Yesterday, the Florida State Senate Rules Committee voted to move ahead on the so-called "pastor protection" bill making the rounds in Tallahassee.
The bill deflects attention towards an invented problem -- that LGBTQ people are "forcing" clergy to marry them -- rather than towards the problems that Floridians face every day. In one of the last hurdles to becoming law, the bill heads next to a vote before the full Florida Senate.
Let's be absolutely clear: pastors and clergy have always had the right to decide who their houses of worship will and won’t marry. The U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom makes that clear.
We thank Rules Committee Vice Chair Darren Soto, as well as his colleagues Senators Audrey Gibson and Bill Montford, for voting NO on this unnecessary distraction from the real issue at hand: the need for protections from discrimination for ALL Floridians.
With your help, we can make sure that pro-equality policies prevail before the Florida state legislature in the next session and beyond. Sign up to volunteer at a SAVE phone bank or canvass today. >>
It's our displeasure to break the news that the Florida State House Civil Justice Subcommittee took the first step today in passing what some legislators are calling the "Pastor Protection" act.
SAVE wants to set the record straight -- this so-called "Pastor Protection" proposal under consideration serves to distract the public and bring out unfounded fears that churches might be sued for choosing not to marry same-sex couples.
Let's be absolutely clear: pastors and clergy have always had the right to decide who their houses of worship will and won’t marry.Read more
Yesterday, Florida Governor Rick Scott released an extensive list of unilateral cuts made possible by his use of line-item veto power. The Governor’s cuts target millions of dollars for programs that tackle critical issues for South Florida communities.
Governor Scott’s cuts focus a particular level of animus on some of the most vulnerable Floridians -- our state’s homeless population. It's clear that more resources than ever are needed to deal with the issue of homelessness, but I'm sad to report that Scott’s cuts eliminate hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for homelessness programs in Miami-Dade County alone.
Yesterday, with a stroke of his veto pen, Governor Scott eliminated $100,000 in funding for the critical LGBTQ youth homelessness program administered in South Florida by Citrus Health.
Scott’s withdrawal of the funding, which was first added to the state budget in 2013 after the efforts of State Representative and SAVE ally David Richardson, will devastate South Florida’s capacity to provide desperately needed help to its homeless youth population, of which as much as 40% or more is believed to identify as LGBTQ.
Experience tells us -- and the statistics show -- that among homeless kids, so many don’t have a home because they’ve been kicked out for being LGBTQ. The same statistics also show that once these kids don’t have a roof over their heads, their risk of mental health problems, sexual violence, drug abuse, unsafe sexual behavior and suicide is many times higher than their non-LGBTQ peers.
I can only shake my head at the Governor’s unilateral decision to withdraw funding for such a vulnerable group of Floridians like homeless LGBTQ youth.
For his part, State Representative Richardson is disappointed in the Governor’s action. He rightly points out that the cut's damage is magnified not only by the fact that the program has come to be relied on by homeless LGBTQ youth over the past two years, but also by the fact that the program’s funding commitment from the state helped unlock matching funds offered by local entities.
“This was a great project because it multiplied its own impact by matching the state funding I helped to secure with available funding from local sources," Richardson told SAVE, in response to the news of the cut.
“With SAVE’s help, I was able to review bids from three different organizations to take on the task of managing the housing portion of the initiative," said Richardson, "and we were proud to select Citrus Health to support this project. It was the type of accountable, efficient, results-based program that we should be funding more of at all levels of government, and I promise to fight during the upcoming legislative session to restore funding for this critical service."
We've got Rep. Richardson's back! Do you? Help us continue to support him as he works to restore funding for homeless LGBTQ youth by making a donation here. >>
Only with help from supporters like you can we protect critical programs like this one that help protect some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Thank you for your support.
Aurelio Hurtado de Mendoza
Deputy Director, SAVE
We're so happy to report that Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed the bill that includes a provision spearheaded by State Representative and SAVE ally David Richardson to strike discriminatory gay and lesbian adoption language from Florida's laws.
From a press release from the Representative's office:
REPRESENTATIVE DAVID RICHARDSON APPLAUDS FINAL END OF FLORIDA’s GAY-ADOPTION BAN
Representative David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, celebrates the full and final end of Florida’s ban on gay adoptions and commends Gov. Rick Scott for signing the House’s adoption legislation into law.
In April, Richardson filed an amendment to HB 7013, a bill to encourage adoption, that ultimately struck language from Florida law that prohibited gay Floridians from adopting children. The change to statute affirms an earlier court ruling and assures the policy will be followed statewide.
“This is a momentous day and an important advance for civil rights. It’s also great news for children who will be adopted into loving homes,” Richardson said. “I’m glad the governor did the right thing. An important part of this progress for social justice goes beyond the benefits to children. The largest, most successful and forward-thinking businesses in the nation want to recruit the best employees from the broadest population. They hesitate to locate in a state that discriminates against potential employees and makes them unwelcome. This is a big deal and a great day for Florida."
The legislation aims to increase adoption in the state, including incentive payments to adoption agencies and subsidies to state employees who adopt. Representative Richardson’s amendment sought to make sure the legislation is as effective as it can be.
Gov. Scott noted in a transmittal letter that the stricken language and the court’s earlier ruling mean state officials must assess potential adoptive parents according to the best interests of the child without regard to the sexual orientation of the parents.
“The best interest of children should always be foremost. It’s certainly in the best interest of the state to end discrimination and make sure the best adoptive parents are candidates,” Richardson said. “I am so proud of the work all of us in the Legislature were able to achieve together.”
Richardson was the first-elected openly gay member of the Florida Legislature when he was elected in August 2012.
“This is very personal for me. I recall the anti-gay campaigns of Anita Bryant that led to this discriminatory law. It’s a victory to be involved in repealing a law that caused so much heartache to me and so many others,” Richardson said.