Though Memorial Day weekend has long attracted LGBT visitors and locals alike to the beach for a weekend of relaxation, revelry, or some combination thereof, Northwest Florida in general is not often recognized among the more socially progressive areas of the country. Despite the challenges of the past, like other areas in the Sunshine State, a growing momentum when it comes to LGBT equality has picked up steam in the region over the last year, due in large part to the work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.
Sara Latshaw, director of the Northwest Regional Office of the ACLU, has been at the forefront of local efforts to develop policies, practices, and partnerships in Pensacola and surrounding areas to increase support and inclusion of LGBT persons throughout the community.
•The Pensacola Alliance for Equality (PAE), founded in April 2013, is a group of organizations, businesses and concerned individuals who aim to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The ACLU of Florida, the University of West Florida, HIVevolution, Q-Up Pensacola, Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida and the UWF Gay-Straight Alliance participated in the creation of the PAE, which now has over 80 members. (For a complete listing of PAE members, click here)
•In December 2013, the City Council voted to approve the establishment of a Domestic Partnership Registry (DPR) within the city limits of Pensacola, which opened in March 2014. City Councilman Larry B. Johnson (District 4) sponsored the ordinance, which was drafted in collaboration with Latshaw and the ACLU of Florida.
•Ongoing, annual events that Latshaw and the ACLU play an integral role in planning include the Pensacola LGBT Film Fest, scheduled for October, and the Pensacola GSA Summer Club, a program for LGBT high schoolers and allies, is preparing for its third summer of outreach.
•At the state level, the ACLU and the ACLU of Florida filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida in March 2014, challenging Florida’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states and are recognized by the federal government. Two Pensacola women—Lindsay Myers, a digital content producer for WUWF and Sarah Humlie, the Executive Director of the Pensacola Humane Society—are among the eight same-sex Florida couples (and SAVE, an LGBT rights organization based in South Florida) on whose behalf the suit was filed. The couple, who married in Washington, D.C., in December 2012, are part of one of 73 cases in 32 states challenging (according to Freedom to Marry at press time).
At this rate, any number of updates will be possible for the IN’s Memorial Day 2015 issue.
For additional information
Pensacola Alliance for Equality: facebook.com/PNSGSA
Pensacola LGBT Film Festival: facebook.com/pcolaLGBTfilmfest