Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, has announced that he will be retiring at 74 after the November 2018 election.
“It has been a thrill to be part of an organization that has so successfully defended and expanded human rights,” Howard stated. “It has been especially rewarding to work with so many partners over so many years for legal equality for gay men and lesbians, to protect the right to vote and, most recently, successfully protecting fundamental values of privacy and separation of church and state that were threatened by the current Constitution Revision Commission.“
Simon’s time as an ACLU director spanned a cumulative 44 years, making him the longest-serving director in the organization’s 98 year history.
In 1974, Simon was appointed to serve as executive director of the ACLU in Michigan where he led the fight to defend civil rights and liberties. He left Michigan in 1997 to serve as the Florida affiliate and has worked in the sunshine state for 21 years.
During his time in Florida, Simon’s work and accomplishments helped to drastically change public policy that restricted the advancement of civil rights. Under Simon’s direction, the organization challenged school book censorship in Miami-Dade county schools in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Simon also led the ACLU in a successful fight to change the way Floridians cast ballots following the 2000 election fiasco.
Although he has helped to better the lives of so many groups of people, Simon claims that some of his proudest triumphs have been for the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2010, the ACLU represented Floridian Martin Gill in a fight to end the ban on adoptions by gay-identifying couples. Gill and his partner had been raising two foster children for four years. The couple wanted to adopt the brothers but Florida law, despite allowing gays and lesbians to foster children, forbade adoption by same-sex couples. The court ruled that the law had “no rational basis” and the ban with lifted.
Four years later, Simon and the ACLU sued the state for refusing to recognize marriages of same-sex couples which were recognized by other states. The lawsuit led to a 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the prohibition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, a decision that meant an end to all state bans of same-sex marriages.
“They weren’t just legal victories. What thrills me about this is, we helped create families,” Simon told the Tampa Bay Times.
Under Simon’s direction, the ACLU fought for a number of underrepresented communities and gave them a crucial voice in the legal system. While he will be missed, his legacy will leave a lasting impression on both the organization and the state of Florida.
“I am grateful to those who have given me this career,” Simon said. “It’s been aggravating, nerve-wracking, sometimes heartbreaking — but ultimately a rewarding 44 years.”
Thank you for your hard work and willingness to fight for what is right, Howard Simon. From all of us at New York Minute Magazine, we wish you a very happy retirement.
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