Gay Rights Advocates Say Challenges Remain
When Port Richey resident Dawn Cain and her girlfriend, Randi Jackson, first heard the news of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last Friday that legalized gay marriage nationally, they cried.
While they had already planned to get married next May- Florida legalized gay marriage Jan. 6- the couple said they’re exhilarated their friends and family in other states now have the same right.
“It’s not gay marriage or marriage,” Cain said. “It’s just marriage across the board. It’s just love. It’s not about gay marriage or straight marriage or traditional marriage, it’s just marriage.”
While the ruling legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are not in the clear yet, some groups say. 28 states, including Florida, have no explicit protections for sexual orientation and gender.
"We know that right now in Florida you can still be fired from your job, denied a hotel room, denied housing, just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender,” said Amber Paoloemilio, a field organizer with Equality Florida.
“So we recognize with all this excitement and momentum we need to keep moving forward to make sure we get full LGBT equality."
Cain added that transgender men and women are currently targets for legislation that forces them to use the bathroom that corresponds with their biological sex instead of their gender identity.
“Now lesbians and gays are starting to gain our rights, but I see a huge part, that ‘T’ part of LGBT, is now starting to get more discriminated against. Now that we got our rights to be equal in marriage, I think we need to start pushing for rights for them.”
Tim Martin, an attorney in St. Petersburg, said while legislators can't overturn the Supreme Court's ruling that legalized same sex marriage nationally, they can propose other policies that may create obstacles for gay and lesbian Americans, as well as transgender men and women.
"They can enact legislation that will provide churches and any individuals the right to deny service based on their religious beliefs,” Martin said. “That's going to be the biggest obstacle they're going to face."
Martin says same sex marriage and transgender rights will be controversial for years to come like Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
While many Republican presidential candidates, like Mike Huckabee, spoke out against the Supreme Court's ruling, other conservative groups are celebrating.
Aaron Norton, the vice president of Log Cabin Republicans Tampa Bay, said the organization advocates for inclusion of gay and lesbian Americans and group is thrilled that same sex marriage was legalized nationally.
"We really advocate for the party to get back to its roots, which includes support of equality and emphasis on individual rights, personal liberties and freedoms,” Norton said.
Norton says his wish is for the Republican party to support gay rights across the board.
"I'm hoping that our party will increasingly embrace the decision, embrace equality,” Norton said. “The good news is, younger Republicans, Republicans under age of 40, tend to support marriage equality."
Log Cabin Republicans National issued a statement after the ruling saying that they hope opponents to same sex marriage realize the decision "is no threat to any straight couple’s marriage, family, or faith."
While conservative Christian protesters were seen at Saturday night's Gay Pride parade along Central Avenue, other Christian churches at Sunday's festival were welcoming the decision.
"We are celebrating like crazy because we do believe that God makes no mistakes and that we are all wondrously made just as we are and just as we are not,” Sherwood said.
The UCC ordained its first gay pastor in 1971.
Sherwood says it's confusing to her as a Christian to hear other Christians quote the Bible on "traditional marriage" being between one man and one woman.
"In Bible marriage, men had many wives so the biblical, historical story doesn't fit,” Sherwood said.
And for those Christian churches that don’t support same sex marriage, Dawn Cain said she’s not trying to force anyone to agree with her or perform a ceremony.
“I didn’t fight for the right to go into a church and force my marriage on them,” Cain said. “I fought to go down to city hall and marry this beautiful woman, Randi. That’s what I fought for.”