9.1.11 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotThis issue of Watermark marks my second full year as editor of the newspaper. It amazes me how quickly time passes and how much things can change and stay the same after 24 months and 52 issues.

In the two years since I was asked to take this position by our publisher, Tom Dyer, we’ve seen amazing strides toward LGBT equality. States like New Hampshire and New York, along with Washington D.C., have all passed marriage equality laws. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was challenged and is scheduled to expire this month, allowing gay and lesbian service members to join the armed forces as out and proud soldiers. And the Defense of Marriage Act has faced challenges unlike any before thanks to the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend its constitutionality.

Locally, both St. Pete Pride and Come Out With Pride have grown phenomenally and the state stopped enforcing its three-decades long ban on gay adoption late last year. Today same-sex couples and gay and lesbian singles are free to apply honestly on adoption forms without fear of rejection based on their sexuality.

Throughout the Sunshine State, communities are passing Human Rights Ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination in housing and in the workplace, while hate crimes legislation is getting the attention it deserves.

These are all great things, but there are certainly plenty of challenges ahead. As we look toward the upcoming presidential election year, our community is once again in the crosshairs. Anti-LGBT politicians have already walked onto the campaign trail with promises to block any future gains in equality. And even more disturbing is that too many have gone a step further, indicating they would fight to take away those strides we’ve made in recent years.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the presidential candidates who are voicing their opposition to LGBT equality. Candidates for Florida’s senate seats are already spouting anti-LGBT mantras to gain conservative voters and grassroots groups plan on using us as political leverage.

The next year sitting in this editor’s chair is going to be a challenging one, but it’s one that excites me and makes me thankful for the opportunities I’ve had with this publication.

Besides the upcoming election news, big court decisions are expected that will directly impact all of us. Proposition 8 in California is still working its way through the courts and will no doubt wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court within the next year. There is also the ongoing battle against deportation of same-sex spouses who are legally wed under state laws but not legally recognized by the federal government.

We are living in the middle of the country’s newest civil rights era and it’s an exciting and frustrating time to be alive.

Besides covering intense news about our fundamental rights, the past two years have also given me a chance to learn more about the communities we cover.

I’ve had incredible opportunities to speak in front of amazing groups and interview influential and controversial people.

I’ve made strong friendships within the communities of Tampa Bay, Orlando and Sarasota and I’ve also stirred up my fair share of controversy.

But with each issue we publish I gain more insight into our community. For example:

Businesses thoroughly love to get news coverage on their events, but they’re not quite as thrilled to see reports on negative happenings even when it’s factually accurate.

The water in the bottom of a dunk tank can get pretty nasty especially when you’re the fifth or so person to sit on the perilous seat during Sarasota Pride.

The drive time between Tampa Bay and Orlando is directly related to the time the commute is made. A small yet surprising number of people who are anti-LGBT read Watermark and feel compelled to comment on our content and our souls’ final damnation.

Covering issues pertaining to transgender individuals is an important but challenging area to tread.

People will not hesitate to share what they think of something I penned or that they found an error even on the sun-baked asphalt of Central Avenue during St. Pete Pride.

Lessons are valuable, even when they’re difficult to swallow.

Despite that, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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