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Mayor Dyer: Trump ‘antithesis of what Orlando is all about’

City continues to heel from Pulse massacre



Buddy Dyer, gay news, Washington Blade

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer speaks at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 5, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Thursday sharply criticized Donald Trump during a telephone interview with the Washington Blade.

“Donald Trump’s positions on everything are the antithesis of what Orlando is all about,” said Dyer.

Dyer spoke with the Blade less than five months after a gunman who lived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., killed 49 people and wounded 53 others inside the Pulse nightclub that is less than two miles south of Orlando City Hall.

The gunman, who was born in New York City to Afghan parents, pledged his allegiance to the leader of the so-called Islamic State in a 911 call he made from inside the gay nightclub that was holding its weekly Latino party at the time of the shooting. Trump in the days after the June 12 massacre — which is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — reiterated his calls to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country.

“We don’t hold it against the Muslim community that (the gunman) was a bad actor,” said Dyer, noting Muslims stood alongside LGBT advocates and others who condemned the massacre.

Dyer further accused Trump of “promoting hate.”

“We’re promoting love,” said Dyer.

A Trump campaign spokesperson did not return the Blade’s request for comment.

Two women hold candles outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Fla., on June 13, 2016, during a memorial to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Two women hold candles outside the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Fla., on June 13, 2016, during a memorial to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Dyer said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) didn’t “help himself” by speaking at an anti-LGBT conference that took place at an Orlando hotel in August.

The Cuban-American Republican who ended his presidential campaign earlier this year announced he would seek re-election two weeks after the massacre. Dyer accused Rubio of “publicizing” his campaign at the Pulse nightclub.

A Rubio campaign spokesperson did not respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Dyer said Florida Gov. Rick Scott responded to the Pulse nightclub massacre “in a way that a governor should,” even though activists criticized him for not publicly acknowledging its LGBT victims. Dyer categorized state Attorney General Pam Bondi’s statements about protecting LGBT Floridians from violence as “hypocritical” because she opposed the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples in the state.

Bondi has been married three times.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mayor Dyer and everyone who responded to help the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting,” she said in a statement that her office sent to the Blade on Thursday. “My office continues to assist those harmed in this horrific attack.”

Bondi, Scott and Rubio have all endorsed Trump. Dyer supports Hillary Clinton.

Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, and the Human Rights Campaign are among the organizations that backed gun control efforts in the wake of the Pulse nightclub massacre. Dyer told the Blade he has “been very careful not to politicize” the shooting.

“It would hinder what I need to do in heeling our community,” he said.

‘We’re dealing with myriad issues’

Dyer spoke to the Blade a day before President Obama was scheduled to travel to Orlando.

The Orlando Magic on Wednesday honored the Pulse nightclub massacre victims at their home opener. A large mural that has been painted on the building in which the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida is located and banners with “Orlando Strong” and “Orlando United” on them are among the tributes that are now located throughout the city.

Barack Obama, Orlando, gay news, Washington Blade

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, third from left, hands President Barack Obama an #OrlandoUnited T-shirt on the tarmac at Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Fla., on June 16, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The OneOrlando Fund, which Dyer created after the shooting, raised $29.5 million for the victims and their families and loved ones. This figure includes more than $9.5 million that Equality Florida, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, raised through a GoFundMe campaign it launched hours after the massacre.

The fund has distributed the money to the families of those who died inside the nightclub and those who survived the massacre. Dyer told the Blade the city is working to mediate a handful of unresolved claims among family members who cannot agree on how to distribute the funds.

These cases would move into probate court if mediation efforts fail.

“We are hopeful,” said Dyer.

Orlando Health, which operates the Orlando Regional Medical Center that is located a few blocks north of the Pulse nightclub, and Florida Hospital announced in August they will not bill those they treated after the massacre.

Dyer told the Blade his administration continues to respond to the physical and psychological needs of first responders, city employees and others who responded to the Pulse nightclub and provided assistance to the victims’ families and loved ones and those who survived the massacre. The city also continues to respond to requests about releasing 911 calls from those who were inside the nightclub when the gunman opened fire.

Hurricane Matthew prompted organizers of the annual Orlando Pride festival to postpone the event that had been scheduled to take place in Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando on Oct. 8. The festival is slated to take place on Nov. 12, which is five months to the day after the massacre.

Artists last week unveiled a new mural that was made behind a memorial fence that now surrounds Pulse. Dyer has previously said he supports a permanent memorial to the victims at the nightclub.

“The national press has moved on, but we’re dealing with myriad issues,” Dyer told the Blade.

Pulse massacre ‘darkest day’ in Orlando’s history

Dyer earlier this month described the Pulse nightclub massacre as the “darkest day” in his city’s history when he spoke at the opening of the 2016 Out & Equal Workplace Summit that took place at Walt Disney World. He also said he called his 26-year-old son to make sure he was safe after he learned about the shooting from Deputy Orlando Police Chief Robert Anzueto.

“I didn’t know if he had ever been to Pulse; but it was a club that was welcoming to everyone, gay, straight or anything else for that matter,” said Dyer. “He was safely in bed and allowed me to go do everything that I needed to do.”

Dyer told the Blade on Thursday that his city “was able to respond” to the massacre “with love and compassion and unity.”

“We probably have a bit of a mission in the world to show what a community can do and what a community can show in response to tragedy,” he said.

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Bill to ban conversion therapy dies in Puerto Rico Senate committee

Advocacy group describes lawmakers as cowards



Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade


A Puerto Rico Senate committee on Thursday killed a bill that would have banned so-called conversion therapy on the island.

Members of the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against Senate Bill 184 by an 8-7 vote margin. Three senators abstained.

Amárilis Pagán Jiménez, a spokesperson for Comité Amplio para la Búsqueda de la Equidad, a coalition of Puerto Rican human rights groups, in a statement sharply criticized the senators who opposed the measure.

“If they publicly recognize that conversion therapies are abuse, if they even voted for a similar bill in the past, if the hearings clearly established that the bill was well-written and was supported by more than 78 professional and civil entities and that it did not interfere with freedom of religion or with the right of fathers and mothers to raise their children, voting against it is therefore one of two things: You are either a hopeless coward or you have the same homophobic and abusive mentality of the hate groups that oppose the bill,” said Pagán in a statement.

Thursday’s vote comes against the backdrop of continued anti-LGBTQ discrimination and violence in Puerto Rico.

Six of the 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were reported murdered in the U.S. in 2020 were from Puerto Rico.

A state of emergency over gender-based violence that Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared earlier this year is LGBTQ-inclusive. Then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in 2019 signed an executive order that banned conversion therapy for minors in Puerto Rico.

“These therapies lack scientific basis,” he said. “They cause pain and unnecessary suffering.”

Rosselló issued the order less than two weeks after members of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood party  he chaired at the time, blocked a vote in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for minors in the U.S. commonwealth. Seven out of the 11 New Progressive Party members who are on the Senate Community Initiatives, Mental Health and Addiction Committee voted against SB 184.

“It’s appalling. It’s shameful that the senators didn’t have the strength and the courage that our LGBTQ youth have, and it’s to be brave and to defend our dignity and our humanity as people who live on this island,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a Puerto Rican LGBTQ rights group, in a video. “It’s disgraceful that the senators decided to vote down this measure that would prevent child abuse.”

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Undocumented LGBTQ immigrants turn to Fla. group for support

Survivors Pathway is based in Miami



Survivors Pathway works with undocumented LGBTQ immigrants and other vulnerable groups in South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Francesco Duberli)


MIAMI – The CEO of an organization that provides support to undocumented LGBTQ immigrants says the Biden administration has given many of his clients a renewed sense of hope.

“People definitely feel much more relaxed,” Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli told the Washington Blade on March 5 during an interview at his Miami office. “There’s much hope. You can tell … the conversation’s shifted.”

Duberli — a gay man from Colombia who received asylum in the U.S. because of anti-gay persecution he suffered in his homeland — founded Survivors Pathway in 2011. The Miami-based organization currently has 23 employees.

Survivors Pathway CEO Francesco Duberli at his office in Miami on March 5, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

Duberli said upwards of 50 percent of Survivors Pathway’s clients are undocumented. Duberli told the Blade that many of them are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking and victims of hate crimes based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Part of the work that we have done for years is for us to become the bridge between the communities and law enforcement or the justice system in the United States,” said Duberli. “We have focused on creating a language that helps us to create this communication between the undocumented immigrant community and law enforcement, the state attorney’s office and the court.”

“The fear is not only about immigration,” he added. “There are many other factors that immigrants bring with them that became barriers in terms of wanting to or trying to access the justice system in the United States.”

Duberli spoke with the Blade roughly a week after the Biden administration began to allow into the U.S. asylum seekers who had been forced to pursue their cases in Mexico under the previous White House’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

The administration this week began to reunite migrant children who the Trump administration separated from their parents. Title 42, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rule that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the coronavirus pandemic, remains in place.

Duberli told the Blade that Survivors Pathway advised some of their clients not to apply for asylum or seek visa renewals until after the election. Duberli conceded “the truth of the matter is that the laws haven’t changed that much” since Biden became president.

Survivors Pathway has worked with LGBTQ people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in South Florida. American Civil Liberties Union National Political Director Ronald Newman in an April 28 letter it sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called for the closure of the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami, the Glades County Detention Center near Lake Okeechobee and 37 other ICE detention centers across the country.

The road leading to the Krome North Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Survivors Pathway responded to trans woman’s murder in 2020

Survivors Pathway has created a project specifically for trans Latina women who Duberli told the Blade don’t know they can access the judicial system.

Duberli said Survivors Pathway works with local judges and police departments to ensure crime victims don’t feel “discriminated, or outed or mistreated or revictimized” because of their gender identity. Survivors Pathway also works with Marytrini, a drag queen from Cuba who is the artistic producer at Azúcar, a gay nightclub near Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Marytrini and Duberli are among those who responded to the case of Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera, a trans woman and well-known activist and performer from Cuba who was murdered inside her downtown Miami apartment last November. Carey’s boyfriend, who had previously been charged with domestic violence, has been charged with murder.

“That was an ongoing situation,” noted Duberli. “It’s not the only case. There are lots of cases like that.”

Duberli noted a gay man in Miami Beach was killed by his partner the same week.

“There are lots of crimes that happen to our community that never gets to the news,” he said. “We got those cases here because of what we do.”

Yunieski “Yuni” Carey Herrera was murdered in her downtown Miami apartment in November 2020. (Photo courtesy of social media)

















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Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed AIDS activist, dies at 67

Played key role in creating red ribbon for awareness



Activist Patrick O’Connell was instrumental in creating the red ribbon to promote AIDS awareness. (Photo courtesy of Allen Frame; courtesy Visual AIDS)

Patrick O’Connell, a founding director of the New York City-based AIDS advocacy group Visual AIDS who played a lead role in developing the internationally recognized display of an inverted, V-shaped red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS advocacy, died on March 23 at a Manhattan hospital from AIDS-related causes, according to the New York Times. He was 67.

Visual AIDS said in a statement that O’Connell held the title of founding director of the organization from 1980 to 1995.

During those years, according to the statement and others who knew him, O’Connell was involved in the group’s widely recognized and supported efforts to use art and artist’s works to advocate in support of people with HIV/AIDS and efforts to curtail the epidemic that had a devastating impact on the art world.

Thanks to a grant from the Art Matters foundation, Visual AIDS was able to retain O’Connell as its first paid staff member in 1990, the group said in its statement.

“Armed with a fax machine and an early Macintosh computer, Patrick helped Visual AIDS grow from a volunteer group to a sustainable non-profit organization,” the statement says. “A passionate spokesperson for the organization, he helped projects like Day Without Art, Night Without Light, and the Red Ribbon reach thousands of people and organizations across the world,” the group says in its statement.

“We were living in a war zone,” the statement quoted O’Connell as saying in a 2011 interview with the Long Island newspaper Newsday. “But it was like a war that was some kind of deep secret only we knew about,” O’Connell said in the interview. “Thousands were dying of AIDS. We felt we had to respond with a visible expression,” he told the newspaper.

With O’Connell’s help, Visual AIDS in 1989 organized the first annual Day Without Art in which dozens of galleries and museums in New York and other cities covered art works with black cloths to symbolize the mourning of those who died of AIDS. Among those participating were the Brooklyn Museum, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which replaced a Picasso painting with a “somber informational placard,” according to the New York Times.

In 1990 O’Connell helped Visual AIDS organize the first Night Without Light, which was held at the time of World AIDS Day. New York City’s skyscraper buildings, bridges, monuments, and Broadway theaters turned off their lights for 15 minutes to commemorate people who lost their lives to AIDS, the New York Times reported.

In the kickoff of its Red Ribbon Project in 1991, McConnell helped organize volunteers to join “ribbon bees” in which thousands of the ribbons were cut and folded for distribution around the city, the Times reports. Those who knew McConnell said he also arranged for his team of volunteers to call Broadway theaters and producers of the upcoming Tony Awards television broadcast to have participants and theater goers display the red ribbons on their clothes.

Among those displaying a red ribbon on his label at the Tony Awards broadcast was actor Jeremy Irons, who was one of the hosts. In later years, large numbers of celebrities followed the practice of wearing the red ribbon, and in 1993 the U.S. Postal Service issued a red ribbon stamp.

The Times reports that O’Connell was born and raised in Manhattan, where he attended Fordham Preparatory School and later graduated from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., in 1973 with a bachelor’s degree in history. According to Visual AIDS, O’Connell served as director of the Hallwalls arts center in Buffalo, N.Y. from 1977 to 1978 before returning to New York City to work for a gallery called Artists Space.

The Times reports that O’Connell learned in the middle 1980s that he had contracted AIDS and began a regimen of early AIDS treatment with a cocktail of over 30 pills a day. His involvement with Visual AIDS, which began in 1989, ended on an active basis in 1995 when his health worsened, the Times reports.

As one of the last remaining survivors of his New York contemporaries who had HIV beginning in the 1980s, O’Connell continued in his strong support for AIDS-related causes through 2000s and beyond, people who knew him said.
Visual AIDS says it is gathering remembrances and photos for a tribute post for O’Connell on its website. It has invited people to share their memories of him by sending written contributions and images via email to: [email protected].

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