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Prominent Florida LGBTQ+ activist’s body found in landfill dump

Diaz-Johnston was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz & he led the fight for marriage equality

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Photo courtesy of Don Diaz Johnston

TALLAHASSEE, FL — Police in Florida’s capital city confirmed that the body of Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, who had been reported missing was found in a Jackson County landfill Saturday morning.

Diaz-Johnston was last seen alive Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, more than an hour from where his body was found, according to a missing person notice released by police. Detectives are investigating his death as a homicide, a police spokesperson said.

Diaz-Johnston, was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz. As an LGBTQ advocate he led the fight for marriage equality, he and his husband were plaintiffs in an historic 2014 lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County.

ABC News reported at the time that a South Florida circuit court judge sided with Diaz-Johnston and five couples suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida dropped its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

His husband wrote in a poignant Facebook post; “There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston. I can’t stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Jorge. He and his husband Don were two of the brave plaintiffs who took on Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban and helped win marriage equality for all Floridians,” Equality Florida said adding, “Our deepest condolences to Don and Jorge’s extended family.”

Detectives urge anyone who may have information to call 850-891-4200, or make an anonymous tip to Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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‘Beloved’ 24 year-old Trans hairdresser murdered in Jacksonville, Florida

Her death marks at least the second violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year, less than a week into 2022

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24-year-old Duval Princess  (Photo via Instagram)

JACKSONVILLE – Police are actively investigating the shooting death of 24-year-old Duval Princess found unresponsive in a car at the Highland Square shopping center on Dunn Avenue in Jacksonville earlier this month.

Identified by police and family members in local media reports by her pre-transitioning name and gender, she was a well-known hairstylist specializing in wigs and weaves who was active in the LGBTQ+ community. According to friends who knew her, Princess was in the early stages of transitioning and identified as transgender. 

An aunt, Raschel Campbell, told Jacksonville’s CBS affiliate WJAX-TV News; “There’s nobody who did not know Duval Princess.”

WJAX reported: “Security video given to Action News Jax from a nearby business shows someone waiting at the corner of a business that morning. The car we are told Robinson is in pulls up, the person goes to the driver side window first, then walks to the passenger side door.

They appear to have a conversation and then again, the person goes back to the driver side. Shortly after, it appears as if the person hops into the passenger seat. Roughly 10 minutes go by and then there’s a flash, which we opted not to show. Moments later the person is seen running away.”

Family members told the station that according to messages, she was meeting up with someone known to her.

“I have never known a pain like this and we just want answers,” Campbell said. “This was a senseless act of violence, it was a hate crime.”

Police are asking anyone with further information is asked to contact investigators or call Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

On social media, friends, family and clients of Princess are sharing fond memories of their times with her, noting that she was beloved, with one client sharing that she was “so sweet and genuine.” Another said there was “never a dull moment when we linked.”

The Human Rights Campaign noted:

“Her death marks at least the second violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year, less than a week into 2022. We say “at least ” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported, as is the case of Princess. She was repeatedly misgendered and deadnamed in several media reports.”

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Florida bill could close hate crime loophole

The law lets prosecutors pursue hate crime charges when a crime involves defacing properties owned by local governments or organizations

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Screenshot via WPTV NBC 5 News

TALLAHASSEE – Two Florida lawmakers are working to close a loophole in the state’s hate crime law that allowed a man who vandalized gay Pride display in Delray Beach, Florida, to avoid such charges over the summer. 

State Sen. Tina Polsky (D) and State Rep. Emily Slosberg (D) sponsored bills, H.B. 883 in the House and S.B. 1208 in the Senate, earlier this month that would let prosecutors pursue hate crime charges when such a crime involves defacing properties owned by local governments or organizations.

Over the summer, 20-year-old Alexander Jerich was accused of using his vehicle to leave tire marks across a gay Pride mural in Delray Beach. Jerich – who was participating in a parade celebrating former President Donald Trump’s birthday, according to court documents – turned himself in after the incident was caught in a viral video

Jerich was charged with criminal mischief over $1,000 and reckless driving, but not a hate crime. He is currently awaiting trial and could face up to six years in prison if convicted – he would have faced a possibility of 20 with hate crime enhancements. 

In a press release voicing support for the bill, Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg referenced the case, which “did not meet the existing standard for hate crime penalties because the city itself was the victim – not an individual.” 

Under the proposals, “local governments for the first time can be considered victims of crimes of prejudice,” according to Aronberg.

“This important bill will close a glaring loophole in state law that allows defendants to avoid hate crime charges even though their actions were motived by prejudice,” Aronberg said. “This bill gives prosecutors the tools needed to hold fully accountable those who harm our community with hateful conduct.”

Malik Leigh, an attorney and former law teacher, told the Sun Sentinel that even if the bill passes the Republican-controlled legislature and is signed by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, it’s unclear if the bill would stand up to a legal challenge.

“You’d have to ask him his mindset and charge based on that, and so that would make it subjective,” he said. “In many cases, you can charge a crime like murder if someone commits a murder, but you can’t always guess their mindset.”

Polsky said she was “proud” to sponsor the bill in a tweet. 

“Hate has no place anywhere,” she said.

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Florida’s DeSantis attacks LGBTQ youth by removing website resource

The page featured resources including links to anti-bullying initiatives & information on creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth

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Equality Florida's Brandon J. Wolf confronting Gov DeSantis June 2021 (Photo courtesy of Brandon J. Wolf)

TALLAHASSEE- The administration of Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis took down a state Department of Education web page on Monday that supplied anti-bullying resources for educators, parents and students to help create safe school environments and address high rates of suicide.

The page featured a range of resources including links to federal government anti-bullying initiatives (stopbullying.gov), information on creating safe spaces for LGBTQ young people to receive support from school staff, and additional information from national leaders in combating mental health crises and suicidality among LGBTQ students.

A right wing online publication Florida Capital Star, raised questions with officials from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), over the inclusion of links to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GSLEN) which the publication categorized as “[the] group encourages teachers to integrate aspects of the LGBTQ lifestyle with their curriculum and provides recommended policies and lesson plans.”

The publication then went on to describe GSLEN as “part of a billion dollar network that funds LGBTQ groups. These groups are focused on initiatives that promote gender identity and transgenderism by training leaders in political activism.”

The publication then noted that “another link on the FDOE web page redirected users to stopbullying.gov, an official website of the United States government. The link provided guidance related LGBTQ bullying.”

The publication stated; “The site, earlier this year, advised school officials “not to disclose or discuss sexual identity issues with parents or anyone else, without the young person’s prior permission, unless there is an immediate threat to their safety or wellbeing.” This language appears to have recently been removed from the site.”

According to Florida Politics, “When pulling the bullying portal, the department removed links to state anti-bullying policy, LGBTQ advocacy groups and other bullying prevention resources.”

Florida Politics state government reporter Renzo Downey noted that the webpage for the Office of Safe Schools, was created under the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

“Attacks on LGBTQ students from Tallahassee are fueling a toxic, dangerous environment on the ground,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director. “From the passage of explicitly anti-transgender legislation this year to proposed legislation that would jail doctors and parents for providing lifesaving medical care to transgender children, a politically-motivated assault on the LGBTQ community is putting young people at risk. Vulnerable youth deserve better than a DeSantis Administration intent on putting them in harm’s way in order to score cheap political points.”

Downey also reported that Florida’s lawmakers this past spring passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which states that public schools cannot infringe on the “fundamental rights” of parents to direct the upbringing of their child — extending to decisions about education, health care and mental health.

He goes on to note that the DeSantis‘ administration and DOE has used the legislation to ban blanket mask mandates in schools. But during the 2021 Session, debate centered around fears from LGBTQ advocacy groups and allies that the legislation could reveal to parents the gender identity or sexual orientation of children who came out at school before coming out at home.

Until the page was pulled it instructed educators to protect children’s privacy

“Be careful not to disclose or discuss sexual identity issues with parents or anyone else, without the young person’s prior permission, unless there is an immediate threat to their safety or wellbeing,” it read.

Florida Politics points out that the guidance could run afoul of the Parents’ Bill of Rights law.

Equality Florida in a media release stated that “escalating hostility toward LGBTQ Floridians comes as LGBTQ students continue to face exponentially higher rates of bullying, discrimination, violence, depression, and suicide.

Compared with their peers, LGB young people are nearly twice as likely to experience bullying in school, experience sexual violence nearly three times more often, and are four times as likely to attempt suicide. Those disparities grow when discussing outcomes for transgender and nonbinary students. The resources removed from the Department of Education website were all aimed at addressing bullying and suicidality in schools, with a particular focus on LGBTQ young people — those most at risk.’

“The facts are clear: LGBTQ young people need more support in our schools, not less,” explained Equality Florida’s Smith. “We protect the lives of our youth by equipping administrators, educators and parents with the tools necessary to affirm and create safe learning environments for them. These resources are a critical component of creating truly safe schools. They must be reinstated.”

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