Category Archives: Communities

We are clergy and missionaries shepherding our congregations to welcome everyone into their hearts, openly and without judgment. We are veterans who have fought for the freedom of others across the ocean and who will continue to fight for basic human rights on our own native soil. We are citizens who believe in everyone’s right to pursue their own happiness.

Reverend Dr. Bruce Havens

Every Sunday at Pastor Havens’ church they say to people, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here!” Havens believes, “we can disagree about how we practice our faith and still be for justice and against discrimination. That is the legacy of all faiths. If the business community can stand for justice and what is right, then the faith community should surely not lag behind.” That’s why he’s a “Straight Ally,” for the Human Rights Ordinance.

Read more about Pastor Havens here: http://wp.me/p3PnKk-ge

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SOTRU Trans Families Live Listening Session

We Are Straight Allies and WJCT partnered with State of the Re:UNION to present a very special opportunity to listen to SOTRU’s most recent episode – “Trans Families” – hosted at MOCA Jacksonville on Wednesday, October 15 from 5:30-7:30pm. We’d like to thank our sponsors SunTrust and Human Rights Campaign for making this event possible.

We’d like to extend our deep appreciation to Al Letson for bringing this episode to light, for giving voice to families who support their loved ones, and for sharing the cross-section of beauty and challenges that is the “trans experience”.

To our panelists – Tricia, Brad ley, Cam – thank you for your courage and willingness to share your personal experiences and journey of transition with an audience that is eager to learn how to be allies of the trans* community so that we are empowered with ways to create change in our community and bring equality to all people.

To the allies who tuned in – thank you for questions and contributions to the conversation – let’s all make a commitment to keep the conversation going, to encourage more people to listen to the episode, and to find ways to eradicate the misinformation shared about our trans* loved ones.

….because nothing is more important than our humanity.

SOTRU Live Listening Session

For more photos from the event, CLICK HERE

The Entire Episode: Trans Families

Ally Profile: Maria Mark

Maria Mark_FP_Print_2Congratulations to our newest ally, Maria Mark!  Maria helped draft and sponsor the Human Rights Ordinance that recently passed (4-0) on August 11, 2014.  Maria was recently awarded the “Voice for Equality Award” at Equality Florida’s Jacksonville Annual Gala for her dedication to equal rights for the LGBT community in Atlantic Beach.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Maria was adopted at 18 months old, by her father who was stationed in South Korea. She started school in Germany but she and her family settled in Columbia, South Carolina, where her mother was raised.

Maria graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in business and moved to Jacksonville in 1979 to be with her parents, who had moved there a year earlier. She began her legal career at the Rogers, Towers law firm and eventually moved to the Beach to work for Anderson & Howell as a litigation paralegal. She obtained her paralegal certification from the University of North Florida and continued working in this field for over 25 years.

In 2006, Maria entered the non-profit world and worked for the St. Johns River Alliance and Preservation North Florida (n/k/a Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation) as the assistant program manager. In 2009, she was named as the interim Executive Director of the Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation and now serves as its part-time Executive Director.

Maria was elected to the City of Atlantic Beach City Commission in 2011. She has been a community advocate for many years and chairs the community event, MarshFest. This seven-year old, bi-annual event held at Dutton Island Park & Preserve draws over 1,000 people for a family day filled with free Americana-music, kayak tours and nature hikes of the beautiful parks and marshes in Atlantic Beach.

Maria is a member of the “Leadership Jacksonville Class of 2014” and most recently was selected as the honoree for the Economic Development Award by The Women of Color Cultural Foundation. She is a former board member of Beaches Watch, a Beaches civic organization and served on the St. Johns River Ferry Task Force, which was spearheaded by City of Jacksonville Council President Bill Gulliford. She is also on the A1A Corridor working group that is applying to obtain the A1A Scenic & Historic designation for A1A in Duval and Nassau Counties.

Maria lives in Atlantic Beach with her husband of almost 23 years, Bob, and they have a 14 year-old son, Garrett. She is also the caretaker for her 86 year-old mother. In her free time, Maria enjoys golfing, nature photography and bird watching.

Ally Profile: Rabbi Joshua Lief

Rabbi Lief_FP_Print_R3Rabbi Joshua B. Lief is the Senior Rabbi of historic Congregation Ahavath Chesed. He grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia where he was active in all sports, music, and was an Eagle Scout. He attended Princeton University, where he swam on the varsity squad, competed on the debate team, and graduated with a degree in History.

After Princeton, Rabbi Lief attended the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.  After living in Jerusalem for the first year of the seminary, he completed his studies at HUC-JIR’s campus in Cincinnati, Ohio where he was ordained as a Rabbi in May of 2003.

Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Rabbi Lief served as the Rabbi of Mizpah Congregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he helped grow the congregation and reached out to the larger community. Here in Jacksonville, he serves on the boards of ONEJAX, JCCI, and the Community Hospice. He is an avid athlete, a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow, member of the Downtown Rotary Club, a graduate of the Leadership Jacksonville New Leadership Summit, enjoys and supports the arts, and is honored to engage in civic activities.

Rabbi Lief is married to his beautiful wife Rebecca. They are delighted daily by their adorable daughters, Leah and Ellie, and are proud to make Jacksonville their home.

As a Rabbi, I am relieved that Judaism only demands of me that I make myself the best person that I can possibly be.  I am not required to change anyone else to be more like me.  Indeed, with my faith in a God who is wholly (and holy) beyond my comprehension, and a conviction that all people are made in the Divine image, how could I ask anyone not to be who they are?  Many people are fond of taking Biblical verses out of context and frequently Leviticus 18:22 is cited as an injunction against homosexuality.  From my perspective, the operative verse on the issue of civil rights is actually to be found one chapter later, at Leviticus 19:17, “Reprove your neighbor, but come to no guilt on his account.”  The issue is not the perceived rightness or wrongness of any individual’s private behavior.  Rather, the issue is the absolute wrongness of public discrimination against our fellow human beings for simply being who they are.  It is quite fitting that the very next verse is Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.”  Would that we could all reach that level of holiness.  Let’s keep trying.

To contact Rabbi Lief, please email him at rabbi@thetemplejacksonville.org.

We Are Coming Out for BINGO!

Help us raise money for Equality with some Charity Bingo at Hamburger Mary’s JAX!

We have 50/50 raffle tickets and great door prizes provided by:
A weekend stay at Omni Hotels [downtown jacksonville]
Sweet Pete’s | Three Layers Cafe
WJCT | Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens
Equality Florida | CityXtra Magazine

Hosted by Karissa Wade
Brought to you by We Are Straight Allies, City Xtra Magazine and the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality

Come join us – this ain’t your grandma’s basement bingo!

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