Come for the sunshine; stay for the discrimination

December 31, 2013

Written By: Steve Benen, Producer, The Rachel Maddow Show
 
Thanks to a flurry of activity over the last several months, marriage equality has now expanded to 17 states (18 if we include Utah), up from 12 earlier this year. But while Americans now have equal marriage rights in a third of the country, discrimination still reigns in the other two-thirds – including Florida.
 
By most standards, the Sunshine State is an odd duck, and as Mark Joyella reports today, its approach to marriage equality is no exception.
In a state known for its splashy White Parties and a Key West New Year’s Eve that features the ceremonial lowering of a drag queen named Sushi in a giant red pump, nobody figured Utah would get marriage equality first. “Utah was a huge surprise,” said Mikael Audebert, president of MBA Orlando, Central Florida’s LGBT chamber of commerce. “Florida is still an unknown.”
 
There are, of course, two Floridas. There’s the one that’s known for South Beach and Wilton Manors, and that’s the state Nate Silver projects will, by 2016, hit 53-percent of voters supporting a same sex marriage ballot initiative.
 
Then there’s the other Florida. This is the Florida that looks much more like Alabama and Georgia.
The interesting twist, though, is that there aren’t many areas in Alabama and Georgia reaching out to the LGBT community on a national level, urging same-sex married couples to honeymoon in their states.
 
Parts of Florida, however, are doing exactly that. In fact, Equality Florida, a group fighting for equal marriage rights in the state, recently published a financial analysis that concluded Central Florida alone is poised to lose out on $154 million in tourism dollars over the next three years because the state continues to discriminate against same-sex couples.
 

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