Posts Tagged As: Florida

Report: Florida Gov. Scott May Support Gay Rights, Post-Pulse

Jim Burroway

July 28th, 2016

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

There are no specifics, and this is based on conversations Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott had with state Rep. David Richardson (D-Miami/Miami Beach), the state’s only openly gay lawmaker.

“We didn’t talk about specific laws, but what he said to me privately and in the presence of his staff is that he’s a grandfather and if any of his grandchildren happened to be gay he would want them to be treated with dignity and respect and have their rights,” state Rep. David Richardson said after a panel discussion on Wednesday. “And he also told me that for anyone that might be critical of him and having these meetings, that he got elected to represent all 20 million Floridians.”

…Richardson said the meetings with Scott offered some leverage that he would use depending on what bills reach the governor’s desk.

“I will happily call him up and remind him what he told me in Orlando,” said Richardson, who told the audience he was sharing the story as an example of “relationship-building.”

Scott had been heavily criticized for refusing to describe the Pulse gay night club massacre victims as members of the LGBT community. Richardson texted Scott’s chief of staff to complain about the omission.

“He didn’t say anything about the gay community, the LGBT community. I texted her and I said, ‘Would you tell him that he has to say the word gay?’ ” Richardson said. “He has to say the word ‘gay’ because the gay community is taking note that he’s not acknowledging the community.”

Scott didn’t acknowledge the victims until June 14, two days after the attack. Scott called Richardson to seek help in reaching out to the LGBT community. Richardson agreed to help, but only on Richardson’s terms: “I’m willing to help you but only if you can do this on my terms, and my terms are no press and no photo opportunities. I didn’t want to be used to facilitate him after he has not been responsive to our community.”

President Barack Obama’s Remarks In Orlando

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2016

Click here to read the transcript

Pulse Night Club Will Reopen: “We’re Not Going To Let Someone Take This Away From Us”

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2016

Barbara Poma, owner of Pulse, appeared on NBC’s The Today Show this morning to speak for the first time about what happened early Sunday morning. She described the club as “a safe, fun place to come be who you are.” And she described that phone call she got that morning:

It was the most surreal phone call I’ve ever received. When my manager called me and told me, and he was just yelling into the phone. He kept saying, “We have a shooter! We have a shooter!” I just kept screaming, “What?” And finally it sunk in and… you can’t wrap your brain around that. You can’t.

… I can’t stop imagining what that was like for them… I don’t think I’ll ever stop that.

She opened Pulse about thirteen years ago in honor of her brother, who had died of AIDS. She chose to name the club Pulse “because it has to do with your heartbeat. It has to do with your life, and we just wanted to keep the heartbeat alive.”

Lauer asked how her mission would change as she goes from honoring one person to now honoring 49:

We just welcome those families into our family. And we just have to move forward and find a way to keep their hearts beating and keep our spirit alive. And we’re not going to let someone take this away from us. …I have to go back to that club.

After the interview, Matt Lauer added that she told him, “It’s important never to let hate win.”

Anderson Cooper Fires Back At Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 9.59.11 AMOn Tuesday, Anderson Cooper held Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi accountable for her years of opposition to marriage equality, and he took particular issue with her argument that allowing gays to marry in Florida would “impose significant public harm”. Bondi’s prominent media presence in the aftermath of the Pulse gay night club massacre presenting herself as a valiant defender of the LGBT community, has raised eyebrows in the LGBT community that remembers her previously strenuous efforts to block same-sex message. Since then, Bondi has been more or less pretending she was never involved in that fight.

Yesterday, Bondi was on WOR’s “Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning”  complaining that she was blindsided by Cooper’s grilling on her same-sex marriage stance and that “completely flipped and got into a constitutional issue of course.” She also said that Cooper’s questions were out of line and that she was asked to speak with him on the air under false pretences. “The interview was supposed to be about helping people’s families, not creating more anger and havoc and hatred yesterday. Yesterday was about unity, about bringing people together, about helping people.”

Yesterday, Cooper responded to Bondi’s allegations:

…She’s either mistaken or she’s not telling the truth. Let’s be real here. Miss Bondi’s big complaint seems to be that I asked in the first place, in the wake of a massacre that targeted gay and lesbian citizens about her new statements about the gay community and about her old ones.

…For the record, my interview was not filled with any anger. I was respectful before the interview, I was respectful during the interview and I was respectful after the interview. I don’t know Pam Bondi personally, she seems like a nice person actually. I don’t think she has hate in her heart.

But what I think doesn’t matter. Its my job to hold people accountable. If on Sunday a politician was talking love and embracing quote “our LGBT community,” I don’t think it’s unfair to look at their record and see if they have actually ever spoken that way publicly before which I never heard her say.

The fact is, Attorney General Bondi signed off on a 2014 federal court brief that claimed married gay people would pose ‘significant public harm’. Harm. She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money. Gay and straight taxpayers money, trying to keep gays and lesbians from getting the right to marry. Now look, good people can and do disagree on that issue. everyone has a right to their own opinion thank goodness. But Ms. Bondi is championing right now her efforts to help survivors but the very right which allows gay spouses to bury their dead loved ones – that’s a right that would not exist if Ms Bondi had had her way. I think it’s fair to ask her about that. There is an irony in that.

Here is that brief Cooper mentioned (PDF: 131KB/34 pages):

Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pamela Jo Bondi, State Surgeon General John H. Armstrong, and Secretary Craig J. Nichols (the “State Officials”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b), move to dismiss the amended complaints in these consolidated cases. This Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the claims against all but the DMS Secretary, and all claims fail on the merits. The Court should also deny the preliminary injunction motions because there is no likelihood of success on the merits, there is no immediacy requiring a preliminary injunction, and disrupting Florida’s existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm.

…This Court also must balance the alleged harm to the parties against the public interest. An injunction would irreparably harm the State of Florida. Plaintiffs seek to enjoin a duly enacted constitutional amendment and statutory law. Enjoining democratically enacted legislation harms state officials by restraining them from implementing the will of the people that they represent. [Emphasis mine]

And by the way, I still can’t find Bondi’s “rainbow hands” here, here, or here.

UPDATED: SBC Can’t Say Our Name, But This Pastor Can

Jim Burroway

June 15th, 2016

The video is not embeddable, but this rather interesting TV media monitoring service has it along with a transcript. Yesterday evening, during a vigil held at Orlando’s First Baptist Church, Pastor Joel C. Hunter of the unaffiliated evangelical Northland Church in suburban Longwood, invited The Task Force’s National Campaigns Director  Victoria Kirby York to teach the Baptist gathering about how to pray for the particular needs of LGBT people in Orlando:

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 10.32.37 AMPastor Hunter: When they asked me to pray for the LGBTQ community, at first I was honored and thrilled, and then I was convicted. I‘m not sure how to do that. I‘ve never been a part of a vulnerable community. I‘ve been a part of powerful communities all my life and never been a part of a persecuted community. Short doesn’t count. 

When we lose someone, we have two feelings immediately. One is we wish we’d is have built a better relationship. And the other is — and I’ve been searching my heart — is there anything I did that was complicit in that loss? I‘m going to continue searching. But i will not presume to know what this community is going through, the LGBTQ community. And so i asked Equality Florida to send someone. And my new friend, Victoria Kirby York, who is the national director of campaigns for the National LGBTQ Task Force — I‘m going to keep saying those initials often enough that they roll off my tongue. I asked her to come and just share maybe with many of us who would not know what to pray for in that community right now. What to consider that we might not you understand. Victoria, could you help us? 

Victoria Kirby York: Good evening, beloved community. Thank you so much for being here, for standing in the gap for so many of our community members. Some of you who are here, so many who aren’t here, those who are watching and those who wish they could be here. I grew up about 50 minutes away from here in a town called Brandon, Florida, and lived here until recently and have a lot of friends across central Florida. Many who frequent Pulse nightclub. Many who lost friends Sunday. And as I heard about the news, like many of you, I was heartbroken. I wanted to search out ways in which i could come back home to Florida and get engaged, see what I could do to provide any kind of healing that I could do. And I can tell you that standing up here right now looking at all of you is such a beautiful sight. I‘m going to talk to you a little bit about why it matters so much to the LGBTQ community that each and every one of you are here in a church. 

..As the national campaign director of a national LGBTQ organization, I look into the faces of so many people who have been kicked out and rejected by their churches. 13-year-olds who are forced to live on the street because they’ve been kicked out of their homes. 35% of homeless youth in this country are LGBTQ youth, even though we represent less than 5% of the population. and many of those young people have been kicked out because they have family members, parents specifically, who have not accepted who they are and who they love. We also look at the suicide rates amongst LGBTQ people, particularly youth. Again, over a third of suicides, one of the leading causes of death, sadly, for far too many young people come from the LGBTQ community. Again, less than 5% of the population. So death has been a reality that we experience for those who have attempted to take their lives, for the dozens of transgender women particularly of color who have lost heir lives due to hate crimes over the last couple of years and before. 

And so when we look at that question how we can make good come out of this moment, my charge to you all for this prayer is for grace, for graceful conversations with each other and for each other. To come into those conversations on both sides from a place of wanting to understand, wanting to heal, wanting to emphasize. Because our community for far too many years have never witnessed a sight like this, a church where they can come, be prayed over and not be forced to change who they are, or who they love.  For some people this image that I‘m staring at right now exists only in their dreams.

Update: Christianity Today has more about Joel Hunter:

The senior pastor of Northland Church, a 20,000 member, nondenominational church, admitted that “institutional forms of white Christianity” have been complicit in the denigration of LGBT communities, but expressed hope for “the next generation” of Christians.

Speaking in the aftermath of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Hunter told RNS that he had “to go back and examine my own heart, starting tonight in services.

“I’ve got to confess to my congregation that if there’s anything I’ve said that could have ever led to anything — the dismissal or denigration of any other population — God, I am so sorry for that.”

He admitted that “many of us, especially those in the conservative evangelical branch of the faith, don’t normally think of the vulnerability of many of the communities around us…but this has put it on the agenda.

Hunter says he’s not quite ready to change some of his theological positions as a “matter of hermeneutical integrity”, he admitted “there’s much of scripture that can come up to a greater visibility when it comes to treating people who don’t interpret scripture like you do or who may not believe in scripture at all.” Which is pretty much how all movement among religious people start.

Anderson Cooper Gets Emotional While Paying Tribute To Orlando Victims

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2016

Mateen’s Wife Tried To Talk Him Out Of Attacking Pulse

Jim Burroway

June 14th, 2016

NBC has just broken this story:

Omar Mateen’s current wife, Noor, told the FBI she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, several officials familiar with the case said. She told the FBI that she once drove him to the gay nightclub, Pulse, because he wanted to scope it out.

Noor is cooperating with investigators. She may face charges for failing to notify authorities about what she knew before the attack.

More Reports: Orlando Shooter Used To Hang Out At Gay Clubs

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

Omar MateenAdding to what the Orlando Sentinel published earlier, we now have this report from the Canadian Press:

A drag-dancing married couple described seeing Mateen as many as a dozen times at the gay-friendly nightclub where he’d later embark on the single worst gun massacre in modern American history.

Ty Smith and Chris Callen recalled the eventual killer being escorted drunk from the Pulse bar on multiple occasions, including one incident where he pointed a knife at a friend.

Both professed shock at seeing his face on TV: “It’s the same guy,” said Callen, who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

They expressed incredulity at the story being told by Mateen’s father in the wake of the shooting, that the gunman had once been scandalized during a visit to Miami by the sight of men kissing each other.

They say Mateen saw plenty of men kiss — and far closer to home than Miami.

“That’s bullcrap, right there. No offence. That’s straight-up crap. He’s been around us,” Smith said Monday in an interview at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.

Smith and Callen also describe an incident that corroborates other stories of Mateen’s explosive temper:

They said they decided to keep their distance from Mateen after he exploded in anger at a joke told by one of their friends, possibly about religion: “He ended up pulling a knife,” Callen said.

“He said if he ever messed with him again, you know how it’ll turn out.”

Another witness a local television station another detail:

Kevin West said the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, contacted him three months ago through a dating app called Jack’d.

“When he first contacted me, he was saying things like, ‘What clubs are popping and things of that sort, what are good places to go?'” West said. “And I remember telling him, ‘Oh, you can just look it up online because I don’t go out that much.”

West told the station that he turned the communications over to the FBI.

This thread seems to be picking up steam. Chris Hayes tweeted this teaser:

Couple To Have Joint Funeral

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

Remember this photo of Juan Ramon Guerrero and Drew Leinonen? When I posted this last night, Juan was confirmed dead, and his boyfriend Drew was missing. Since then, he too was confirmed dead. They had been together for two years and wanted to get married. Their families now say that instead of a wedding, they will be buried side by side.

“They were honestly so in love. They were soul mates. You can tell by how they looked at each other,” (said Juan’s sister). “It’s a little comforting that they died together.”

“If it’s not a funeral, they were going to have a wedding together,” she added.

Report: Mateen Cased Pulse Before the Attack

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

The East Orlando Post reported that other gay bars in the Orlando area found that Omar Mateen had been using social media to gain information prior to Sunday’s attack at Pulse. Now the Orlando Sentinel said that he had been surveilling Pulse directly:

At least four regular customers at the gay Orlando nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people Sunday morning said today that they believe they had seen the killer, Omar Mateen, there before.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith, who also uses the name Aries.

He saw Mateen at the club at least a dozen times, he told the Orlando Sentinel.

“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.

Mateen’s Ex-Wife: “When He Was Angry, He Would Sometimes Rant About Homosexuals”

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

Sitora Yusufiy, 27 and the ex-wife of Pulse night club shooter Omar Mateen, has come forward to described her two-year abusive marriage to Mateen. She said that when they first met on Myspace in 2008,  and married after a short engagement, ““He was a normal guy, joking, laughing, you know, like having fun.”

Mateen was religious but not radical. Born in New York, Mateen came from an Afghan family but was “Americanized,” Yusufiy said. Yusufiy, who now lives in Colorado, is Uzbekistani but had lived in the United States for nearly a decade before the marriage.

Yusufiy said Mateen desperately wanted to be a policeman and hung out with a lot of cops, often going to the shooting range with them.

But just a few weeks into the marriage, Yusufiy said, Mateen started showing another side, one of anger and control. She said Mateen made her get a job and then took the money she made.

“It was just his personal form on control. He wanted to control me and do whatever he [could] to keep me hostage,” she said.

When he was angry, he would sometimes rant about homosexuals, Yusufiy said.

“In those moments of emotional instability, he would express his anger towards [a] certain culture, homosexuality, because in Islamic culture, it is not really tolerated, homosexuality. And I know at the time he was trying to get his life straight and follow his faith,” she said.

One former co-worker at the Port St. Lucie security firm that employed Matteen confirmed to the New York Times Mateen’s bigotry and erratic behavior:

According to Mr. Gilroy, who said that he had repeatedly complained to G4S, the security company that employed them, Mr. Mateen was a loud, profane presence who was prone to using racial, ethnic and sexual slurs.

Mr. Gilroy, a former police officer in Fort Pierce, described Mr. Mateen as a man who had “issues and just constant anger.”

“He was just agitated about everything, always shaken, always agitated, always mad,” said Mr. Gilroy, who said his relationship with Mr. Mateen became increasingly tense, with Mr. Mateen badgering him with text messages 20 or 30 times a day.

According to the FBI, Mateen had, at various times, expressed admiration for Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, and, just before the attack, ISIS. Observers note the confusing contradictions in those endorsements: all three groups are bitter enemies of each other. According to the Guardian:

The full extent of Mateen’s motivations may have been complex and less clear than immediately apparent, though. A knowledgeable US official told the Guardian that while the federal investigation was in the earliest stages, an initial hypothesis regarding the shooter’s motive leaned closer to a hate crime than an act of terrorism.

“The idea of it being terrorism is not off the table, but it’s probably not the principal approach,” said the official, who would not be identified by name or agency in discussing a fast-moving investigation. “There are other reasons to believe it was motivated toward a very specific kind of community, obviously.”

That investigation was still determining if the shooting was “terrorism or a massive, massive hate crime”, the official said. The official emphasized that all hypotheses were preliminary.


Report: Mateen Cased Other Orlando Gay Bars Before the Attack

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

The East Orlando Post reports:

Micah Bass, owner of the recently opened Revere Nightclub and The M Hotel, informed the East Orlando Post that Mateen had sent him a friend request on Facebook late last week.

“With running The M and Revere, I constantly get requests from LGBT allies, performers, and potential guests who just want to have fun and spend time with family and friends.”

Earlier today, Bass notified the FBI of Mateen’s activity on social media and is reviewing security footage to see if the suspected shooter or any potential accomplices did, in fact, visit the property in the weeks leading up Sunday’s tragedy at Pulse.

…Veteran investigator and former Orlando law enforcement officer James Copenhaver observed that Mateen could have very well investigated several venues before selecting Pulse Nightclub to carry out what Florida Governor Rick Scott has called a “terrorist attack.”

“My training and experience suggest the shooter was scoping out LGBT clubs by friending club owners, club staff, and even customers of the LGBT clubs in the Orlando area on social media.”

Today’s Agenda Is Brought To You By…

Jim Burroway

June 13th, 2016

These are the names of the dead as of late last night.

Edward "Top Hat Eddie" Sotomayor, Jr., 34 years old.

Edward “Top Hat Eddie” Sotomayor, Jr., 34 years old. A brand manager for a travel agency that specializes in gay cruises.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old. A pharmacy tech, originally from Massachusetts. “Always bubbly and super down to earth and such a sweet guy.”

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20 years old. Friends called him “Omar.” One aunt says he now “dances freely in heaven.”

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old (left). His boyfriend, Drew Leinonen, was also at the night club. As of Sunday night, he was unaccounted for.

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old (left). His boyfriend, Drew Leinonen, was also at the night club. Late last night, his mother confirmed that he had died. Drew had established a Gay-Straight Alliance in his high school.

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old. Originally from Puerto Rico, he had been married to his husband for about a year.

Peter Ommy Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old

Peter Ommy Gonzalez-Cruz, 22 years old. Originally from New Jersey. “R.I.P. Peter Ommy. A great person with a beautiful smile.”

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old

Luis S. Vielma, 22 years old. A student at Seminole State College. Worked the “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey” ride at Universal Orlando Resort.

Kimberly"KJ" Morris, 37 years old, a bouncer at Pulse.

Kimberly”KJ” Morris, 37 years old, a bouncer at Pulse. Friends remembered her dancing and her smile.

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old. Mommy I love you,” he texted to his mother at 2:06 a.m. “In club they shooting.”

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old. “Mommy I love you,” he texted to his mother at 2:06 a.m. “In club they shooting.”

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old. (No photo available as of 10:15 PDT.)

… And 39 others.

Who Is Omar Mateen?

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2016

Omar-mateen_640x345_acf_cropped-1The Hill reports:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility Sunday for a deadly nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., that left 50 dead and 53 injured. “The attack that targeted a nightclub for homosexuals in Orlando, Florida and that left more than 100 dead and wounded was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,” ISIS said in a statement. The organization offered no proof for the attacks.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 1.47.03 PM

ISIS’ claim of responsibility came several hours after news of the attack hit the news. It’s important to remember that authorities have not established a connection between the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen and ISIS. Friends, family, and an ex-wife all say he was not particularly religious. Co-workers at the security company he worked for called the FBI in 2013 after he made comments about terrorist connections, but the FBI investigation found no basis for concern. The FBI investigated in 2014 over potential ties with someone who became an Al-Quida suicide bomber in Syria. That investigation was inconclusive.

The FBI did put him on a watch list, but that alone was not enough to prevent Mateen to purchase an AR-15. Congress refused to close that loophole last December. ATF says that Mateen legally purchased his weapons in the last week. Shortly before attacking Pulse, Mateen called 911 and pledged his allegiance to ISIS. According to NBC News:

Investigators are trying to determine whether religious extremism motivated the attack and piece together what exactly set off Mateen, who lived less than two hours south of Orlando in Port St. Lucie and worked as a security guard.

Mateen didn’t appear to have any direct ties with ISIS, sources told NBCNews, although he was a follower of ISIS propaganda and referenced the Tsarnaev brothers, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, at the scene of the shooting.

Based on what we know so far, the most immediate reason why Mateen chose this particular target and these particular people appears to be what Mateen saw in Miami:

Because of his name and heritage, there were immediate questions about Mateen’s possible ties to Islamic fundamentalism. But his father told NBC News that his son was affected by a recent incident involving two men showing each other affection.

“We were in Downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid and he got very angry,” Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique, told NBC News on Sunday. “They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, ‘Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that.’ And then we were in the men’s bathroom and men were kissing each other.”

“We are saying we are apologizing for the whole incident,” Seddique said. “We weren’t aware of any action he is taking. We are in shock like the whole country.”

Seddique added: “This had nothing to do with religion.”

Mateen’s ex-wife describes him as being very violent:

“He was not a stable person,” said the ex-wife, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared for her safety in the wake of the mass shooting. “He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”

…“He seemed like a normal human being,” she said, adding that when they were married he wasn’t very religious and often worked out at the gym. She said in the few months they were married he gave no signs of having fallen under the sway of radical Islam. She said he owned a small-caliber handgun.

Reports: Orlando Blood Donations Being Accepted from ALL Doners

Jim Burroway

June 12th, 2016

There’s an arbitrary FDA ban on blood donations for gay men who have had sex in the past year. It appears that the ban has been lifted, at least temporarily in Orlando. U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) released this statement at 12:30 am EST Sunday:

“Due to the critical need for blood donations in Orlando, ALL blood donations will be accepted and screened. Nobody will be turned away because of their sexual orientation. O Positive and O Negative blood types are needed most urgently. Please make appointments to donate throughout the week as there will be a continued need.”

HIV Plus magazine noticed earlier that local hospitals appear to be accepting blood from all comers.

Update: Others are suggesting that the blood banks are accepting donations, but are probably using the application forms to screen out those who answer the gay-and-had-sex question to dispose of that donation.

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