Gay Rights in Florida: Progress Is Here

Despite the fact that Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale boast among the highest populations of LGBT folks in the nation, Florida has long been a troglodyte in the area of equal rights.

But recently, there has been an uptick in enlightenment.

1. Last month, the Florida Supreme Court granted a lesbian woman the right to visit a child born from her donated egg.

2. Three Florida legislators -- Democratic Sen. Joseph Abruzzo of West Palm Beach and Rep. Joe Saunders of Orlando, as well as Republican Rep. Holly Raschein of Key Largo -- have filed antidiscrimination bills for the upcoming session.

3. And last month, the Florida National Guard agreed to full benefits for same-sex couples.

Three different events. All signs that Florida might someday overcome its antigay bias the way it dumped its segregationist past. Charlie Crist might be a key player here. When the three legislators unleashed their bill -- which failed last year -- he tweeted this:

There is a significant background here. During segregation, Florida was a mecca for antigay violence. In 1977, beauty queen Anita Bryant made Dade County a national laughingstock when she persuaded county commissioners to repeal a gay rights ordinance.

And for years, Florida was the only state in the union that constitutionally banned adoptions by gays and lesbians. That ended in 2010.

Earlier this year, author, advocate, and University of Florida graduate Wayne Besen wrote the following:

The lives of LGBT people in South Florida are generally better, healthier, and people have significantly more career and romantic options than in 1988. On the flipside, this has meant a loss of community. Being gay is no longer sufficient to receive a hug at a bar -- you actually have to have something in common with a person other than sexual orientation. This, it seems, is the price of progress.

And the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act -- and refused to overrule a lower-court decision to overturn California's Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage. Florida passed an amendment similar to Prop 8 in 2008 that we gotta hope will eventually be affected by this ruling.

Vive la différence!

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter @chuckstrouse.

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