What story should the LGBT community be following this week? SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders.

The LGBT community should be following Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Zabel’s well-reasoned opinion joining Monroe County Circuit Judge Garcia in finding Florida’s same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional.  Also this week, the 4th Circuit US Federal Court of Appeals in Virginia upheld a trial court opinion finding Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.  Across the country courts are finding that marriage is a fundamental right guaranteed by the US Constitution and that laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are discriminatory.

— Michael C. Gongora, former Vice Mayor of Miami Beach

The community should be following the ramifications of the rulings on same-sex marriage by courts in both Monroe and Miami-Dade counties. Judges in both counties have ruled that the Florida's 2008 voter ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution. Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the Monroe County Judicial Circuit Court ruling and the Miami-Dade County ruling, thus postponing any issuing of marriage licenses to Monroe or Miami-Dade residents. There were two concurrent cases filed in federal court against Florida Governor Rick Scott, which have been consolidated into the James Domer Brenner et al. v. Rick Scott, etc., et al. that we should be keeping an eye on as well. Its outcome would have implications for the entire state.

— Jason King, Advocacy and Legislative Affairs Manager in AIDS Healthcare Foundation's southern region

With November 2014 hosting midterm elections during a term that has seen so much political growth for the LGBT community, it is vital that everyone who has the right to vote get educated and make their vote count. With all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate being contested, there is an opportunity for change on the issues that impact us as a community. Issues like Equal Rights, LGBT Discrimination and Health Care can all be addressed with the right elected officials. The LGBT Community cannot afford to be an inappropriately represented this November.

— A.J. Alegria, President of Impulse Group — Fort Lauderdale

With the progression of gay marriage in the state of Florida, the LGBT community needs to take a serious look at ALL the candidates that are currently running for political offices this year. There are many LGBT candidates, (although not nearly enough), and in some cases, two or more LGBT candidates running against each other. It is imperative that you do your homework and look at each candidate individually; look at their history, their track records, and their prior political experience before making a decision, don’t just vote for someone because someone else told you to. Voting in the primaries are Tuesday, August 26 (primaries decide, in some cases, who will be on the ballot in November) and actual voting is on Tuesday, November 4. Don't complain if you don’t vote, it is your legal right, use it!

— Terry DeCarlo, Director of Development & Public Relations for Broward House

After decades of merciless bullying of the gay community, the leaders of the Religious Right are now proclaiming that they are the victims. Their strategy is to impact public opinion by painting themselves as the target of bullying by gay and transgender activists. Don't laugh this off as the silly rantings of the lunatic fringe, as social conservatives will stop at nothing to win this cultural war.

— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist

Currently I'm most interested in following the lawsuit General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper. On April 28, 2014, a group of clergy members, people of faith, and same-sex couples filed a new federal lawsuit in North Carolina seeking the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, claiming the marriage ban violates THEIR religious freedom. Welcome back, Religious Left!

— Toni Armstrong, Founder/Director of BLAST Women of WPB

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