Sarasota ACLU chapter to present May 9 program on ‘How to Protect LGBT Rights’

Discussion to be held at Unitarian Universalist Church in Sarasota

Image from the ACLU of Florida website

The Sarasota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida will continue its monthly discussion series, Ask the ACLU, with a May program on How to Protect LGBT Rights, the chapter has announced.

The forum will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on May 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota. The event is free and open to the community, a news release points out. The church is located at 3975 Fruitville Road.

“Discussion will focus on how the ACLU is responding to new threats to LGBT rights by the emboldened opposition, which is busy working to pass pre-emption laws and religious exemption efforts,” the release explains. Panelists also will address “the dramatic expansion of LGBT support in Florida schools, including some important developments in Sarasota,” the release notes.

The panelists will be Daniel Tilley, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Florida whose work focuses primarily on the LGBT community; Hannah Willard, the public policy director for Equality Florida, which is the state’s largest advocacy organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community; and Molly Swift, the program coordinator for ALSO Youth, who works directly with youth and their families at ALSO’s Sarasota drop-in center, the release says.

Tilley served as lead counsel in the ACLU’s federal court litigation that — as part of a pair of consolidated cases — brought marriage equality to Florida in January 2015, the release points out. Willard is responsible for all of Equality Florida’s work in the Florida Capitol, including the passage of a statewide nondiscrimination bill to protect LGBTQ Floridians, the release adds. She also led Equality Florida’s marriage campaign through the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the release notes.

Hannah Willard. Photo from the Equality Florida website

“The ACLU believes that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people should be able to participate fully in American life free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the job; in housing; when shopping or getting services at restaurants, hotels, and other public places; and when accessing government programs and services,” the release points out.

“While there is widespread public support for making discrimination against LGBT people illegal, only a minority of states have laws that specifically protect LGBT people — the ACLU aims to change that,” said Pete Tannen, president of the Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, in the release. “More troubling are the states that are working explicitly to limit the rights of LGBT individuals and enable legal discrimination against them. The ACLU will fight these encroachments on civil liberties with every weapon in our legal arsenal.”

The Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU of Florida launched the Ask the ACLU discussion series in response to concerns over a slate of policies proposed by President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. If those are enacted, the ACLU has stated, they would violate the constitutional rights of many people in America, the release adds.

For more information about the Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU of Florida and these programs, call Pete Tannen at 306-1937 or go to