Bottom Line: Florida Needs Inclusive Workplaces

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — In my February 18 column, I wrote about the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, a bill currently making its way through the Tallahassee legislature that would help create a non-discriminatory workplace for LGBT employees across the state. The column also dealt with the important role of organized labor in both the effort to get the bill passed as well as within the general discourse about competitiveness itself.

Now a new study has been issued by the smart folks at Equality Means Business and consulting firm Thinkspot that breaks down the actual dollars and cents of how a lack of diversity in Florida is a major negative for companies trying to grow both their talent pool and bottom line.

So I got my hands on the executive summary of the report, The Link Between Economic Competitiveness And Workplace Equal Opportunity in Florida, and provide the essence of those findings for you here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Native Americans, Religion & Marriage Equality

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — It’s easy to forget that within the United States there are sovereign Native American tribes with their own customs, history and languages who retain some degree of official autonomy and self-determination when it comes to their internal governance.

Florida has two federally recognized tribes: the Miccosukee and their more populous cousins, the Seminoles. The Seminoles have about 4,000 members, according to a tribe spokesperson. An official Seminole elder or high-ranking representative was not immediately available for an interview at press time due to the tribe’s ongoing negotiations with the state of Florida regarding casino gaming.

Since 2011, as the number of U.S. states recognizing same-sex marriage hit an all-time high of 37, at least six tribes with almost 1 million members collectively have tribal laws that define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Some tribes explicitly outlaw gay marriage. For example, the Cherokees in Oklahoma and the Navajo Nation, with about 300,000 members each, do not recognize gay unions and show no signs of budging. In 2005, the Navajos voted to ban gay marriage on their 27,000 square-mile reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These three are U.S. states where same-sex unions are legal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rand Hoch, Equality Florida Should Mend Fences

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — On May 9, The Harvey Milk Foundation and The Pride Center at Equality Park are presenting the first annual Diversity Honors gala at the Seminole Hardrock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

One of the honorees will be Rand Hoch, founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and Florida’s first openly gay judge. Since 1988, Hoch has been instrumental in getting dozens of different laws and policies passed having to do with extending legal benefits and protections to LGBT Floridians, both in and outside of his own county.

He also makes it a point to stand up for career public servants, such as former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Rich and Hillsborough County’s circuit court clerk Pat Frank, who’s currently facing a challenge by LGBT Commissioner Kevin Beckner, despite Frank’s record of supporting LGBT rights for more than 28 years. She received the council’s first political endorsement, Hoch said. He credits her for standing up for LGBT rights at a time when other politicians like Sen. Bill Nelson (who has since come around) would not.

Read the rest of this entry »

Florida ‘Sin Tax’ Hits Strip Clubs Where It Hurts

May 27th, 2015

TALLAHASSEE – If it went to a good cause, how would you feel about handing over your birth certificate and social security number then paying an extra $10 or even $25 plus cover charge before entering a strip joint in Miami-Dade or Broward such as Floppy Rooster, Boardwalk, Swinging Richards or Le Boy?

In an attempt to disrupt the flow of illicit human trafficking around the state, owners of gay and straight nightclubs in every Florida county would likely take a hit, gouge their customers or even shutter their doors if new legislation being considered in Tallahassee actually makes it to the current governor’s desk.

On Feb. 3, the House Finance & Tax Committee reportedly agreed to advance two separate bills that would impose entry requirements on still-to-be-defined nightclubs catering to adults and smokers.

Read the rest of this entry »

LGBTQ Alert: Don’t Write Off North Florida

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — Last week, I wrote about the rise of Orlando as a global LGBT destination. This goes beyond just tourism, which has been drawing in visitors to the theme parks and Gay Days for years. It’s becoming a cultural hub of creativity, leisure and tolerance due to a variety of legal and commercial factors.

Now comes word from across the pond that Ireland has become the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote. This predominantly Catholic country has made a huge statement for human rights. I would not be surprised if the Catholic head of state, Pope Francis, continues to carry this message of acceptance and diversity when he visits Cuba and the United States later this fall.

These global trends are highly encouraging of course. But as Orlando illustrates, Florida itself continues to make great strides as the ripple effects from marriage equality continue to wash over the state.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Broward Sheriff Scott Israel Should Be Reelected

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — Nobody’s perfect. But Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is pretty close, at least in terms of his record on LGBT inclusion and community policing while breathing new life into county law enforcement.

Current statistics show that violent crime in Broward County is down a whopping 20.5 percent, compared to 2.8 percent for the state as a whole over the past two years. So I sat down with Florida’s first Jewish sheriff this week to talk about the tremendous strides his department has made in just the two plus years since he took office. Truth be told, as a journalist, I wanted to find at least one skeleton hanging in his closet. Just one!

But the only closet I found was the one with the door ripped off its hinges.

Read the rest of this entry »

Where Patrick Murphy Stands On LGBT Equality

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — With all due respect, Florida has a political habit of producing high-profile turncoats. In this case, Republican politicians who become Democrats for one reason or another. Former Gov. Charlie Crist of course is the most glaring and recent example.

But after his announcement this week to seek the U.S. Senate seat held by Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Jupiter) is now my flavor of the month. He currently represents Florida’s Treasure Coast of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties and serves on the financial services committee and select committee on intelligence in the House.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, which is arguably the most influential LGBT advocacy organization in the country, the 31-year-old Murphy (who turns 32 on March 30) scores a perfect 100 on the most important national LGBT issues.

Read the rest of this entry »

Florida Lawsuit Shows Obamacare Still Taking Root

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — When the Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010, it was the biggest overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the birth of Medicare in 1965.

ACA was supposed to increase access to health insurance, lower the number of uninsured Americans by expanding coverage and reduce healthcare costs. It introduced mandates, subsidies and marketplaces, requiring health insurers to provide applicants with standardized coverage. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld one of the law’s core provisions — that every individual citizen obtain health insurance.

As of mid-2015, the percentage of uninsured Americans has dropped from 18 percent to as low as 11.9 percent, according to recent estimates. This is a remarkable development in only a few short years. Moreover, with one of the highest rates of uninsured in the country, Florida now has 1.6 million Obamacare enrollees, more than any other state in the union.

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Sen. Marco Rubio Should Not Be President

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — What exactly has Marco Rubio done for Florida lately? Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy put his finger on it. Since being elected to office in 2009, Rubio has merely used one of the state’s two Senate seats as a launch pad to higher office.

Check out Rubio’s biography. Simply put, there’s not a lot of “there” there. What am I missing?

For clues, I read a speech by Rubio on June 25, 2014 in Washington, DC. It’s more of the same Reaganite narrative we’ve come to expect from GOP politicians who talk the talk but don’t necessarily walk any walk, pontificating ideals we all share as American citizens but which have little to do with solutions from Congress or big business to actually reinvent the American middle class Dream for the 21st Century. In the speech, the senator relies on anecdotes to describe economic remedies for normal people:

Read the rest of this entry »

SCRUFF App Leads Pack With Branding, Footprint

May 27th, 2015

FORT LAUDERDALE — For the moment, forget about gay dating apps like Grindr, Hornet or Jack’d. After reviewing them all, SCRUFF is the clear winner. Why?

First and foremost, it appeals to males like me who have a niche taste for masculine men in general. Nothing against twinks, fems, fats or trans (they are more than welcome to join the community as well), but bears, otters, geeks, jocks, daddies, soldiers and discreet (straight) guys catch this queer eye.

“The emerging community is rugged, scruffy and inspired by bears,” said SCRUFF founder Johnny Skandros. “But as we became more diverse, we were the first to add a transgender category. But our name is what launched us. It’s everything. But I didn’t expect it to get this big.”

Read the rest of this entry »