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Prominent LGBTQ+ activist found dead in Florida landfill

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

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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Florida man allegedly attacked by boyfriend’s family for turning son gay

The family discovered that the younger son, Oleh Makarenko, 21, was in a nine-month same-sex relationship with the victim

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21-year-old suspect Oleh (Alex) Makarenko/WPLG ABC 10 News Ft. Lauderdale (Booking Photo: Broward County Sheriff's Department)

In criminal court documents filed in Broward County Circuit Court this week, state prosecutors and the Broward County Sheriff Department investigators say that hate crime charges levied against a Ukrainian immigrant family of four are because they beat a 31-year-old victim in Pompano Beach on or about August 6, 2021, solely because the victim is gay.

He has been permanently blinded and sustained other serious injuries as a result of the incident. He has invoked Marsy’s Law rights, and is declining to be named publicly.

However, prosecutors say the family discovered that the younger son, Oleh Makarenko, 21, was in a nine-month same-sex relationship with the victim. As a result, Makarenko, who is also known as Alex, was being forced to marry a woman by his mother. According to court documents, the trio brandished a ‘firearm or other deadly weapon’ during the attack and all four of the suspects continued holding him and began punching, kicking, and hitting him all over his face and body.”

WSVN-TV 7 News in Miami reported Wednesday:

According to the arrest documents, 19-year-old Oleh Makarenko and the victim had been romantically involved for about nine months, but the victim said Oleh told him his father was not accepting him as gay.

After a two-week break in the relationship. on Aug. 6, the victim said he remotely opened his community’s gate believing it was a friend when it was actually the Makarenko family. The victim went outside but quickly went back into his apartment.

According to the arrest report, “… the suspects began pushing the door open in an attempt to force their way inside. Moments later, the suspects succeeded in force the door open … suspects then grabbed (the victim) as he began attempting to defend himself.”

The report goes on to state, “All four suspects continued holding (the victim) and began punching, kicking and hitting all over his face, head and body.”

“While this was occurring, Oleh and his mother walked into the apartment and watched as the suspects continued to beat (the victim) … (the victim) stated to Oleh’s mother, ‘Unfortunately your son’s gay.’ And (the victim) asked Oleh, ‘Is this what you wanted?’ to which Oleh replied ‘no’ … One of them grabbed an unknown object and struck him in the face. (The Victim) stated after falling to the floor, he pretended to be dead,” said the arrest report.

Oleh, 21, Yevhen, 44, Inna, 45, & Vladyslav, 26, Makarenko

“There’s no indication that anything was said or done to show that they had specific intent to kill,” said public defender Katherine Lopez. “It seems like, based on my reading, that their probable cause for beating him cause of a relationship with a family member of theirs.”

Charged with attempted first-degree murder, battery during the burglary of a dwelling, and kidnapping are Inna Makarenko, 45, Yevhen Makarenko 44, Oleh Makarenko, 21, and Vladyslav Makarenko, 26, who was transferred from Alabama to the Broward County jail system on Monday.

All four are jailed without bond and the investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office is continuing.

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Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis moves to eliminate Disney’s status in special session

“Ron DeSantis and the Republicans have openly declared war on the state’s LGBTQ minority and allies without thoughts of the ramifications”

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During a press conference Tuesday, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he had expanded the special session of the state legislature, which was meeting next week to rework and approve congressional re-districting maps, to include eliminating the 1967 law that allows the Walt Disney World Resort property to operate as a self-governing body.

“I am announcing today that we are expanding the call of what they are going to be considering this week,’’ DeSantis said at a news conference in The Villages, a massive master planned retirement community  that sprawls over Sumter, Lake, and Marion counties located approximately 45 miles northwest of Orlando.

“Yes, they will be considering the congressional map, but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968 — and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is the governing jurisdiction and special taxing district for the land of the Walt Disney World Resort. It includes 39.06 sq mi within the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties and acts with the same authority and responsibility as a county government.

DeSantis and the media conglomerate locked horns over the Disney Company’s public denouncement of  H.B. 1557, titled “Parental Rights in Education,” colloquially known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, that DeSantis signed into law last month.

A spokesperson for the Disney Company had issued a statement condemning the legislation.

“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country.”

The governor in response to Disney told reporters:

“For Disney to come out and put a statement and say that the bill should have never passed and that they are going to actively work to repeal it, I think one was fundamentally dishonest, but two, I think that crossed the line.”

Taking aim at Disney corporate leadership including its CEO Bob Chapek he added:

“This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida, it is not based on the demands of California corporate executives,” he continued. “They do not run this state, they do not control this state.”

The governor’s call to eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District at the beginning of this month was amplified by state Rep. Spencer Roach, R-Fort Myers, a retired U.S. Coast Guardsman, who is licensed to practice law in Florida and Texas, is opposed to abortion and also introduced legislation targeting what he terms “cancel culture” on the campuses of universities and colleges in the state, HB 233.

In the wake of the governor’s announcement Tuesday, a Republican politician and former gambling industry executive from Brevard County, state Rep. Randy Fine tweeted:

“Disney is a guest in Florida. Today, we remind them. @GovDeSantis just expanded the Special Session so I could file HB3C which eliminates Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 50 yr-old special statute that makes Disney to exempt from laws faced by regular Floridians.”

A legislative source speaking on background told the Blade Tuesday that its doubtful that DeSantis and his allies realize the massive burden that will be thrust onto the governments of Orange and Osceola counties. “Consider things such as zoning, sewage, taxation, waste removal, and the loss of money provided by Reedy Creek/Disney for fire-police, and other critical key governmental elements that the company has established in contracts,” the source noted.

“The obvious consideration is that Ron DeSantis and the Republicans have openly declared war on the state’s LGBTQ minority and allies without thoughts of the ramifications- economic alone, and the long term damages created to the state and all Floridians as a result,” the source added.

According to historical documents from the Reedy Creek Improvement District, then-Florida Gov. Claude Kirk signed the RCID Act into law in May 1967, creating two municipalities: Bay Lake and Reedy Creek, which was later renamed Lake Buena Vista. The location, nestled between Orange and Osceola counties, would later become the site where Walt Disney World was built.

The RCID Charter created a 25,000-acre of land as a special taxing district. At the time, it was considered remote and uninhabitable, but now is the site of one of the busiest theme parks in the United States.

To make Disney’s plan happen, the area had to get special privileges from the state of Florida to essentially run itself.

“In 1967, the Florida State legislature, working with Walt Disney World Company, created a special taxing district – called the Reedy Creek Improvement District – that would act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government,” RCID says on its website.

DeSantis announces expanded special session targeting Walt Disney World property:

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Florida

Florida High School student defies DeSantis & teaches a class in LGBTQ+ history

The 17-year-old junior and president of the WPHS Queer Student Union was lauded by several notable LGBTQ+ activists and allies

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Student organizer and activist Will Larkins (Photo Credit: Larkins/Twitter)

Student organizer and activist Will Larkins decided that since LGBTQ American history is not taught in Florida’s public schools, he took it upon himself to explain the events of the Stonewall Uprising to his 4th period U.S. history class at Winter Park High School.

Although Larkins’ lesson was only, in his words, a 5 minute PowerPoint presentation for the history class of which he posted an excerpt on Twitter, there was a resulting torrent of hateful comments some of which took aim at the fact that Larkins gave his PowerPoint presentation in a rather fetching red dress.

In response to the abusive comments, Larkins tweeted:

The actions that the 17-year-old junior and president of the WPHS Queer Student Union took to educate his fellow students was lauded by several notable LGBTQ+ activists and allies including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor and co-founder of the “March For Our Lives” movement David Hogg; Brandon J. Wolf, Press Secretary for Equality Florida; Janessa Goldbeck, the CEO of the Vet Voice Foundation; and countless hundreds of others.

Larkins answered critics who questioned his choice of wardrobe tweeting:

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