Em-URGE-ing Voices

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New Year, New Florida: Domestic Partnership on the Horizon

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January 9, 2014

Photo courtesy of College Democrats at UCF

Photo courtesy of College Democrats at UCF

Over the past few years, the movement for LGBTQ equality has made some tremendous progress throughout the country. With the number of states that allow same-sex marriage nearly doubling in 2013, and the landmark decision of Windsor v. the United States this past summer, it’s hard to believe that the movement is still barreling forward with the same speed and determination.

Before Christmas, State House Representative Linda Stewart introduced a state domestic partnership registry bill. This is huge! In Florida, where no protection for queer people exists on the state level, it’s been hard to watch such successes create waves throughout the country that continue to not touch me. But with this Stewart’s bill gaining support from other pro-equality politicians as well as the public, Florida’s disposition toward the queer and non-heteronormative is looking brighter.

Florida spans the gambit from incredibly conservative areas like Clay County to extremely liberal areas like Miami-Dade. We are a conglomeration of diversity and culture and untold histories that make Florida an amazing place to experience. The possibility of Florida becoming the very first state in the south to legalize same-sex marriage had always been a sort of interesting thought. Now Rep. Stewart’s bill is turning this idea into a very real possibility.

For queers throughout Florida, this bill brings hope, a thing that we’ve been very short on given Florida’s past record with the treatment of LGBTQ individuals. It gives us a tangible thing to cleave to as we face the very bleak, unforgiving realities. Tomorrow I may find myself unemployed because Florida provides no job protection for queer people. Next week, a woman may find herself in an abusive, same sex relationship and not know what her resources are because the state provides so very little for men and women in that position. A month from now a Trans* teenager may be kicked out of their home and have nowhere to go.

This bill is a turning point. This bill tells the queer community that there are people who keep our experiences and our stories in mind as they walk through the halls of the capitol. There are people who know that we’ve endured this kind of treatment for far too long and who are not willing to continue pussyfooting around the issue. We know that we are represented and our voices are being heard, and that we are no longer being looked at as simply constituents but as people, residents of this great state that has always strived to remember and acknowledge ideals of the past while still looking forward to the future.

This New Year brings with it an opportunity to lead the South in the fight for equality, and, more an importantly, an opportunity to lead the South in cultivating and investing in the queer community. The South is ready for queer rights. The South is ready for same sex marriage, it’s ready to tackle issues in the Trans* community, it’s ready to begin discussing biphobia, and the intersectionality of gender, race, and sexuality. I am and always have been a proud Floridian, but his year is the year I may have the chance to become a proud Southerner.

Stewart’s bill is scheduled to be brought before the state congress in July, on the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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