Police say Smollett staged attack because he was ‘dissatisfied’ with salary

By : Mariah Cooper OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Jussie Smollett’s mugshot. (Courtesy of Chicago PD)

Actor Jussie Smollett allegedly paid $3,500 to orchestrate a “bogus” hate crime because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on the Fox series “Empire,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press conference on Feb. 21.

Smollett is charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He was taken into custody early morning on Feb. 21.

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Issue 26.04: Split Session

By : Jake Stevens
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Lawmakers, activists divided on how to best legislate equality, Melbourne police make arrest in faked bomb threat called into Space Coast no-labels bar, Equality Florida, LGBTQ Victory Fund endorse Castor for Tampa mayor, local news, celebrity interviews, photos, events and much, much more!

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Patty Sheehan, Orlando’s first openly gay city commissioner to run for re-election

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | Patty Sheehan, Central Florida’s first openly gay City Commissioner, announced Feb. 19 that she is running for re-election.

Sheehan is city commissioner over Orlando’s District 4, which consists of the majority of historic districts in downtown. During her time as commissioner, Sheehan has overseen the restoration of the Lake Eola fountain, the preservation of the Eola House, the addition of 1.3 acres to Lake Eola Park and the construction of sidewalks for children going to and from school.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Stephen Hawk and Jonathan Soots

By : Aaron Drake
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Dr. Stephen Hawk and Jonathan Soots first met in 2014 how many people tend to connect these days: online. The pair finally met in person in February 2015 at a house party.

“We first met at a mutual friend’s housewarming,” Soots says. “Our first real date was after our friend Eddie Sotomayor’s funeral.” The couple explained their mutual friend passed away during the Pulse tragedy in Orlando. Seeing each other again opened the door to them spending more time together after they attended the funeral. Then they made things official in July 2016.

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02.21.2019 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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The weekend before the midterms last November, Equality Florida held its Greater Orlando Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art. I have had the privilege of attending this annual event over the last several years and it is always a who’s who of the LGBTQ community throughout the state.

This event was extra special because of a certain celebrity who was attending, recording artist and star of the series “Empire,” Jussie Smollett. I have been a huge fan since I first saw him on the show and was excited and nervous when I got the opportunity to meet and chat with him.

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02.21.2019 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Just ahead of the year 2000, while my parents frantically fought over whether or not we owned enough bottled water and canned corn to survive the impending Y2K apocalypse, I had two main concerns as I entered my freshman year of high school.

The first was “X-Men,” an upcoming film starring Patrick Stewart from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Ian McKellen from “Apt Pupil” and Hugh Jackman from … nothing, really. No one knew “Hugh” he was.

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Smollett now a suspect for filing false police report

By : Staff Reports OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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UPDATE: A Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokesperson has confirmed Feb. 20 to the Los Angeles Blade that felony charges have been filed against actor Jussie Smollett. The actor was indicted for filing a false report after a Grand jury heard evidence from Chicago police investigators in connection to the alleged hate-crime incident last month.

Smollett will be charged with Class 4 felony which is punishable with a prison term of between 1 to 3 three years if found guilty.

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Trump seems unaware of own global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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President Trump seemed unaware on Feb. 20 of his administration’s own global initiative calling on nation’s to decriminalize homosexuality.

Trump was apparently unaware the initiative during a gaggle with news reporters in the Oval Office with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who’s visiting the United States.

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Columbia against conversion therapy for minors

By : wire report
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) | The Columbia City Council is backing legislation that would ban gay conversion therapy for minors.

The Columbia Missourian reports that the council members voiced their support Feb. 18 for the Youth Mental Health Preservation Act, which was introduced last month in the House.

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Utah hate-crimes law to get hearing after years of gridlock

By : wire report
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) | A proposal to strengthen Utah’s hate-crimes law will get a hearing, marking a potential turning point for the idea long stuck in legislative gridlock, lawmakers said Feb. 19.

Republican sponsor Sen. Daniel Thatcher said the bill will be publicly discussed on Feb. 21, and he’s confident that a panel of lawmakers will approve it.

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St. Pete Pride seeks 2019 grand marshal nominations

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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St Pete Pride is now accepting grand marshal nominations for the organization’s 17th annual celebration, currently scheduled for June 21-23.

“In 2014 we introduced Community Grand Marshals, allowing the community to vote on who they felt should be the St Pete Pride Grand Marshals,” the organization’s website reads.

“St Pete Pride is now accepting nominations for the 2019 Community Grand Marshals,” it continues. “Tell us your story about your local hero, activist or hidden gem. Let us know who we should recognize with the honor of St Pete Pride Grand Marshal.”

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Central Florida LGBTQ homeless coalition offers foster parenting informational sessions

By : Abigail Brashear
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The Zebra Coalition, a Central Florida-based network of organizations that provide aid to LGBTQ youth, is offering foster parenting informational sessions for those who are wondering how to become a foster parent. 

Robin Daily, community engagement and coalition manager of the Zebra Coalition, said during these informational sessions, staff from the Zebra Coalition and their partners Devereux and Embrace Families, as well as current foster families, will answer any questions that attendees might have about the process. 

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