Top 5 Orlando news stories of 2013

By : Staff Report
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Epic battle over GSA
It all started with a simple request: openly bisexual (then) 8th-grader Bayli Silberstein wanted to fight bullying at her school, so she submitted an application for a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at her school, Carver Middle School in Leesburg. School officials simply ignored Bayli’s request, so the ACLU got involved, and Bayli’s quest for a GSA hit the courts, was debated at nearly half a dozen Lake County School Board meetings and made national headlines. Bayli did eventually get her GSA, as a judge granted her permission to form the club for the remainder of her 8th grade year. That injunction has expired, Bayli has moved onto high school and now, the GSA no longer meets at Carver Middle School.

Orlando goes for the Gay Games
The application was probably a long shot. Cleveland is hosting Gay Games 2014 and the selection committee generally doesn’t select two U.S. cities in a row. However, that didn’t stop Converge Orlando from submitting an application to host the Gay Games in 2018. Orlando made it pretty far in the process, cut when the committee narrowed the candidates from top five to top three. Along the way, Orlando’s bid had a number of local partners working together and even picked up an endorsement from President Barack Obama. Paris eventually won the hosting honor.

Hope and Help turns 25
Hope and Help of Central Florida, Inc. turned 25 years old in 2013, and it marked the occasion all year long with some record-breaking events and new growth. One of their key annual fundraisers, The Headdress Ball, reached new heights when it broke the $500,000 mark for funds raised. Hope and Help opened a second location, a downtown office to broaden its services area. The organization wrapped up the year as one of the beneficiaries of Smash Hits!, a tennis tournament fundraiser in November that brought Elton John, Billie Jean King, Andy Roddick and other celebrities to town and raised $700,000, part of which goes to Hope and Help.

Exodus International shuts down
In June 2012, Exodus announced they would no longer practice damaging ex-gay or conversion therapy, where the goal is to “cure” gay people by turning them straight through prayer, isolation and other controversial methods. One year later, in June 2013, Exodus took things a step further, apologized for ever practicing conversion therapy, and announced its closure. In September, sale of Exodus headquarters was finalized. Conversion therapy still exists, but states have begun to outlaw the practice and the shuttering of Exodus, the largest ex-gay therapy organization considered the center of the movement, represents a significant blow to so-called therapists using bogus methods to help “pray the gay away.”

Come Out With Pride draws gigantic crowds
Come Out With Pride has been a big-deal, first-class event for several years now, but 2013 was landmark. According to Orlando police, the parade and festival drew 120,000 people to downtown Orlando, a 20,000-person jump from the previous year and 10,000 more than organizers estimated before the event. More than 100 organizations participated in the parade, the festival packed the area surrounding Lake Eola and colorful fireworks ended the event on a festive note.

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