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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 30, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 40
ACC moves championship game to Orlando; Equality Florida calls for statewide LGBTQ protections
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ACC moves championship game to Orlando; Equality Florida calls for statewide LGBTQ protections

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Looking at history, you will find, many examples of goodness in response to a tragedy. The outpouring of love, compassion, and sadness after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, was shared by all. People from minority communities stated to the media that they truly felt American for the first time.

On a smaller scale you can look to a house fire that destroys a family home, and to the neighbors that pull together to donate funds, clothes, and food to the victims so that the burden of starting over isn't as tough as it might be alone.

Whatever it is about tragic events that brings out compassion and community service in humans can sometimes also provide opportunity.

Something like this is happening in Florida right now.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) has just announced that it will move its championship football game from North Carolina to Orlando, Florida, due to North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ law (HB 2). The ACC chose Orlando in response to the loss suffered by the LGBTQ (mostly Latino) community on June 12 when Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 others in the Pulse Nightclub before he was shot dead by SWAT officers.

And it is not the first to relocate. The ACC joins the NCAA and NBA on the list of major sporting leagues that are standing up for LGBTQ equality and relocating championship games. The ACC's decision will reportedly cost the state an estimated $32.5 million, adding to the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses that the deeply discriminatory legislation has cost North Carolina.

Aside from being the most deadly mass shooting in our nation's recent history, the attack at the Pulse gave the world yet another example of how dangerous it can be - still - for LGBTQ people to gather in a public place.

When people get dressed up to go out to a nightclub, they put on their dancing shoes, not combat boots. Nobody expects to be shot dead on the dance floor of a Gay club. The Pulse shooting showed us all that it can and does happen. This is why the LGBTQ community needs to know whether or not we are a protected class in the city, state, or country we are vacationing in before we go.

Obviously, professional sports organizations, tourists, big business and others understand that North Carolina is not safe for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi people, and especially not safe for Transgender folks. Moving their events and taking the revenue with them is proof of that. But what happens if the place they move to doesn't quite fit the bill either?

Equality Florida, the statewide advocacy group fighting for LGBTQ equality, is determined to use this opportunity to get the governor of the Sunshine State to make some changes that would protect not only LGBTQ Floridians but LGBTQ visitors as well.

According to Equality Florida, 'The City of Orlando has a 100-point score on the 2015 Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index, demonstrating the breadth of its commitment to LGBTQ equality. Orlando's fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance explicitly protects Orlando residents and visitors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.'

But that's not enough, says Equality Florida's Public Policy Director Hannah Willard. 'We are thrilled the ACC chose the City Beautiful as the new location for the league's 2016 championship football game,' Willard said. 'This decision sends a strong message that LGBTQ inclusion is good for business and will be rewarded by institutions that value fairness.'

However, Willard says this decision should encourage Florida's governor and legislature to follow Orlando's lead and take proactive steps to protect all LGBTQ Floridians and visitors.

'This is a unique opportunity for Florida to affirm its commitment to diversity and inclusion and attract even more business to the Sunshine State,' said Willard.

'Our legislature should pass the bipartisan Florida Competitive Workforce Act to update existing state law and protect all LGBTQ Floridians from discrimination, and Gov. Scott should issue an executive order extending protections to LGBTQ state employees,' Willard said. 'Florida's government can seize this opportunity to signal to other businesses who left North Carolina in the wake of HB 2 that Florida is open for business to everyone.'

At this point it's anybody's guess if Scott will do such a thing. He is a Republican and, as one has come to expect, is opposed to LGBTQ equality.

Following the shooting at Pulse, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan spoke to Michelangelo Signorile on SiriusXM Progress, where she criticized the inaction of GOP politicians like Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

Sheehan, who is Lesbian, was the first openly Gay elected official in Central Florida. Since she was first elected into the council in 2000, she's passed non-discrimination protections and worked in groups like the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Local Officials and the International Network of Lesbian and Gay Officials.

Sheehan called out the hypocrisy of Scott and Rubio in expressing their sympathy for victims of the Pulse shooting and then voting against sensible gun control.

'Marco Rubio, the senator from Florida, walked on our blood-stained streets with people from the Hispanic community,' she said, adding, 'and he went right back to Washington - one of the few times he actually showed up for work - and voted against sensible gun legislation.'

'If this doesn't change your heart? There were people from [Rubio's] office - it was [a staffer's] hair stylist who got shot and killed,' she said. 'This was a personal connection people from his office had with these young people. And he still couldn't find it in his heart to do the right thing.'

The commissioner also pointed out that many of these officials failed to acknowledge the sexuality of the victims, dismissing homophobia as fuel for the violence. Doing so, Sheehan says, makes them complicit in the violence against LGBTQ communities.

'My governor couldn't say the word 'gay' - until he was called out on it,' Sheehan recalls. 'And I've called a lot of them out on it. I said, 'How dare you come here to my city - our city - and stand in front of the microphone and take up space...You loaded those bullets with hatred, as far as I'm concerned.'

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