Monday, March 26, 2007

FLORIDA DIGEST March 26, 2007

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Gay Pridefest `upbeat and fun'
Thousands enjoy entertainment, chance to see friends at event

By Scott Travis
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

March 26, 2007

LAKE WORTH - Palm Beach County may not be the hub of gay life in SouthFlorida, but it sure felt like it this weekend.

Organizers estimated 10,000 people from the Treasure Coast to Miamiconverged at Bryant Park on Saturday and Sunday for Palm Beach CountyPridefest, the annual celebration for the gay, lesbian, bisexual andtransgender community. Sunday's event began with a parade resembling a gayMardi Gras. Participants dressed in colorful outfits, marched and rode intrucks and vintage cars, while throwing beads and candy to onlookers on LakeAvenue.

Some participants said this event was more fun than similar events in FortLauderdale and other places with larger and more well-established gaycommunities.

"This is great. I've never seen this many people," said James Van Dress, 29,a West Palm Beach resident who came with his partner, Peter Finfrock. "Iwent to a Pridefest in Cleveland. That's a major city, and they only had acouple of hundred people there."

"It's so colorful, upbeat and fun," said Finfrock, 38.



Gay adoption of kids advocated at church
Gathering held to discuss state bill to repeal ban

By Elizabeth Baier
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 26, 2007

Fort Lauderdale- Tim and Meredith Birrittella can't help but feel like prouddads.

"For us, there was no more God-like moment than seeing our daughter beborn," Tim Birrittella said. "We're just two guys who wanted to have afamily."

In 2004, after they had been together 10 years, Tim and Meredith decided tostart that family. They opted to use an egg donor and a surrogate mother togive birth to Emma in California, since gay adoption is banned in Florida.

"With all the children that we see in foster care looking for families, wethought it would be an ideal family to have a child from foster care," saidTim Birrittella, of Miami. "But when we saw it was illegal, we went tosurrogacy."

On Sunday, with little Emma squirming between them on stage, theBirrittellas recounted their story at a town hall meeting at the FirstCongregational Church.

The meeting, organized by local, state and national gay advocacy groups, washeld to discuss a proposal in Tallahassee to repeal Florida's 30-year-oldban on gay adoption. Organizers said the ban is a remnant of former beautyqueen and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade of the1970s.

"It doesn't matter if you're a parent or hope to be one," said Nadine Smith,executive director of Equality Florida. "This law is intended to dehumanizeall gay people."

Lifting the ban, Smith said, would allow gay men and lesbians to becomeadoptive parents of nearly 4,000 foster children available for adoption inFlorida.

In the pews sat about 100 people -- gay and lesbian couples, their children,clergymen and community activists. Several children ran up and down theaisles while others watched from an overhead balcony.

Charlotte Quandt traveled from St. Petersburg to attend the meeting with heradoptive mom, Signa Quandt, who is a lesbian. She said she feels lucky.

"I'm a product of a gay family... and I'm fine," said Quandt, 21, who isheterosexual. "There are tons of parents who want nothing more than to be aparent."

Others at the conference, like Anne and Drew Bateman, came out to supportrepealing the ban on gay adoption even though they are not gay. They broughttheir 1-year-old son Sebastian with them.

"The gay community needs to see support from the heterosexual community,"said Drew Bateman, of Fort Lauderdale. "They need to know there are lots ofpeople that support this cause, not because they are gay or lesbian, butbecause it's about the children."

Community activist Melissa Fojtik, of Wilton Manors, attended the event withher two daughters, 2-year-old Tara and 2-month-old Tamera, who she adoptedfrom out of state. Holding back tears, she also described her frustrationswith Florida's ban on gay adoption.

"We can go elsewhere, as I have, but I still think of those kids, 4,000 ofthem, that go [to bed] every night without the loving arms of a parent," hesaid. "That's the biggest issue. It's really about saving children."

Elizabeth Baier can be reached at or 954-356-4637.



Gays, lesbians want right to adopt
Forum will focus on legal change to aid foster children.

By Erika Pesantes
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 26, 2007

Jerry Stephenson spent his early years being shuffled from home to home inOhio's foster care system in the 1960s and'70s. Then he stumbled intoanother obstacle -- revealing he was gay.

Knowing firsthand the pressing need for adoptions of foster care children,Stephenson, who said he is a chaplain, minister and counselor, is prohibitedfrom adopting in Florida because he is gay.

Stephenson and other gay rights activists will share their stories Tuesdayas panelists during a town hall meeting on gay adoption in Boynton Beach.

"They suffer from one foster home to another and they can get lost in thesystem, just like I did," he said. "And it can end up being devastating.

"Isn't more the damage that they're not being put into a home where there'slove?"

The forum, from 7 to 9 p.m. at New Hope First Community Church at 2929ASouth Seacrest Blvd., is sponsored by the Coalition for Fair Adoption and anassortment of gay rights groups that include Florida Equality, Parents,Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Lambda Legal and The Gay,Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

State legislators are pushing Senate and House bills, sponsored by Sen. NanRich, D-Weston, and Rep. Mary Brandenburg, D- West Palm Beach, to repeal thestate's 30-year ban on gays and lesbians' adoption of foster care children.

"They can foster care, but they can't adopt, which is really a shame," saidMyrna Rogovin, president of PFLAG's South Florida Chapter.

In Florida, gays are allowed only to be foster parents. As of late February,about 4,000 children remained under the state's foster care and wereavailable for adoption.

Rogovin has been involved in gay issues ever since her 42-year-old daughtertold her she was a lesbian. Rogovin's daughter, in Massachusetts, is nowmarried to her partner, who is expecting their first child in July.

"It's not just for the gay people, it's an issue for the foster carechildren," Rogovin said. "I want to see this happen."

The town hall forum will feature experts on adoption and foster care, childwelfare and family law.

Erika Pesantes can be reached at or 561-243-6602.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Mar. 25, 2007
Strengthen Florida's child-safety net

The word among community-based caregivers who contract with the FloridaDepartment of Children & Families is that the agency these days is moreuser-friendly under its new secretary, Bob Butterworth. The privately runcommunity-based organizations (CBOs) in Florida generally have provencapable of caring for children in foster care and in fragile home situationswhere the DCF has identified the need for services. They deserve supportfrom the agency and from local communities.

But even if DCF is improved to the point where it no longer is considered''troubled'' or ''dysfunctional,'' there will be mistakes. There will,unfortunately, be the occasional situation where a child slips through thecracks, despite everything.

One of those, apparently, is Jasmine Marie Thomas, whose mother is facingaggravated manslaughter charges in the starvation death of her one-year-oldlast fall while being investigated for possible child abuse by the DCF. Anagency review found numerous mistakes by investigators that boil down topoor investigative techniques and bad decisions. One error, for instance,was DCF workers' failure to connect the Thomas family with Our Kids, thecaregiver for at-risk children and foster children in District 11, whichcovers Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. A better process has to be devised toprotect children who may be in danger during the crucial period between whenDCF receives an abuse complaint and when it determines the complaint isvalid.

Mr. Butterworth has acknowledged mistakes in the case, which occurred beforehe became secretary, and promises to improve investigators' casework. Mr.Butterworth has brought openness and transparency to the agency.

Mr. Butterworth also should ask lawmakers to ensure that the DCF and theCBOs are able to keep enough well-trained staff on board to prevent caseslike Jasmine's. One problem is that it costs more to live in Miami-Dade andBroward counties than it does in Hendry and Polk counties. Lawmakers shouldadopt a cost differential for DCF and CBO employees living in districts withdocumented higher living costs.


The New York Times

March 26, 2007
A Fresh Face Vows to Revive the G.O.P.

WASHINGTON, March 23 - Amid the sea of square jaws and swept-back gray hairin Congress, Representative Adam H. Putnam, a tousled redhead whose cherubicappearance still causes Capitol police to stop him occasionally, appears abit out of place.

But Mr. Putnam, 32, a Florida Republican, has become the unlikely mouthpiecefor the beleaguered minority in the House, taking over as chairman of theRepublican Conference, the third-ranking post behind the minority leader andwhip, as his party struggles to right itself.

Mr. Putnam, something of a political wunderkind who at 26 was one of theyoungest members of Congress in decades when he was elected in 2000, hastaken on the role of attack dog over the last three months.

Combining agility on the issues and controlled partisan outrage, he hashelped lead Republicans in the debate over the war in Iraq, lambastedSpeaker Nancy Pelosi for her use of a military jet to fly across country toher home district, and generally tried to eke out political points at everyopportunity.

"I think in the minority, the challenge is to get noticed," Mr. Putnam saidin an interview. "In a presidential election cycle, the novelty of a newDemocratic majority, the historical nature of a woman speaker, it becomesvery hard to be heard above all the noise."


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