Florida gay rights activist found dead in landfill

A gay rights advocate who was integral to legalizing same-sex marriage in Florida has been found dead in a landfill in what is being investigated as a homicide, the authorities said Wednesday.

Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, the brother of former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, was last seen alive on January 3. Tallahassee police said. Shortly after a missing person alert was issued for him on Saturday, his body was found in a pile of trash at a landfill in Baker, Florida, about 60 miles east of the border with Alabama, according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Don Johnston and Jorge Diaz wait to speak to the media and their supporters after a same-sex marriage hearing in Miami on July 2, 2014.J Pat Carter/AP File

Diaz, who served as mayor of Miami from 2001 to 2009, posted a statement on Twitter confirming his brother’s death.

“I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of support extended to me, my brother-in-law Don and my family following the loss of my brother, Jorge Diaz-Johnston,” he wrote. “My brother was such a special gift to this world whose heart and legacy will live on for generations to come.”

While he had a high-profile sibling, Diaz-Johnston made a name for himself. In 2014, he and his husband, Don Diaz-Johnston, and five other same-sex couples sued the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office after being barred from getting married.

“For us, it’s not just about love and wanting to express our love and have the benefits that everyone has in the state, but it’s about equality, and it’s a civil rights issue,” said Jorge Diaz-Johnston. NBC Miami at the time.

Same-sex couples who had challenged the marriage ban celebrate after Circuit Court Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the stay, allowing same-sex couples to marry on January 5, 2015 in Miami.Walter Michot/Pool via Getty Images File

In January 2015, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the couples, legalizing same-sex marriage in the South Florida county more than a year before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. the country.

Elizabeth Schwartz, who represented all six couples in the case, called Diaz-Johnston’s death “heartbreaking”.

“They fought so hard to have their love recorded and to be able to enjoy the institution of marriage, and for the marriage to end in this way – in this horrible, heartbreaking way – there are no words. “, she told NBC Miami.

Shortly after winning their case, Jorge and Don Diaz-Johnston married in March 2015, according to public records. Coupled with an image of her husband smiling at the camera during dinner, Don Diaz-Johnston addressed his death on Facebook.

“There are simply no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston,” he wrote. “I can’t stop crying trying to write this. But he meant as much to you all as he did to me. So I fight through tears to share with you our loss of him.

Current Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava has acknowledged Diaz-Johnston’s role in promoting LGBTQ rights in the city.

“In Jorge Diaz-Johnston, we have lost a champion, leader and fighter for our LGBTQ community,” she wrote on Twitter. “His tragic loss will be deeply felt by all who loved him, as we honor his life and legacy.”

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