We didn’t plan to come to Florida. In fact, knowing what little I did about Florida’s laws concerning LGBT rights, I would have preferred to avoid the state altogether. But it was hot today in Alabama, and that got us thinking about the beach. And there we were, directly north of Pensacola. So we veered left and made our way into the Sunshine State.
I was driving as we passed the sign welcoming us to Florida. Having grown up in New York City, I feel like Florida is a relative of mine. Indeed, I have at least two retired or semi-retired aunts who spend the winter months on the Barrier Islands. So I am particularly disappointed in Florida for being so hostile to us, the way you might be when you find out Grandma voted Republican. I mean, aren’t the Keys just one big gay party?
When I heard the story of the Langbehn-Pond family’s experience in Miami, I was afraid, angry, and deeply sad. In 2007, Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond, a lesbian couple who happened to live in the Washington city of Olympia, took three of their adopted kids to Florida to embark on an R Family cruise. You know, a Rosie cruise.
They never sailed. While they were still in port, Lisa Pond suffered a brain aneurysm. She was rushed to the Ryder Trauma Center, and Janice and the kids followed behind her. When they arrived, Janice was told that she was in an anti-gay state, and would not be allowed to see her partner. The rest of the story is the stuff of gay nightmares.
As we crossed into that same anti-gay state where Janice Langbehn was denied the right to be with her partner during the last moments of her life, I gripped the steering wheel a little harder and went over our plan. We haven’t paid to have power of attorney documents written up, so we would, in the case of such a tragedy, enact plan B.
“Remember,” I said to Ami, invoking our friend Jenny’s wise advice, “if something happens to one of us, we’re sisters.”
“I know,” Ami said, in the tone you use when someone’s reminded you of something a hundred times.
“And whichever one is healthy is Frances’s mom.” I stopped. “Biological mom.”
Ami and I look enough alike that if you didn’t know us and we told you we were sisters, you’d believe us. Who cares what the consequences of such a lie are in that situation? Sue me. Bring me up on charges. I know what’s right, and being by my wife’s side in a time of danger trumps just about everything else. I probably don’t need to remind you that if we were heterosexual, nobody would blink if we said we were married–which we are. There would be respect and empathy shown to the spouse, as there should be in times of mortal fear and grief.
- In 2008, in a 62 – 38% landslide [via Ballotopedia], Florida voters approved this anti-marriage equality amendment to their state constitution: “Inasmuch as a marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”
- Recognized only as a close friend, and in the absence of relatives to take precedence, medical decisions may be made on behalf of a partner. An advance directive may also be written and signed by two witnesses to grant a partner medical decision-making rights. But this is, it seems, subject to interpretation by hospital administration.
- “Homosexuals” may not adopt in Florida. Period. I’m glad there are no foster children in Florida who might need a permanent home with a loving family.
- After sex reassignment surgery, a Florida birth certificate may be amended.
- Florida hate crime laws cover sexual orientation but not gender identity. For gender identity, it’d be the Feds who’d have to prosecute.
- Gender identity has been interpreted in case law as covered by the prohibition of discrimination based on disability. There is no law protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- Florida safe schools laws do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity. The teachers’ code of ethics prohibits harassment by teachers because of sexual orientation. [via HRC unless otherwise noted]
The good news? We’re leaving Florida tomorrow.