Our friend Ned Flaherty has written a 7-part investigative series on what’s going on with marriage equality in Florida, and has graciously allowed us to repost it here. Below is part 2. You can find all 7 parts of the series at the New Civil Rights Movement.”
Part 2: Leaders Retreat
Republican political operatives are about to give anti-LGBT hate groups just what they crave: a lopsided defeat for gay rights in the deepest South. NCRM’s 7-part investigative series reveals how progress toward marriage equality in other states is threatened by current events in Florida.
The pre-interview questions forwarded to Brito to prepare for this article were standard political fare. The questions focused on figures for staffing, signatures collected and verified, and funds raised and spent, with updates for actual success vs. future plans in those areas. Campaign managers expect to be asked such questions about people, progress, and money, both before and during media interviews.
As soon as she was asked for current figures, Brito went mute. From mid-November through early January, 24 written requests for an interview were sent to Equal Marriage Florida. Many were never answered, although one request was officially declined by Ms. Heather Gray, who is connected to Vanessa Brito in three unique ways. Heather Gray is the Media Coordinator at EMFL, reporting to Chairperson/Treasurer Vanessa Brito. Heather Gray also is Deputy Director, and apparently the only other worker at MYami Marketing, Brito’s Republican political consultancy, where Brito is President. And Heather Gray also is Brito’s common-law partner. They say they are legally single, but in a committed relationship.
After they saw the pre-interview questions, Gray canceled the interview that Brito had requested, and together they broke Brito’s promise to share “seamless, transparent” data about the EMFL campaign. Gray not only denied the accuracy of statistics that EMFL itself had previously published, but she also would not explain why she withdrew them, when they changed, what they changed to, or why she changed them.
Since Brito and Gray declined to discuss both their progress and their plans, inquiries were sent to the only three EMFL district co-chairs who still had working e-mail addresses, so that they could shed some light on the campaign’s progress and plans for staffing, signature collection/verification, and fund-raising/spending. Multiple interview requests were e-mailed to: EMFL Broward County District Co-Chair Terry Gray, EMFL Tallahassee District Co-chair Angel de Armendi, and EMFL Miami-Dade County District Co-Chair Mimi Planas, who also is President of the Miami chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. In total, five different leaders were contacted — Brito, Heather Gray, Terry Gray, de Armendi, and Planas — but no one provided any figures, and no one gave any interviews. Four other leaders appear on EMFL’s Web site, but with no working e-mail address or phone.
Since last June, the EMFL Web site has referred to a stream of “exciting” upcoming events such as Pride weeks, parades, film festivals, and church services in which EMFL said it was slated to participate. But spokeswoman Heather Gray declined to identify any events where EMFL actually participated, or any events where it is scheduled to participate.
Tomorrow in this investigative series: Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars
Ned Flaherty is an LGBT activist currently focused on civil marriage equality, and previously on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal. He writes from Boston, Massachusetts, where America’s first same-gender civil marriages began in 2004. He suffered a childhood exposure to Roman Catholic pomp and circumstance, but the spell never took, and he recovered.
Here’s the list of the 7-part series:
Part 1 – LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign
Part 2 – Leaders Retreat
Part 3 – Counts for Workers, Signatures, and Dollars
Part 4 – Party Plans
Part 5 – Haters Wait With Bated Breath
Part 6 – Promising the Impossible
Part 7 – Prognosis