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Big Marriage Defeat Looms In 2014 (Parts 1 And 2)

by Ned Flaherty on January 20, 2014

in Marriage,Ned Flaherty,News,Politics

Post image for Big Marriage Defeat Looms In 2014 (Parts 1 And 2)

Parts 1 & 2 in a 7-part investigative series

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.

Part 1 of 7:  LGBT Groups Oppose Equal Marriage Campaign

As marriage equality soars in its longest unbroken string of victories ever, opponents are still trying to dismiss the first 18 states as mere flukes.  Behind the scenes, however, those same enemies are desperate to defeat any gay rights measure, anywhere, by any means, especially if that defeat makes marriage equality look less inevitable.  The best way to do that would be by breaking the string of recent successes with a giant loss.

Enter Vanessa Brito, a Republican political consultant in Miami, Florida.  Last June, with donations from former Republican Governor of New Mexico and Republican/Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, and with expertise from GOP political strategist Tim Mooney, Vanessa Brito established Florida Political Action Committee #60477, and named it Equal Marriage Florida (EMFL).  After appointing herself as both Chairperson and Treasurer, and getting the Log Cabin Republicans on board as an “active partner and leading proponent,” she predicted that her group would raise and spend $6 million repealing Florida’s constitutional ban on same-gender civil marriage.  In 2008, Floridians voted 62% for the ban, and only 38% against the ban.  Six years later, that 38% figure has not changed.

Thirteen Florida organizations quickly rejected Brito’s plan, which they deemed costly, psychologically harmful, and doomed at the polls.  They feared that such a loss would needlessly postpone LGBT rights in Florida, and as well as break the nationwide winning streak.

The timing of Brito’s idea was so inopportune, and its execution has been so lackluster, that some wonder if this might be a stealth campaign, secretly launched by anti-LGBT forces, and engineered to fail on purpose. An alternate explanation might be that this tax-exempt campaign could have been created to funnel some of its supposed $6 million of donations into revenue at Brito’s political consulting business, MYami Marketing, Incorporated.

Even though local leaders opposed her idea as premature and reckless, Brito charged ahead anyway. Less than three months later, she began complaining that her campaign suffered from negative articles written by careless reporters.  She said she wanted to set the record straight, and promised journalists interviews in which she would provide clarity and insight, and would keep information “seamless and transparent.”

Part 2 of 7:  Leaders Retreat

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

Image by Equal Marriage Florida via Facebook

skitched-20130320-084004Ned 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.

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{ 11 comments }

StanJames January 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm

So what the4 anti s are doing is creating a fake pro LGBT group and will run a campaign in a way to insure it fails

If thats it everyone needs to know whats going on. The antis are going nuts.

Any way to stop it??

Ned_Flaherty January 23, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Stan, Read Parts 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7, then express your concerns to the Florida LGBT media. They can get to the bottom of all this, and let people know whatever's really going on.

angeldearmendi February 1, 2014 at 10:45 pm

My name is Angel de Armendi, and I live in Florida, currently collecting petitions for the Equal Marriage Campaign in Florida. Every evening I read articles on the subject before going to Bed. Today I read about the progress Venezuela and Scotland are making. Then I found your article Ned. I was baffled by the lies about trying to contact me countless of times to get info about the Florida campaign. Ned, really? Are you trying to make a career by making up stuff and create conflict where there is none? If you recall Ned, I actually called you to see what you were up to, and volunteered info on the campaign without you asking. In fact, I found your emails to Vanessa where I was copied very insolent and disrespectful. Now, to go as far as to defame me? Everyone in my community has known for years how I volunteer my work as a musician to Worlds Aids Services, Multifaith Pride Services, etc. How dare you?

Ned_Flaherty February 2, 2014 at 12:45 am

To Angel de Armendi:

Yes, you did phone me — unrequested — on December 3, when I explained to you that the interview had to be with EMFL Chairwoman Vanessa Brito and/or EMFL Media Coordinator Heather Gray.

For this article, 24 interview requests were delivered to the Equal Marriage Florida campaign, and each request went to both the Chairwoman and the Media Coordinator, across 4 separate e-mail addresses. They refused all 24 of those requests.

Another 12 messages were also sent to “Tallahassee District Co-Chair Angel de Armendi” at the address shown on your Web site (Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com) on December 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 (twice), 12, 14, 15, 18, 24, and January 4. None of those message were “bounced back” (returned), and now you complain about their content, so obviously you: (a) received them; and (b) read them.

Neither you nor any of the other leaders ever answered any of the interview questions, and no one granted the interview that was requested in the 36 messages itemized above.

You and all the other campaign leaders have had the interview questions for two months. If you are authorized to speak for the campaign, then just include your answers in an e-mail reply sent to any of the 12 e-mail inquiries you got last month, and a phone interview will be scheduled.

It’s nice that you volunteer your musical skills to other charities, but this article is only about the Equal Marriage Florida campaign.

Ned Flaherty

angeldearmendi February 2, 2014 at 8:33 am

Hi Ned,
First of all Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com does not work. I am supposed to be notified when I get an email to angeldearmendi@yahoo.com which is my personal email. You did have my personal email because you copied me on it when you emailed Vanessa Brito. However, having my personal email, you never emailed me to it. Having my cell phone that I called you from, you never called me either. So don't send requests to non-working emails and then blame the people who never got the requests for not answering when you already had my personal email. Not sure where you assume that I a) Received them, b) read them. I am complaining about the emails because I read in your article that you tried to contact me and were unsuccessful. Which is a lie, because if you were to really try to reach me you could have used my personal email, that you already have, and/or my cell phone. I have never seen the email requests, neither do I know their content. Perhaps the reason that nobody answered the emails is because they never got them. How about trying the white pages instead of defaming and blaming real working volunteers for not answering emails that we never got? That is petty wanna-be detective journalism. Try harder next time Ned, I mean, seriously you had my personal email the whole time. Since I was the one that contacted you regarding the wrong information on the website that you manage regarding the Equal Florida Campaign. I copied Vanessa in that email so that she was aware that you were posting false information on that website. Why didn't it occur to you to try to reach me using that email?

Virgoman1 January 25, 2014 at 3:57 pm

<div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-788699849"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(788699849)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" target="_new" href="http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fthenewcivilrightsmovement.com%2Fbig-marriage-defeat-looms-in-2014-parts-1-and-2%2Fpolitics%2F2014%2F01%2F20%2F81808#IDComment788699849&t=I%20just%20commented%20on%20Big%20Marriage%20Defeat%20Looms%20In%202014%20(Parts%201%20And%202)%20%7C%20The%20New%20Civil%20Rights%20Movement&quot; style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(788699849)">Close MessageLike all the other radical states they will be superceded by the Supreme Court rulings eventually that will put marriage equality on the map of the entire country. These old demogogues love to pander to their dogmatic fundies with false hopes of steming the tide of change that's coming. Even radical redeneck infested places like Florida will emerge victorious in marriage equality in time. This is the place where the infamous singer Anita Bryant back in the 60s ranted and raved about Gay rights, she was eliminated too! The enemies of mankind always lose in the grand scheme of things in this world!

Ned_Flaherty February 2, 2014 at 2:23 pm

To Angel de Armendi:

1. PRIOR MESSAGES.

You already admitted that: (a) you received prior messages; and (b) you read them.

All messages addressed to your campaign’s leaders were also addressed, via courtesy copies, to you. All were successfully delivered. None were returned-to-sender as “undeliverable.” You wrote on 1 February, “I found your emails to Vanessa where I was copied very insolent and disrespectful” (your words). Then you wrote on 2 February, “I have never seen the email requests, neither do I know their content” (your words). But it’s impossible for you to view contents as “disrespectful” if you never even saw those contents to begin with. You proved that you saw the contents by complaining about what they said.

2. CAMPAIGN E-MAIL ADDRESS.

Your problem is not that your e-mail address “does not work” (your words). Your problem is that your campaign colleagues do not forward your messages to you, and you do not manually retrieve them yourself, so you don’t know what’s going on, and you don’t know that people are waiting for your replies.

Your own campaign e-mail address — Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com — the one on your campaign Web site since the campaign started in June 2013 — works perfectly. All messages were delivered; none were rejected. All the messages addressed to your leaders (EMFL Chairwoman Vanessa Brito, EMFL Media Coordinator Heather Gray) were successfully delivered, too. They wrote back 12 times; you never wrote back at all.

As soon as you admitted that your campaign doesn’t send you your messages, and that you don’t pick up your messages, copies of all 44 messages to and from the campaign were forwarded to both your published and your un-published e-mail addresses on 2 February 2014.

3. AUTHORIZED SPOKESPERSON.

EMFL’s Chairwoman and Media Coordinator indicated that they are the only people authorized to speak for the EMFL campaign, and they refused to be interviewed. If you have become an authorized spokesperson, then e-mail your answers to the pre-interview questions first, and a phone interview can be scheduled after that.

Ned Flaherty

angeldearmendi February 2, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Ned, my email is angeldearmendi@yahoo.com
if you want to get in touch you know how to reach me. No, I have not read any of your requests sent to Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com, my cell is 850-241-3417. I am not an authorized spokesperson, that I know of, but I would appreciate it if you would stop publishing wrong information about my person. I just check my personal email and wrote you one myself. There are 0 messages in my inbox addressed to me from you. So again, put the drama aside and get your facts straight if you want any of us volunteers in Florida to take you seriously. Equal Marriage will come to Florida sooner than you expect. Your defeatist article only inflames the right … without case, and upsets the left … without cause. Leave the drama at the door and get real. My advice, leave sensationalist journalism to fox news.

Ned_Flaherty February 2, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Yes, Angel, you did read my e-mail messages delivered to Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com, because on 1 February you posted this remark: “I found your emails to Vanessa where I was copied very insolent and disrespectful” (your words).

Nothing in the article is inaccurate. Re-read it. If you find a sentence you know is incorrect, then e-mail it to me and explain why you think it is incorrect, and I will address that concern.

For the 3rd and final time: If you are an authorized spokesperson for EMFL, then e-mail me your answers to the pre-interview questions first, and I will schedule a phone interview after I’ve reviewed them.

angeldearmendi February 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Yes, Angel, you did read my e-mail messages delivered to Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com, because on 1 February you posted this remark: “I found your emails to Vanessa where I was copied very insolent and disrespectful” (your words).

Check your inbox so that you can see the emails I was referring to where nowhere you can see "Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com" , that were sent to my personal email, where I found your tone authoritative and demanding. Again, I reiterate that I have not read any emails addressed to "Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com" , so stop saying I have.

This is inaccurate:

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.

You say, "five leaders were contacted" when in fact I was not contacted. If you wanted to contact me for information you could have done a better job by sending an email to my personal email that you already have, again, check your inbox so that you can see the emails I was referring to where my personal email is used.

As to:
For the 3rd and final time: If you are an authorized spokesperson for EMFL, then e-mail me your answers to the pre-interview questions first, and I will schedule a phone interview after I’ve reviewed them.

Who are you to give ultimatums? and why would I care to give you information about the campaign when it is your purpose to turn it around against the campaign itself as you have demonstrated. Sorry, I refuse to communicate to sensationalist journalists like you who are up to make a name. I contacted you back in November, before all this started regarding the wrong information you had posted in your website, and to this date you have not corrected it, so tell me, where is your credibility?

Ned_Flaherty February 2, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Angel,

Your campaign Web site gives one, official e-mail address for reaching you about all campaign business: Angel@EqualMarriageFL.com. Reasonable and repeated efforts were made to reach you at that address. All messages addressed to you there were successfully delivered, and none were returned.

Most of the 48 messages sent to and from your campaign between 19 November and 4 January included your name and campaign e-mail address. On 1 February you posted this remark as a reader comment: “I FOUND YOUR EMAILS to Vanessa where I WAS COPIED very insolent and disrespectful” (your words,, my capitalization). Your comments about the message content prove that you did read messages which were sent to you.

On 1 February you admitted that your campaign leaders do not forward your messages to you, and you do not manually retrieve them yourself, which could explain why you don’t know when people write to you, and why you don’t know when you need to reply.

The inquiries addressed to your official campaign e-mail address on December 8 and 12 specifically asked you for an interview. Both were successfully delivered; neither was returned. You never replied. I would like to interview you about your campaign, including why messages to district co-chairs don’t get automatically forwarded, and don’t get manually retrieved.

The news blog that I maintain is always 100% accurate, because it contains only references to what has already appeared in other publications. All of the EMFL references in the blog came from publications (Huffington Post, Miami Herald, etc.) that never published any corrections to their articles about EMFL, so no blog update was ever needed. Had those publications ever published any corrections, those corrections would have later shown up in news blogs. But no corrections were published, so there were no corrections to blog about.

If you still think the articles in those publications are incorrect, then your first — and next — step is to contact the original publications, not news blogs which only repeat what’s reported elsewhere. This was all explained in great detail to EMFL Chairman Vanessa Brito on 21, 22, and 26 November.

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