From The Tampa Tribune and TBO.COM
Trayvon Martin supporters at a panel discussion to address Florida's "stand your ground" law went beyond the Feb. 26 shooting, urging audience members to step up their participation in civic life.
The parents of Martin, the teen whose shooting death in Sanford by a neighborhood watch captain sparked a national discussion about the limits of self-defense, attended the discussion at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church in Tampa. It was sponsored by the National Bar Association, the largest national network of predominantly African-American attorneys and judges.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Martin's family, said the case should be a landmark for review of the "stand your ground" law and other factors.
"Justice in my mind is … there will be no more Trayvon Martins," Crump said.
Crump praised Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, for holding their own amid massive publicity.
"God is with you, and when God is with you, who can be against you?" Crump said.
Other panelists, including several lawyers, explained the origins of the "stand your ground" law, and discussed the status of the case and the likely next steps in the legal proceedings against the shooter, George Zimmerman.
Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot to death by Zimmerman, in Sanford. Zimmerman, who says he shot Martin in self-defense, remained free until last week when he was arrested on a second-degree murder charge.
Fueled by social media, the case drew the attention of a nation. More than two million people signed a petition calling for Zimmerman's arrest.
Thousands more joined public demonstrations, or posted photos of themselves in hoodies similar to the one Martin was wearing when he was shot.
Several speakers touched on the public outcry surrounding the case.
Another speaker, radio host Otis Antony from WMNF, said "They say that the people's public pressure had nothing to do with it … We say that George Zimmerman is in jail, and it is a testament to the power of the people."
Crump said he and the family expected 200 to 300 people to attend their news conference in New York, but thanks to social networks, they spoke to an audience of tens of thousands.
He quoted Fulton as telling the crowd, "If it could happen to my son, it could happen to your son. So we all need to stand up for Trayvon Martin."
The discussion also included calls to reform education, and to increase voting and political participation.
"Racial profiling didn't begin with George Zimmerman holding a gun and saying 'He looks suspicious.' It begins at home. It begins in the schools," said panelist, Tanya Clay House, of the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We've got to make sure that this justice we're talking about is justice for all children, wherever they are."
Crump said racial profiling led to Martin's death, and the "stand your ground" law "could possibly exonerate his killer."
Zimmerman told police he was attacked by the teenager on his way back to his car. Under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, a person in fear of injury or death can use deadly force. Zimmerman's attorney has said he plans to use the law as part of the defense for his client.
Other panelists include Clinton Paris of the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs; state Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale; and Carolyn Collins with the NAACP-Hillsborough County.
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From The Tampa Tribune
Pastor Favorite feature
By MICHELLE BEARDEN
The Tampa Tribune
Published: February 26, 2010
Then she heard an impassioned newcomer from Baltimore preach at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church. She was blown away by what he had to say and how he said it.
"Now here's a ray of hope for our future," she thought. "Lord knows we need it right now, more than ever."
Turns out, Porter's hunch about the Rev. W. James Favorite, hired by Beulah in 1995, was right. In the 15 years since he arrived here, he hasn't disappointed her.
More than four decades ago, Porter and her peers staged sit-ins at the lunch counters on Franklin Street to protest segregation. Times are different now. A black man was elected president of the United States. But those who championed civil rights still see evidence of racial injustice: a disproportionate number of young black men in the prison system, a lack of economic opportunities, an imbalanced educational system and less access to quality health care.
She doesn't downplay the enormousness of the challenges. Yet she feels more confident about the future knowing that Favorite's work in the church and the community — from AIDS awareness to child development to outreach programs that target at-risk young adults — is helping set a positive course.
Porter, 72, feels so strongly about his leadership skills that two years ago she left the church she had attended since she was 5 and joined Beulah.
"He's got the education, the energy and the experience to inspire," she says. "This isn't just a minister carrying the word. This is a minister living out the Lord's word in the world, the way it was intended."
Ministry wasn't his plan
James Favorite never planned on a life in the ministry.
"Let's just say God worked on my heart a long time," he says. "He was doing it in his own way, in his own time."
He never much liked ministers. Growing up dirt poor in tiny Vacherie, La. — locals said the name was French for cow pasture — he remembers how his parents would invite the preacher to dinner on Sundays.
The kids would have to wait until the man of cloth finished his meal. He would sit at the table feasting on the fried chicken and bounty of fresh vegetables raised by Favorite's sharecropper daddy on the small plot of land provided by the sugar cane corporation that employed him. The siblings watched from a comfortable distance in the company-owned shotgun house, their stomachs growling.
"It seemed like forever," Favorite, 66, says with a chuckle. "To this day, I don't like to accept invitations to dinner from the church members. I don't want to be the guy that everyone waits on."
Young Favorite, a tenor who would grow to 6 feet, 5 inches tall, belted out gospel hymns with the church choir. He had a particular liking for singing with quartets. There were enough ministers in the extended clan — a brother, an uncle, a couple of cousins. He opted to play basketball and work odd jobs to save money for college.
Leroy Mitchell, who attended Magnolia High School with Favorite, remembers him as a "quiet leader."
"He was not one to aggravate or overly stimulate the group," Mitchell says. "He just moved them forward in a subtle way. He was one of those special guys who you just knew would succeed one day."
Favorite figured out early on that education was the key to success. One day, he told his parents, he would be a school principal. His mother never lived to see that dream. Stricken by heart problems, she died at age 40, when he was in his late teens. To this day, Favorite says she could have lived if she had had health insurance and proper medical care.
Favorite went to Southern University in Baton Rouge, earning his bachelor's degree in physical education in 1966, and two years later, his master's in education. He found out soon enough that Louisiana didn't pay its teachers a livable wage. He earned just $6,500 a year.
Moving up the ladder
Fed up, Favorite went to a job fair and landed a position in the Jell-O division of General Foods. His pay nearly doubled to $12,800 — "I thought I had gone to heaven." His sales acumen and people skills steered him onto the corporate fast track, and he quickly moved higher in the organization. In 1970, that experience got him a job with the Maremont Corp., where he had a 17-year career in management and sales, specializing in shock absorbers and exhaust systems. Eventually, he oversaw more than 200 accounts, producing more than $15 million in sales.
He was the company's first black sales associate. Sometimes he overheard racial slurs, but chose not to let the sting of prejudice bother him. Better to let his actions in the professional world define him, he reasoned, rather than reactions.
His father never quite understood what his son did. That was a time when successful blacks usually worked in government jobs. Favorite once took a detour on a business trip in Louisiana and rented a luxury car for a stopover visit in Vacherie. When he showed up in the Cadillac, his father was alarmed.
"Boy, did you steal that car? Or are you dealing drugs?" he asked with suspicion.
While working in the Baltimore area, Favorite met a young woman with brains and beauty. Her name was Ann, and there was no looking back. After a year of courtship, they married. A daughter and son soon completed the family.
By age 40, Favorite's corporate career seemed unstoppable, and his six-figure income ensured a comfortable life for his family.
But the small, still voice of God he heard was growing louder and louder. The business world and his achievements began seeming less important, less worth his time.
Finally, he broke the news to Ann. I want to go to seminary.
Ann wasn't surprised. Not really. Her husband was always referencing God and Scriptures. But she wanted to make it clear that her support didn't mean she would give up her life to serve the church full time as a pastor's wife.
She looked him in the eye and said, "Fine. You do what you need to do, and I'll do what I need to do."
Flock at first church grows
Favorite earned multiple degrees in religion, divinity and ministry from Virginia Seminary and College in Lynchburg, and at Maryland Theological Seminary and College in Baltimore, where he also taught and served as dean.
In his first pastorate, at Morning Star Baptist Church in Baltimore, membership grew from 200 in 1987 to more than 700 in 1995, and revenue climbed from $95,000 to more than $1 million. He opened an educational center and bought land for senior housing.
His success right out of school didn't surprise the Rev. Mackie Cookley, one of his seminary professors. Of the hundreds of students he has taught through the years at Virginia, James Favorite stands out as one of his most exceptional.
"Smart, cooperative and faithful," Cookley recalls. "He was one of the godsends. Any Christian has leadership potential, but we have to wait for God to make the assignment on who will be extraordinary. James was picked to be a born leader."
Beulah needed a new pastor. After serving at the helm for 39 years, the Rev. A. Leon Lowry was stepping down. A church member who had heard Favorite speak in Baltimore recommended him to the search committee. After meeting him, members knew he was their man.
Following in Lowry's footsteps would not be easy for anyone. Lowry's storied reputation and national profile made him an iconic figure of the civil rights movement. He taught theology to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College in the 1940s. He campaigned to desegregate schools in the 1960s, and became the first black member elected to the county school board. At his funeral in 2005, a speaker described Lowry as a "five-star general in God's army."
Favorite was drawn to Beulah's rich history. Founded in 1865, the church was a cornerstone in Tampa's progressive black community. National leaders came to speak. First-time voters were registered there. Its pews were filled with the city's first black lawyers, doctors and professors.
What he didn't like so much was the mystique surrounding the church referred to as "Big Beulah." Although in one of the state's poorest districts, it was reputed to be a place "where the elite meet." One of Favorite's first orders of business was to walk the neighborhoods, knock on doors and invite people of lesser means to worship.
"Now we've got members who walk to church," he says. "That's a beautiful sight to see."
Suburban flight is a challenge for downtown houses of worship. Even the venerable Beulah was affected. Membership had dwindled to fewer than 200 when Favorite arrived in 1995.
So he launched programs to draw people in for something other than Sunday services. On Wednesday nights, he dons an apron and cooks one of his Louisiana country specialties to serve before Bible study. During tax season, Beulah offers free tax preparation twice a week.
The effort paid off. The church has nearly 700 members and more than 30 active ministries.
Among its outreach efforts, Beulah is one of six faith-based sites providing a year-round Out of School Time program to more than 200 children before and after school, during the summer and on other non-school days.
Luanne Panacek, CEO of the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, which helps fund the program, says Favorite is a "perfect partner" in initiatives that target children from at-risk neighborhoods and with special needs. His best attribute is what he doesn't do, Panacek says — "No game playing. What you see is what you get."
He leads AIDS effort
That was evident when Favorite took a lead role in launching a Tampa affiliate of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS. Though the disease has long been a taboo topic in black churches, the group is urging pastors to talk about it from the pulpit and to offer health education workshops to prevent it.
His commitment got the attention of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, who nominated Favorite last year to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. Though he wasn't picked, Castor's support hasn't wavered. She intends to pitch his name again.
"He knows how to get people to the table and how to get things done," Panacek says. "He checks his ego at the door. Getting an issue resolved is more important to him than getting credit or attention."
His wife's dream
Ann stuck with her pledge to be her own person. A social worker with a master's from the University of Maryland, she realized a long-held dream when she opened Ann's Favorite Boutique, a specialty clothing store on Busch Boulevard. She handles contract work for the state as a support coordinator for families with special medical needs, runs her shop and serves the church. Summers and many weekends, their Riverview home is the landing pad for their 20-year-old grandson, Hashim, an aspiring filmmaker who attends Full Sail University in Orlando.
After 43 years of marriage, the couple are still playful. But Ann learned to share: Her spouse tends to work seven days a week with his church and community commitments, and freely shares his cell phone and home numbers with congregants.
Their one conflict in the marriage?
"Every dollar I save, she will spend. So I have to save two dollars just to get one," he says.
Ann rolls her eyes heavenward. "Lord, he's a stickler about saving money. He can hold a dollar bill until George Washington screams."
Abe Brown has worries
Like Ann Porter, Abe Brown frets about the state of black leadership in Tampa. Not enough cohesiveness, he says, and a lack of humbleness among some who command attention.
At 82, Brown is among the last of the old guard. A beloved football coach at three high schools, Brown appealed for calm in 1989 after a black drug suspect died in police custody. His leadership helped prevent a riot.
He shares Favorite's belief that the church's best work is outside its four walls. He's the founder of Abe Brown Prison Ministries and Pastors on Patrol, an initiative that encourages local preachers to go into at-risk neighborhoods and minister to drug dealers, prostitutes and drifters. Favorite is among the dozen or so who take part twice a month.
The two men became fast friends when Favorite moved to town. Now they get together to watch football. Brown calls him a "fine companion, a good mixer and a strong, level-headed Christian." Those are strong compliments from a man who uses his words wisely and sparingly.
If anyone can bring black leadership together, it's James Favorite, Brown says.
"He's an eyeball-to-eyeball kind of guy. He speaks with eloquence, without being stuck up about it. That's the kind of person we're in dire need of."
Observers agree that the black community's future lies in bridge-building. And that's one of Favorite's strengths, says Beulah member Jerome Ryans, president of the Tampa Housing Authority.
He says he doesn't know how his pastor can devote so much time to his congregants and still play an active role in the religious, business and local communities. With his laid-back demeanor and engaging personality, Favorite makes it seem so easy.
"He seems to have time for everybody. He gives you his attention and you get all of it," Ryans says. "He's got such energy."
Favorite says it's really no secret. It all goes back to a pearl of wisdom from his father, who died of alcoholism at age 70. Though Harold Favorite never made it off the sugar plantation, never got past third grade, he was a wise man in his son's eyes. Favorite still quotes him from the pulpit.
He will never forget the time his father came upon his brother sitting idly on the front porch when he was supposed to be working in the fields. Harold Favorite didn't take kindly to seeing his son slack off.
"Boy, the only problem with doing nothin' is that you never know when you're finished," he bellowed.
Favorite thought about that one for a long time.
"Then one day it hit home and made sense to me," he says, laughing at the memory. "I realized just how smart my father was. Maybe that's why I keep doing, keep moving. There will be plenty of time for fishing down the road. Now's the time to get the work done."
Reporter Michelle Bearden can be reached at (813) 259-7613.
From The Tampa Bay Times
No easy 'amen' for condoms
Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, November 2, 2008
TAMPA — Pastor W. James Favorite teaches preaching to preachers. His is a broad-shouldered presence on the pulpit. His flowing baritone requires no microphone. He has a poet's sense of rhythm, of accelerating passion and crescendo. The pastor of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, Tampa's oldest black Baptist house of worship, preaches the red off the devil.
He is preaching to a group of black Tampa pastors about HIV. He is laying out his vision for prevention, to be realized by Tampa's black churches. He wants screening, counseling, family assistance. The pastors feed him quiet yeses and amens.
"For a long time, churches have pushed AIDS to the side. We put our heads in the sand."
Amen to that.
"It's not here, not in our churches. Then we found members of our congregations dying. How could we treat them? We didn't even want to shake their hands."
Amen to that, too, Pastor Favorite.
"How do we bring into our teaching the use of condoms? We believe abstinence is the answer, but there are those who will not listen. We have to tell them that the least they can do is use a condom."
Pastor Favorite gets polite silence.
• • •
In Tampa's black neighborhoods, the statistics scream: black family disease. More blacks have HIV than any other ethnic group. One in 85 blacks in Hillsborough County is infected. That is more than four times the rate for whites. The disparity is more pronounced among women. One in every 92 black women in Hillsborough is infected. That is 11 times the rate for white women.
This black family disease — that's what Favorite calls it — preys on even fathers and mothers in the pews, children in Sunday school.
He wants the full gamut of services for his vulnerable congregation, and he wants it based in his landmark church, one founded in 1865 for freed slaves. He wants a partnership with the Health Department similar to one initiated by Florida's black AME churches. AME's Florida bishop has committed to providing a church for HIV screening in every county. They're halfway to their goal.
But pastors whose beliefs are biblically founded get caught in a moral paradox. If they base an HIV prevention program on abstinence alone, they're bound to fail. If they provide the common medically recommended option — condoms — they've compromised their principles. Religion has never been about options.
One church in Miami resolved the paradox by leaving condoms in a garbage can outside the church. Rev. Favorite isn't about to build an HIV outreach program for Tampa's black families on garbage cans.
• • •
To understand the silence Favorite must contend with, talk to Abe Brown.
No one need educate Abe Brown on the devastation of AIDS in Tampa's black communities. No one need convince Abe Brown that religion and medicine pose a powerful partnership against the disease.
Ramrod straight at 81, the retired senior pastor of First Baptist Church of College Hill is the unbending oak staff of Tampa's black religious community. He is Favorite's mentor and founder of Pastors on Patrol, a street ministry that Favorite now leads. Brown has seen HIV face-to-face, on his patrols, in his prison ministry, among ex-inmates, and among wives and babies.
He has seen it in the church pews. "We don't require physicals of people who come to church," he says. "We don't turn away people who come to church for help."
So Abe Brown supports whatever HIV intervention program Favorite comes up with. If Favorite wants to include condoms, that's his decision.
But Brown can't quite let it go at that. He frowns, struggles just to say the word condom. It's not a word he has ever used in his ministry.
Brown was once known famously as Mean Dean Brown — the disciplinary dean at Chamberlain High School. He likes to tell how he patrolled the parking lot, looking for cars that took up two spaces. He wrote down the tag numbers and traced the owners, summoned them to his office. They gaped at him, asked how he tracked them down.
"That's my secret."
His personal feelings about HIV are not that different. You park your car right, in one space. You live right, you sleep in one bed.
Brown will not criticize Favorite's HIV strategy, but the Mean Dean Brown in him can't bring himself to find any good in the word condom. It's another way to sin safely, a cheap detour past the hard road to salvation. It's two parking spaces.
"From the pulpit, we teach abstinence. The Bible says, 'Don't do it.' "
• • •
To understand the need for the churches' blessing, talk to the Rev. Jerry Nealy. He is an associate pastor at the tiny wood-frame Friendly Missionary Baptist Church on Central Avenue. He teaches Sunday school. He is a member of Favorite's Pastors on Patrol. But by now, his name should have been better known in Tampa. He should have been a star in the NAACP.
He broke the color barrier at Chamberlain High. He found the Lord when he was 20. Ralph Abernathy offered him a job with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta and helped him get into Morehouse College. He came back to Tampa to work for the NAACP.
In 1988, he got HIV.
He doesn't want to spell out how. All anyone needs to know is "I got baggage." He lost his job, his name and his home. He kept his infection a secret for six years.
"I was no Magic Johnson. I didn't want anyone to know. What would people say? There was a taboo in the black churches. There was no compassion."
Nealy stopped hiding in 1994, obtaining the medicines that have saved his life. Now 57, he advocates for openness through the Minority AIDS Council in Tampa. He would like the words HIV and condoms to be everyday conversation, "at the dinner table, over the coffee table." He'll talk about his own infection, his own downfall, if he thinks it will help anyone.
Still, he lives in alternate worlds. The faith and church he follows point toward abstinence. His own hard experience points toward choices.
"If they won't accept a spiritual medicine," he says, "in the interest of life, let's offer an alternative."
• • •
To understand how hard it is to commit to the long haul, talk to the Rev. Bernard Smith. He calls himself the "total pioneer, the lone eagle" of HIV outreach. For more than six years, Smith has offered HIV testing at Greene Chapel AME Church in Largo. His was the first in Pinellas.
He has formed partnerships with the Pinellas County Health Department, the state, and the giant HIV-testing company Abbott Laboratories. Together, they launched a pilot screening program at six Tampa Bay AME churches. People came in, got their mouths swabbed. The swabs were sent off for state testing. Those who tested positive received counseling for "life after HIV."
The pilot ended on Aug. 31. Smith called it a big success. But it's over. His volunteers still swab for HIV three times a week at Greene Chapel, but no longer have the sponsorship that paid for food and supplies. Smith would like to move the screening to a separate building. He has been turned down for bank loans. Continuity of support has always been iffy.
Smith has now put almost 20 years in HIV prevention. "Where do we go from here?"
Even he has a problem saying the word "condom." "We believe in abstinence," he says.
Has Smith ever placed a condom in someone's hands?
He pauses for several seconds.
"We don't advertise them," he says. "Our No. 1 focus is abstinence."
But has he ever put a condom in a person's hand?
He pauses again.
"We serve the saved and the unsaved."
• • •
To understand the possibilities of biblical reconciliation, talk to Favorite. He leads his deacons through the Oakhurst Square apartments behind Beulah Baptist on a Saturday morning. Once a month, the deacons knock on doors throughout the downtown Tampa neighborhoods. They're not just selling salvation. They're urging people to come to the church on Wednesdays when a nurse offers basic health screenings. They find every kind of medical need imaginable among those who answer their knock.
Favorite grew up on a Louisiana plantation. He studied teaching at Southern Louisiana University. Where he grew up, the only successful blacks he knew were schoolteachers. If Favorite had ever met a black medical doctor as a child, he is certain he would have studied medicine instead.
One of his friends at Beulah Baptist is Dr. Emile Commedore, director of Florida's Office of Minority Health. When Favorite preaches HIV prevention to fellow pastors, Commedore has his back. He stresses the public health aspects of AIDS, and the innocence of many of its victims — including wives and children. "Condoms are no more than a means to an end," the doctor tells the preachers.
Favorite is willing to debate HIV from a biblical perspective. He is a serious student of the Bible, as well as its Hebrew and Greek roots.
He often refers to 1 John, Chapter 2, Verse 1: If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father.
Here in the humble Oakhurst Square apartments, words like that resonate. There are many sinners. Even they have an advocate.
There's a Greek word in the New Testament that also resonates with Favorite. Metanoia. Because of its complexity, Favorite likes to apply it to his vision for HIV outreach.
In its biblical context, the word means repentance.
In classical Greek, metanoia has another meaning. It means to change one's mind, to change one's heart.
John Barry can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2258.
From The Tampa Tribune
Obama on gay marriage
By WILLIAM MARCH
The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 10, 2012
Updated: May 10, 2012 - 12:11 AM
TAMPA --It's debatable whether President Barack Obama's stance in favor of marriage equality for gay people will help or hurt him at the polls, but it will further polarize the electorate, according to the comments of various political activists and experts Wednesday.
Cultural conservative leaders said Obama's stance will energize their base which hasn't been enthusiastic about Mitt Romney.
But Democrats said it also could please voters in their base who have been disappointed by Obama's failure to push a liberal agenda.
Some experts raised questions about Obama's devoted bloc of black supporters, some of whom are social conservatives who don't favor abortion rights or gay rights.
But would that turn them against the nation's first black president?
Perhaps a few, but not many, said the Rev. James Favorite of Beulah Baptist Institutional Church.
"We have gotten to the point where we're more than one-issue voters," he said. "I strongly oppose gay marriage, but on the other side I see things that are more devastating, like health care."
The news came as yet another poll emphasized that Florida looks like a toss-up between Obama and Mitt Romney. The Suffolk University poll has Obama ahead 46 percent to 45 percent, a tie in a poll with a 4-point error margin. It included 600 registered voters interviewed May 6 through 8.
A Quinnipiac poll last week also showed a statistical tie, with Romney ahead 44 percent to 43 percent.
Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political scientist who is politically neutral, said he doesn't see "a major impact" from Obama's decision.
He said independent voters in Florida tend to be split on the issue. The danger to Obama, he said, is that the decision could rev up the cultural conservative base. "But cultural conservatives outside the African-American community were already against him," Corrigan said.
Orlando lawyer and religious conservative political activist John Stemberger said Obama's stance "will be a huge political liability."
"Every time it goes to a vote of the people, we always prevail," he said, citing the North Carolina vote Tuesday for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the 30th state to adopt an amendment.
Florida voters passed such an amendment in 2008 by 62 percent to 38 percent, almost identical to the North Carolina vote.
State Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, a religious right leader, noted that Obama won Florida on the same ballot, which means "there's got to be some overlap — some people who voted for him don't like this policy." He said that means Obama could lose some black, Hispanic and working-class voters.
Stemberger was part of a national group of social conservative leaders initially unsatisfied with Romney who sought an alternative during the presidential primary battle. He said Obama's move will help bring those doubters to Romney.
"It creates a further contrast. It makes me want to work harder and to support Romney," he said.
But Jim Kitchens, an Orlando-based Democratic-oriented political pollster, said the Democratic base will be pleased and energized, particularly young voters. "The generation under 40 don't think anything about people being gay."
Nadine Smith of Tampa, head of the gay rights group Equality Florida, said Obama's declaration will generate support and that her organization "is already getting the word out by every means available."
"The people who wouldn't vote for him because of this weren't voting for him to begin with."
Smith cited Gallup polls showing a slow but steady increase since 1996 in support for same-sex marriage, reaching 53 percent last year and 50 percent, with 48 percent opposed, in a poll last week.
"This is a phenomenal day, a huge moment," said Smith, who was married in Vermont and has a 1-year-old child with her female partner but whose marriage has no legal standing in Florida.
"Marriage equality will be the law of the land in this country sooner rather than later."