Miami Beach and Wilton Manors is largely nonexistent up north. Time and again, conservative Republican Governor Scott and the equally conservative Republican Cabinet and Legislature have proven to be no friends of LGBT Floridians. There is no doubt that they will do their best to stop our progress, on marriage equality or on any other issue.
To put it bluntly, we must keep up the fight. We need to get off our duffs and do what needs to be done. We can do this by joining and supporting political organizations that fight for our rights; groups like the Dolphin Democrats (dolphindems.org), the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus (floridaglbtdemocrats.org), Equality Florida (eqfl.org) or even the Log Cabin Republicans (logcabin.org) for those who are so inclined. We must work to elect LGBT or LGBT-friendly candidates: to re-elect Joe Saunders to the State House of Representatives in District 49 and to elect Scott Herman in District 93 and John Paul Alvarez in District 100. And we must vote for our candidates and our issues, again and again, in both primary and general elections. We cannot expect others to do the work that we ourselves must do.
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