The brother of former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz who was the plaintiff in a historic same-sex marriage lawsuit was found dead in a Florida landfill, and now authorities are investigating his death as a homicide.
Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, had been last seen alive on Jan. 3, Tallahassee Police officials said.
A missing person alert was issued for Diaz-Johnson on Saturday, the same day his body was discovered in the Jackson County landfill, police said.
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Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office officials said the body had been in trash collected at the Baker landfill by a garbage transportation company.
Tallahassee Police said the death is being investigated as a homicide.
Manny Diaz released a statement on social media Thursday after it was confirmed his brother's body had been found.
"I am profoundly appreciative of the outpouring of support shown to me, my brother-in-law Don, and my family after the loss of my brother, Jorge Diaz-Johnston. My brother was such a special gift to this world whose heart and legacy will continue to live on for generations to come," the statement read. "I am also so very grateful to the Tallahassee Police Department- with the support of Mayor Daley and City Manager Reed- who have worked tirelessly to locate and investigate the circumstances surrounding my brother's disappearance. Their commitment has meant the world to my family and will continue to mean the world in our search for justice. We ask for privacy and continued prayers."
Jorge Diaz-Johnston and his husband Don were plaintiffs in a historic lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade.
Don Diaz-Johnston paid tribute to his husband in a message on Facebook Wednesday.
"There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston," he wrote. "I can't stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him."
Jorge Díaz-Johnston helped pave the way for marriage equality in Florida.
“It’s heartbreaking because they fought so hard for their love to be enshrined and enjoy the institution of marriage and for the marriage to end in this way,” Elizabeth Schwartz, who represented Diaz-Johnston and five other couples in 2014 said. “This gruesome heartbreaking way, there are no words.”
Diaz-Johnston filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s ban on same sex marriage in Miami-Dade in 2014 and told NBC 6 then why it was important.
“This is clearly for us. It’s not just a question of love and wanting to express it and have benefits everyone has in state. It's an issue of equality and it’s a civil rights issue,” Diaz-Johnston said.
A county judge ruled the ban unconstiutional a year before the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
“He was a powerful voice. He was a sensitive, thoughtful voice. It’s no easy thing to be a plaintiff in such a high profile case like that. You put your life on trial. He was game. He really helped change hearts and minds and we’re eternally grateful,” Schwartz said.