In conjunction with LGBT History Month, state legislators met Monday night to host what was billed as the state’s first town hall meeting specifically focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
It was standing room only in Wilton Manors City Hall, where the room buzzed with enthusiasm fueled by this summer’s Supreme Court rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and also allowing federal benefits for domestic partners.
Along with seven of her colleagues, including House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston and Democratic Senator Maria Lorts Sachs, Senator Eleanor Sobel promised she would continue to push for similar movement in Florida.
“How do we get to progress in the state of Florida? We’ll just keep fighting,” Sobel said.
Attendees prompted local leaders to push ahead on a variety of initiatives. Community members advocated for state-recognized gay marriage, legal name change provisions, and other issues facing the LGBT community.
Most discussion revolved around statewide legislation currently in the works. The Domestic Partnerships Act would grant legal protections, such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, to individuals in domestic partnerships. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act would add new language to the state’s existing civil rights code, making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Eight counties, including four in South Florida, have created domestic partnership registries. However, domestic partnerships are not recognized on a state level.
Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director of civil rights organization Equality Florida, said he is optimistic about the possibility of passing statewide legislation.
“We go into session now with a lot more hope that we can achieve a truly bipartisan solution for equality,” Pollitzer said. “We think victory is truly within our reach.”