Friday, August 31, 2012

ActionNewsJacksonville: St. Augustine Votes 4-0 for GLBT Equality

Reported by: Ryan Smith
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Updated: 8/29 11:55 pm

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The city of St. Augustine is known for its historical beauty. Now, the nation's oldest city could be ahead of the curve in Northeast Florida when it comes to gay rights.

“I'm excited about it because I feel the city is taking the rightstep unlike some folks in Jacksonville who didn't approve some of the equal rights,” said Tim Millbern.

Millbern and his partner operate At Journey's End, a gay-friendly bed and breakfast in St. Augustine. Moving from the big city of Boston, Millbern was surprised a ban on discriminating against sexual orientation wasn't already in the books in St. Augustine or Jacksonville. It's been a fiercely debated issue in the River City. Council members shot down the proposed expansion of Jacksonville's human rights ordinance this month. This week, the issue slipped south to St. Augustine.

“The St. Augustine culture and the growth of our community recently, yes, they would be very open to this,” said city attorney Ron Brown.

St. Augustine commissioners voted 4-0 Monday to add sexual orientation to the list of reasons why people can not be denied housing in the city.

Brown says that the new ordinance will provide more protection than existing state or federal laws do. That's welcome news for Millbern. "If it's not there that means you can discriminate basically and that shouldn't be the case for any human being."

Brown’s office will draft the ordinance then it must go through two readings including public comment before a final vote is taken on the issue. The new ordinance is expected to go through a first reading by early October.

The city’s ordinance currently bans discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.

Realtor praises City's nondiscriminatory Fair Housing ordinance amendment

St Augustine adds SEXUAL ORIENTATION as protected class to housing law

st augustine real estateIn a swift vote on Monday night, St Augustine, in sharp contrast to a recent Jacksonville vote, adds Sexual Orientation as a protected class to Fair Housing Laws. With four of the five commissioners present, the motion passed unanimously. On August 15th, a similar vote in Jacksonville ended with a 10-9 vote squashing the rights of same sex families.
St. Augustine Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said she couldn’t explain the Jacksonville vote, but she said it’s part of her city’s tradition to protect the freedoms of its residents.
“In our historic city, we have always protected all types of individual freedoms,” Freeman said. “Now we are protecting the freedom of sexual orientation.
Our policy has been to protect human rights and freedoms, and we are unanimous in that. There isn’t a lot of debate about whether or not we should protect individual freedoms.”
To read more about this historic vote, visit Folio Weekly.
On a personal note: I found this to be a timely current event as over the weekend, on a RESA Mastermind Summit, I had mentioned to my stager colleagues that sexual orientation is not a protected class. No one at the table, all very seasoned professionals, was aware that it was not. Everyone, regardless of their opinions on gay marriage, was shocked that this was still a legally allowed discrimination for something as basic as housing. Having just moved here from a state known for national political gaffes, it is a wonderful feeling to actually be living somewhere that cares deeply about healing our city rather than creating laws that tear it apart!

Folio Weekly blog re: Monday's Historic Vote in St. Augustine City Commission

St. Augustine (takes action to) outlaw housing discrimination against gays and lesbians

The St. Augustine City Commission voted unanimously Monday night to outlaw discrimination in housing for sexual orientation. Activist and frequent City Commission critic Ed Slavin asked commissioners to amend the city’s Fair Housing Act during public comments.

“It sends the message that St. Augustine is open for business, and our hearts are open,” Slavin told Folio Weekly after the vote.

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, Slavin asked commissioners to send a message to the LGBT community that it didn’t tolerate discrimination. He said it was important now in response to the Jacksonville City Council’s 10-9 vote Aug. 15 against amending its human rights ordinance to protect gays and lesbians.

City commissioners discussed an amendment during a housing workshop within the St. Augustine City Commission meeting. Commissioner Errol Jones then introduced a motion to change the law when the regular meeting resumed, and all four City Commissioners present voted in favor. Mayor Joe Boles wasn’t in attendance. The City Clerk’s Office confirmed the vote Tuesday to Folio Weekly, and said the change required no further action by commissioners. But in fact, Tuesday’s vote was only the first step. City Attorney Ronald Brown will draft an amendment to the law and bring it back to commissioners for discussion, public comment and votes on first and second reading before the change is official.

The quick action of commissioners in St. Augustine contrasted sharply with the city of Jacksonville, where months of heated discussions followed introduction of a bill in May amending the city’s Human Rights Ordinance. On Aug. 15, the Jacksonville City Council rejected the amendment by a 10-9 vote.

St. Augustine Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said she couldn’t explain the Jacksonville vote, but she said it’s part of her city’s tradition to protect the freedoms of its residents.

“In our historic city, we have always protected all types of individual freedoms,” Freeman said. “Now we are protecting the freedom of sexual orientation.

Our policy has been to protect human rights and freedoms, and we are unanimous in that. There isn’t a lot of debate about whether or not we should protect individual freedoms.”

St. Augustine has been the site of epic constitutional and civil rights struggles, including the fight waged by city street musicians and artists for freedom of expression, a lawsuit filed by resident Merrill Roland to force compliance with the Americans WithDisability Act and the battle of African-Americans for full civil rights. The St. Augustine struggle was a critical moment in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

“We have a very long history of hurts against different demographics of the population,” admitted Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline. “Now we are trying to move in a healing direction, to be an inclusive city, tolerant of differences. We have really focused on this as a Commission.”

Sikes-Kline said it was a clear decision for her because it was about a basic need — shelter. “We don’t want to see discrimination against a person’s basic needs,” she said.

Slavin joked that St. Augustine introduced and adopted the changes in the time it took people in Jacksonville to clear their throats.

— Susan Cooper Eastman


PolitiJax re: St. Augustine Fair Housing Amendment to Include GLBT residents

St. Augustine adds "sexual orientation" to Fair Housing Act


Acting in "the time it takes people in Jacksonville to clear their throats," the St. Augustine City Commissionadded sexual orientation as a protected class when it comes to housing in the nation's oldest city.

As reported by Folio Weekly's Flog Blog :

Activist and frequent City Commission critic Ed Slavin asked commissioners to amend the city’s Fair Housing Act during public comments.
“It sends the message that St. Augustine is open for business, and our hearts are open,” Slavin said.

The details are here .

First Coast News re: St. Augustine's Inclusive Fair Housing Ordinance

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A change might be coming to add "sexual orientation" to St. Augustine's Fair Housing Act. The move would prohibit discrimination based on gender preference.

City Commissioners voted Monday night to ask the City Attorney to add the phrase.

Commissioner Bill Leary says this is just the first step. The proposed Fair Housing Act would have to go through the ordinance process like any other bill.

The Commission vote 4-0 to ask the City Attorney to change the Act. Leary said that's a pretty good indication this is something they want to consider as an ordinance change.

"I voted in favor of this step. I certainly see no reason why we should discriminate based on sexual orientation as with every issue that comes before, I want to hear what the citizens have to say," he said.

The ordinance could be approved in the next 30 to 45 days in St. Augustine.

Commissioner Leary couldn't say whether the proposal was in reaction to the Jacksonville City Council rejecting a similar bill earlier this month.

First Coast News

St. Augustine Record: City Moves to Ban Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Housing

City takes first step to ban discrimination on sexual orientation

Posted: August 28, 2012 - 10:17pm

The City of St. Augustine could be taking an extra step toward stopping discrimination.

During Monday’s city commissionmeeting, the commission voted to add sexual orientation to the list of reasons that people cannot be denied housing in the city.

The issue was raised during a workshop on fair housing.

At Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Errol Jones recommended that the city’s Fair Housing Ordinance should have the added protection for citizens of any sexual orientation.

The motion was then approved by the commission by a vote of 4-0. Mayor Joe Boles did not attend the meeting.

The city’s current ordinance bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin or handicap.

Monday’s action was the first step in the process to amend the city’s current ordinance.

First, City Attorney Ron Brown and his staff will draft an ordinance and present it to the commission. The prospect of changing the ordinance was not on the meeting’s agenda, and Brown said he’s just getting started on the issue.

“We’ll have an ordinance in the near future,” he said Tuesday. “We have some drafting to do. It’s fairly simple in adding sexual orientation to the protected (classifications).”

Brown said the new ordinance, if adopted, will provide more protection to St. Augustine residents than current federal or state laws do.

The new ordinance will likely have its first reading in late September or early October, Brown said.

That will be followed by a second reading in which the public will be allowed to comment. Then the commission will take a final vote on the ordinance.

IN HAEC VERBA: July 12, 2012 Complaint to AG Eric Holder re: Election Supervisor Refusal to Allow City of St. Augustine Early Voting Location

Dear General Holder:
1. Please begin a civil, criminal and administrative investigation -- in conjunction with the FBI and a federal grand jury -- of the repeated racist refusal of the St. Johns County, Florida Supervisor of Elections to allow early voting anywhere within the 12 square miles of our nation's oldest European-founded city, St. Augustine Florida, during our 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 primary and general elections.
2. Despite repeated respectful requests and moral suasion for weeks from citizens, elected officials and our St. Johns County Democratic Executive Committee -- and the helpful compromise suggested weeks ago by our County Attorney, Patrick McCormack -- Respondent ST. JOHNS COUNTY ELECTION, FLORIDA SUPERVISOR of ELECTIONS (SoE) VICKI OAKES (OAKES) adamantly refuses to allow early voting at the St. Augustine Public Library for the 2012 General Election. Why? Respondent SoE OAKES is a very partisan Republican in a county dominated by Republicans, a county with a long sordid history of Jim Crow segregation, whose actions helped President Lyndon Johnson persuade Congress to enact our 1964 Civil Rights Act. The majority of voters within city limits are Democrats.
3. The closest early voting location to the African-American communities of West Augustine and Lincolnville is several miles north of town, next to the Sheriff's office, along US 1, which lacks proper sidewalks, reportedly resulting in deaths and injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists.
4. Florida has cut nearly in half the number of early voting locations, to which DoJ rightly objects.
5. With the number of days of early voting reduced, OAKES should have been open to and friendly about adding additional early voting locations. Instead, OAKES has been overt in her hostility and animus to early voting within city limits. While recently holding.a voter registration drive dozens of miles away in another county, outside the ordinary course of business and her constitutional role, OAKES is insouciant and insolent about the early voting rights of residents of St. Augustine.
6. Respondent SoE OAKES' private attorney has not responded to my telephone messages.
7. OAKES has been rude, deceptive and other-directed, irrationally rejecting County Attorney Patrick McCormack's excellent compromise suggestion of the Library (as opposed to my initial suggestion of St. Augustine City Hall, to which OAKES raised parking space questions).
8. Please investigate the SJC SoE and its eight-year old St. Augustine early voting discrimination voter suppression scheme, pursuant to our 14th and 15th Amendments, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, 18 U.S.C. 241 and 243, 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1985 and the Voting Rights Act.
9. For weeks, OAKES has emitted pretexts, excuses and even an undated belated justification for the SoE's wretched eight-year record of "redlining" and discriminating against our city, once called the "most lawless city in America" by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1964. We've made great progress in our city, but OAKES does not respect African-American rights. Please investigate. Please empower the DoJ Community Relations Service (CRS) to help persuade OAKES to allow early voting at the St. Augustine Public Library for the 2012 General Election.
Let justice be done. Let freedom ring. Let every vote count.
Thank you in advance for helping solve this problem now.
With kindest regards,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085

Cognitive Misers Attempting to Buy the Election and End Liberty and Justice for All As We Know Them

Empowered by the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision, our right-wing friends are busily working overtime again this election year – hating, lying, misleading, misrepresenting, inflaming, spreading “fear and smear.” The 0.1% are spending billions of dollars of corporate cash to buy our elections.

They resemble holograms of 1930s caricatures of “vulture capitalism” of whom FDR famously said, “I welcome their hatred.”

Study smarmy screeds written by soreheads – sore winners, or sore losers? You've seen them for years, emitted by nattering negative “aginners,” always against someone or something, always demonizing. Many are inspired by Ann Coulter. (Like the Baptist lady said about the Devil, “she's no slouch.”)

With each passing year, do rightists get goofier, angrier, more unhinged and more narcissistic? They mock democracy, advocate theocracy, and vilify working people.

As recently retired St. Johns County, Florida Commission Chairman Mark Miner said about a controversial local hate site operator and Republican fundraiser and PR chair, Michael Gold (Historic City News), they “spew venom.”

They are always itching for a fight. They go out of their way to taunt, demean and debase honorable citizens and officials and cheapen public debate.

In pure puerility, they are unmatched.

Ill-behaved brutes and bullies spoke before our St. Johns County Commission on November 1, 2011 and called my mentor Robin Nadeau (d. 1/6/2012) and those of us supporting a St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore,, “Communists” and “Nazis,” comparing us to Hitler and Goebbels.

moderate Republican County Commissioners, discussing the National Park and Seashore for the first time in 72 years, were afraid, voting no, while refusing to enforce their own civility rule against the libelous loudmouth Tea Party bullies.

These pitiful National Park-haters are what Scott Peck calls “people of the lie” and what F. Buckley, Jr. would call “anti-literate energumen.”

They are poor tortured souls, in the spirit of the ideological perversions of the Koch family-founded John Birch Society, which actually called Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin Roosevelt “Communists.” (Buckley's rightist National Review magazine rightly denounced the John Birch Society; it also fired Ann Coulter for bigotry – some misguided local rightists worship both of them and solemnly call President Barack Obama a Kenyan and a “Communist.” On St. George Street, you can see these McCarthyites wearing ersatz, inauthentic Colonial garb and brandishing a “big red sign,” with which they pose with amused and annoyed tourists: “Obama is a Communist.”

Local Obama-hating Tea Partiers here in St. Augustine recently hosted a John Birch Society speaker to denounce civil rights laws, Those laws were enacted to enforce our Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. But Angry Tea Partiers never have a happy day, apparently. They want to turn back the clock and erase more than 140 years of American progress.

They can only ululate when talking about our country and its future.

They run down our economy and some pointedly refuse to hire new workers until 2013. They want to steal elections at any cost. They want to shrink government to where it is “just small enough to fit in your bedroom.”

You see, the 0.1% wants you to “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid“ of government -- unless it is granting them favors or giving them money, like the four generations of Republican VP nominee-designate Paul Ryan's family who grew rich from government contracts.

Robert Kennedy said that “government belongs wherever there are people in distress who cannot help themselves, or wherever evil need an adversary.”

President Ronald Reagan helped end the Soviet's “Evil Empire” and Cold War, using the levers of power – government (military spending) was the solution, bankrupting the Soviet Union, which could not match our defense budget. We won. Yet President Reagan said that “government is the problem.” He was half-right and half-wrong.

Government is a tool. It is not our enemy.

Like a hammer used instead of a screwdriver, government can create problems when it is the wrong tool – when it overreaches, as when it reaches out to crush someone or oppress people's rights. Think Tuskegee, Alabama syphilis experiments. Think Bull Conner fire-hosing black people in Birmingham, Alabama, Think Waco. Think nuclear weapons plants poisoning workers and waterways. Think corporate-operated government nuclear labs experimenting unethically on unsuspecting patients with plutonium inoculations and radionuclide vitamins. Think CIA assassination plots. It all happened. It was wrong.

Think Vietnam. Think “War on Drugs.” We lost both.

Think retaliation against ethical resisters (whistleblowers). It's wrong.

But the simple palpitating truth of the matter is that Governments often solve problems. That's why our Founders created so many of them, leaving us their wisdom and owner's manuals in our Declaration of Independence, and in our federal and state Constitutions and Bills of Rights.

They wrote in the Virginia and Tennessee Constitutions that, “Government being instituted for the common benefit, the doctrine of non-resistance to arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

Government can often solve problems relatively swiftly.

Think about the hole in the Earth's ozone layer and the Cuyahoga River on fire – government regulation of CFCs and water pollution solved those problems. We won.

Think about the race to the Moon. We won.

Think about Hitler, a genocidal maniac. Hitler would have conquered the world were it not for government employees like all of those putative “Communists” (FDR, Eisenhower, my father and 12.5 million Americans in uniform, and millions more in war industries) -- who ended Hitler's “Evil Empire” – and successive generations who won the Cold War. We won.

Left to their own devices, piratical corporations like Texaco Oil would have continued doing business with Hitler (Senator Harry Truman called it “treason”). But Government listened to the people, not corporate Quislings. Our Government gave the orders, corporations filled and followed them, and soon there were enough weapons to stop three “Evil Empires” (Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and Tojo's Japan). We won.

Think about “Jim Crow” segregation. In the last 40 years, have you ever seen a “Colored Water Fountain” sign (outside of a museum)? We won.

Why? Thank God for for liberal Republicans in Congress, 1861-1969, without whom there would be no civil rights laws. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson predicted that civil rights would make Southern whites vote Republican. Nixon's “Southern Strategy” made it happen.

Today's Republican Party has expelled the liberals, using liberal as an epithet, as we saw in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries and again in our county Republican primary.

Today's rightists have a bad case of “Ideologues' Amnesia”: they say they want “state's rights” but forget that many state and local governments were the problem – they created and enforced segregation laws while lynchings, shootings, bombings, beatings, illegal arrests and lawlessness proliferated.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 48 years ago, St. Augustine, Florida was the “most lawless” city in America. Where once our City violated human rights, today we honor them, with two civil rights monuments in our Slave Market Square in a City were civil rights are increasingly respected and not neglected.

It takes a village. It takes a free country, one where the genius of a free people has ruled and survived.

Our freedom is at risk.

We can survive and overcome the Citizens United case, which freed corporations to buy elections. We survived and overcame the Supreme Court's Dred Scot and Plessy v. Ferguson decisions, which said African-Americans had no rights.

It is up to us.

Our federal government first ended Nazism in the 1940s. Then we ended segregation in our military, then everywhere in the 1940s to 1960s. In the 1980s and 1990s, we helped end Communism. Three cheers for our country!

As JFK said,”here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own.”

Thank God for our Federal Gummint. Let's hope to reform it so that it can continue to protect you and your grandchildren, protect our environment, create National Parks – and defeat polluters, price-fixers, corporativists, organized crime, crooks, racists, “Evil Empires” and war criminals, too.

What do you reckon?