comes up.

That’s the theory behind OUT, Organizations United
Together, which held its first organizational meeting
in Orlando on January 24.  More than 80 political
groups, community organizations, activists, and
interested individuals attended the meeting, where
organizers laid out the vision and began the process
of building the federation.

OUT’s mission statement claims the group will
“connect and
empower local organizations to share resources,
skills and information, forging statewide strength in
order to achieve equality and justice for lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender Floridians.”   To
expand the reach of its local members, OUT plans to
capitalize on state and national organizations such as HRC, Equality Florida, and the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

OUT has plans to create both a 501 (c)(3) arm to provide training, networking and other
capacity building opportunities for members, and a 501 (c)(4) arm, which permits
certain political activity such as lobbying.  OUT does not anticipate initiating its own
legislation; rather, OUT sees itself as a resource for local, state and national
organizations to spread the word to GLBT groups and to help coordinate support for
their lobbying efforts.

OUT is already helping on the ground in Gainesville, which faces a charter
www.ambiente.us  FEBRUARY | FEBRERO 2009

OPEd |
New Organization OUT to Connect Florida’s GLBT Groups
By Stephen Gaskill

Florida’s GLBT movement is more advanced than ever, although we still suffer more
losses than wins.  Last November’s Amendment 2 is the most prominent example,
although the dearth of openly-gay elected officials also comes to mind.  Well, those and
the statewide ban on gay adoption.  Oh, and the current attempt to repeal GLBT rights in

OK, so we have a long way to go.  But despite the glaring examples that underscore our
inequality in the Sunshine State, Florida’s GLBT community is extremely organized,
especially at the local level.  It’s those groups – SAVE Dade, Palm Beach Human Rights
Council, Sarasota Equality Project, Impact Tallahassee, Unity Coalition and many more
– that fight the battles over domestic partnerships, organize the protests when religious
right groups step over the line, and work closely with local elected officials and media to
highlight the good and shine a light on the bad.  

As the cliché goes, there’s strength in numbers.  So it’s only logical that these local
organizations, based in every part of the state, would want to band together to share
resources and speak with one voice when a statewide issue

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amendment during next month’s municipal election that would take away existing rights
from the city’s GLBT residents.  Supporters of the measure have focused on repealing
gender identity protection from the city’s nondiscrimination law.  But in reality the
amendment goes way beyond that, because it would change the city’s charter to adhere
to the State of Florida’s antidiscrimination laws -- which means no protection from
discrimination in housing, jobs or even credit for the state’s estimated 1.2 million GLBT
residents.  And it would prohibit Gainesville from adding protected classes to its charter
in the future.

Attendees of OUT’s January meeting received a presentation from Equality is
Gainesville’s Business, the local campaign to defeat the amendment.  Many groups
signed on to help at the meeting.  Since then, SAVE Dade and UM for Equality have
conducted phone banks in Miami to call Gainesville voters, using predictive dialing
technology provided by Equality Florida.  The Hillsborough LGBTA Caucus in Tampa
Bay and the Dolphin Democrats in Broward County have also signed on to assist.  That’
s exactly how OUT should work, says Georg Ketelhohn, co-chair of OUT’s interim
organizing committee.

“OUT’s purpose is to link local LGBT organizations in Miami with those in Tallahassee,
Tampa, and everywhere else in Florida,” Ketelhohn said.  “There’s a tremendous
amount of political, grassroots and communications expertise we can share, but there’
s no resource for that sharing right now.  OUT wants to be that resource, which will
strengthen our community, heighten our visibility, and increase our legislative wins,
locally and in Tallahassee.”

OUT has taken some hits from critics who fear the group is out to topple Equality
Florida, but OUT’s organizers have spoken extensively with Nadine Smith, Equality
Florida’s executive director, who attended the January meeting with several staff.  Those
critics point to the fight over Amendment 2, which pit Equality Florida’s Fairness for All
Families coalition against Florida Red and Blue’s Say No 2 campaign, and have
blamed divided loyalties among the GLBT community for Amendment 2’s passage.  
It’s helpful to review the past to devise a roadmap for the future, and that, perhaps, is
what’s instructive about the Amendment 2 battle.  But that’s also why OUT’s mission to
connect local organizations is so necessary in a state as large and diverse as Florida.  
There’s enough work to go around.  What’s missing is the coordination, connections
and commitment to march in the same direction.

CLICK HERE to read more articles & opinions by Stephen Gaskill.

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