Monday, December 22, 2014

St. Augustine: Florida's Gay Wedding Capital?

Bigotry is always bad for business, and specifically, bad for the Gay and Lesbian wedding business.

Gay or Lesbian couples probably won't wish to be rushing to:
(a) places where the anti-Gay court clerks don't want us (Jacksonville, Tampa, Green Cove Springs) or
(b) places where the unenlightened Florida Association of Court Clerks and its unhelpful billion-dollar deal-making Republican GREENBERG TRAURIG law firm have offices (Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach).

To Florida's 2015 Gay and Lesbian wedding couples: Let me suggest St. Augustine, Florida's first capital, dating back to 1565, the magical place where United States District Court Chief Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr.  ordered Rainbow flags to fly for Gay Pride June 8-13, 2005, a landmark First Amendment victory (one that has for nearly ten years empowered our increasingly compassionate and progressive community to overthrow oppression by the bigoted and the greedy).

We've won more than 30 progressive victories here since that time.  In fact, in the words of the late former City Manager Joseph Pomar, "The Bohemians have won!" Playwright Tony Kushner said, in "Angels in America," that it is often "only through politics that miracles occur."

Romantic St. Augustine is already an increasingly acclaimed destination wedding venue, with Southern magnolias, old oaks, historic buildings and the oldest streets in America.  We will welcome Gay and Lesbian wedding guests commencing January 6, 2015 (Twelfth Night or the Feast of the Epiphany).

Yes. St. Augustine is a small town (less than 14,000), but we love it.

We've lived in St. Augustine since 1999.  St. Augustine is rapidly becoming a place that, like Atlanta in the 1950s, is now "too busy to hate."

We're enjoying preserving and protecting our history while making St. Augustine a better place:

St. Augustine has a Gay-friendly Fair Housing ordinance, adopted unanimously by our City Commission December 10, 2012.

St. Augustine has a uniquely progressive Gay-friendly city pension law, adopted unanimously by our City Commission March 24, 2014: since Gays could not marry in Florida, city commissioners extended equal pension benefits to Gay partners.

Even before the Gay marriage decision, surviving partners of Gay and Lesbian City of St. Augustine retirees were unanimously voted the right to be eligible to receive their pension benefits if the city employee dies first. Then-Commissioner Donald W. Crichlow said, "It's the right thing to do." In a short but eloquent memorandum from Assstant City Manager Timothy A. Burchfield, Commissioners were advised to include Gays and Lesbians, as "Curreently the plan discriminates against those participants who are single and chose not to mary, as well as those who cannot legally marry in the state of Florida....The modification [proposed August 2013 by] the [General Employee] Retirement Board would eliminate this inequity and place all particpants on a level playing field."

This is not Jacksonville.

This is St. Augustine.

Viva! Three cheers!

"Viva le differance!"

I am proud to live in the City of St. Augustine, where our leaders are listening to the people these days.

The work of extirpating discrimination continues anew, first with Rainbow flags, then with Fair Housing, then with pension benefits and now with Gay marriage.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson said after the police riots in Selma, Alabama in 1965, "We SHALL overcome!"

Once the ill-advised GREENBERG TRAURIG ukase to the court clerks is kicked in the dustbins of history, Gay or Lesbian couples will want to schedule their nuptials for St. Augustine.

Gay and Lesbian couples will wish to visit St. Augustine, our Nation's Oldest City, a very cool place with real people, where we've been making progress since 1565, celebrating our 450th year in 2015.

Our St. Johns County Court Clerk is Cheryl Strickland, 904-819-3501: more news next week.

St. Augustine for Gay marriage: there is no substitute.

Ed Slavin
Box 3084
St. Augustine, Florida 32085-3084

1 comment:

Warren Celli said...

Wonderful column Ed! I might quibble with this line...

"I am proud to live in the City of St. Augustine, where our leaders are listening to the people these days."

They still have many notches to go on their hearing aids before you can call it true listening.

The big tell will be resolution of the pigdebt issue. [Pigdebt is the total amount of recompense due to those who have been harmed, financially, physically, and emotionally, by the willful and intentional immoral usurpation of the 'rule of law' by Xtrevilist pigs for selfish gain.]