SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week’s question is what’s next for gay rights? Name one issue the community will, or should, focus on after (presumably) the Supreme Court rules in our favor.
Throughout most of Florida, LGBT people are not protected from discrimination in employment housing and public accommodation. For more than 40 years, we have failed in our efforts to get Congress to protect our civil rights. And this is the 9th consecutive year that the Florida Legislature has ignored bills, which would provide equal rights for our community. Unfortunately, it is still illegal to discriminate against LGBT Floridians who live in 57 of 67 counties. We need to refocus our efforts on the local level and encourage our elected officials to enact laws to prohibit discrimination in employment housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
— Rand Hoch, President and Founder, Palm Beach County Human Rights Council
Social Equality! My perspective: after observing the night scene and life style, South Florida is segregated...it's maddening to see the inequity, the dislike displayed within our community. Although, not a major issue because we tend to sweep it under and not speak; but, how can we rise when we're seeking fault in each other? Yes, social equality is the next focus area. Under the rainbow everyone is equal.
— Sonja Pressley, BLAST Assistant Organizer
I believe one of the foremost issues our community needs to address is the reality of homelessness among LGBT young people - even here, even in 2015. It is a complex reality that has no easy answers, but we must take care of the most vulnerable in our own community. It is too easy as we get older to forget how terrifying it can be to be a teenager, let alone LGBT and homeless.
— Lea Brown, Senior Pastor, MCC of the Palm Beaches
That answer seems very different than it might have been otherwise in the wake of the Indiana decision to legalize discrimination. The victories those fighting for LGBT equality have enjoyed in elections and judicial decisions have enflamed the crazed right wing to come at us using the errant Hobby Lobby religious discrimination as a weapon. It’s a completely ridiculous and unfounded argument and we need to work through the courts and legislators to stop it from expanding. Indiana (and Arkansas, if it gets signed into law) will probably step back these laws because of the enormous financial blow that will be dealt them. But laws need to be in place from having it ever happen again.
— David Jobin, executive director of The Stonewall National Museum & Archives
Although marriage equality may come via the federal SCOTUS, it's still a patchwork quilt when it comes to actual anti-discrimination legislation. In many locations, we could marry on Saturday and get fired Monday, with no legal recourse. It'll be a tough, ongoing fight at state and local levels to secure full equal rights. We all need to investigate the laws that affect us - not assume we're safe.
— Toni Armstrong, Founder/Director of BLAST Women of WPB
Employment rights have always been an even bigger issue than marriage equality, in terms of the number of people affected by the lack of a federal law protecting LGBT workers from discrimination. There are state laws that help, but you can still be fired in 29 states for being LGBT. Potentially more than half of us are vulnerable to workplace discrimination. Marriage equality has been a key win (almost win, anyway), but employment rights impact our economic power as individuals, and as families.
— Judy Ireland, Assistant organizer for BLAST Women of WPB
Next up to bat? ENDA. With all of the talk about Marriage Equality, perhaps even more important is the unfinished business of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Currently, it is making its way through Congress and a vote on the floor is eminent since over 70 percent of American Voters support the Bill. Time to ensure all LGBT constituents are NOT discriminated against in the workplace!
— Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans Miami
Be very aware of behind the scenes efforts to pass legislation in every city, county, and state that makes LGBT people second class citizens. I warned about Religious Liberty bills. The Tea Party and the Religious Right are getting candidates elected at every level.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist
After Equal Marriage is officially legal, we must work on the issue of “separation of church and state.” I believe in supporting people’s rights to religious freedom…for themselves. The political conservatives are using religion to remove rights from the LGBTQA and Women’s communities as we win them.
— Meredith L Ockman, a director of NOW; V.P. Florida NWPC & President of S. Fla Women's Health Foundation
Our civil rights war will escalate this year after the expected U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2015. Whether the SCOTUS decision is in our favor or not, new laws that allow discrimination due to religious beliefs such as the recent law signed by Indiana’s Governor, are going to be our next major civil rights battle.
— Anthony Timiraos, CEO/President, OUR Fund