Words to Live by: Tops and Bottoms

By : Rick Claggett
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Rick Claggett

Rick Claggett

The release of this issue of Watermark is a milestone for me. It marks the one-year anniversary since I officially became publisher of Watermark Media. The past 12 months have been an interesting ride – and, although I’ve been here more than a decade, I’ve recently learned a great deal about our staff, our readers and the big picture of LGBT news.

We were not without amazing stories this past year. It’s been a downpour of fantastic triumphs and outlandish setbacks. Here, on this special occasion, I will commemorate some moments that were tops in my book, as well as those populating the bottom of the barrel.

A tongue-in-cheek look at our Bottoms:

  1. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is at the rim of the bottoms category. Bondi spent a great deal of time and money fighting against marriage equality. Her actions landed her at the forefront of some of the most vile posts by angry readers in our history. Bondi’s claims that she was just doing her job made her public enemy number one, until recently, when she was replaced by a Kentucky clerk of the courts.
  2. Kim Davis makes the list at number two, for obvious reasons. Unlike Bondi, Davis’ refusal to do her job put her in hot water with the LGBT community and its allies. Davis continues to disobey a federal court ruling to issue marriage licenses to LGBT couples in Rowan County, Kentucky. Her argument that she is working under “God’s authority” has me hoping her 15 minutes are flushed away very soon. If she has to stay in the news, can we at least get her a stylist?.
  3. Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, makes my list of bottoms as the most quotable of the losers. His most outrageous statements centered around his bizarre obsession with being a transgender teenager so he can watch female teens shower, and his comments stating the President’s call to Michael Sam is the signal for the end of America. I enjoy a good quote and am sure we will be inundated with many more from this evangelicalextremiar this election season.
  4. The Food and Drug Administration makes the bottom list as the biggest tease. The FDA’s announcement that it would recommend an end to the life-long ban on gay blood donations sounded like a promising step forward. Unfortunately, the plan wasn’t what we hoped for. In lieu of a lifelong ban, the FDA suggested an acceptance of gay blood from individuals who have been celibate for at least one year. Thanks, but no thanks!
  5. Dishonorable mentions: Continued oppression in Russia, the London bus driver who removed two gay patrons from his bus, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office and its insensitive reaction to another murder of a transgender woman, Justin Bieber’s enhanced Calvin Klein ad and the sweater made 100% from gay human hair.

Good Tops who were not hard to find:

  1. Arguably, the biggest story of the year has been the fight for marriage equality, putting the Supreme Court on top of the tops. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that same- sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. It was a surreal day in the Watermark offices. Once the story was posted, we had a chance to sit together and realize the impact this decision has in the progress of LGBT rights.
  2. At the end of 2014, Watermark profiled the most remarkable people in our coverage areas, a list which included Joan Rodriguez. Rodriguez deserves mentioning again on my list of tops. Rodriguez was in the final stages of pregnancy, and in the final stages of her partner’s life, when she became a local advocate in the fight for marriage equality. Joan stood before the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to tell her story in the hopes they would then sign an amicus brief showing support of same-sex marriage. Her strength and courage is inspiring.
  3. The Boy Scouts of America made a policy change, giving them top honors. In 2013, the Boy Scouts lifted the ban on gay scouts, but not the ban on gay leadership within the organization. Earlier this year, the Scouts did away with its discriminatory policy and opened the door to gay leaders, noting that the ban could not be sustained.
  4. Local pride makes my list as the biggest growing of all the tops. Polk County Pride, Volusia County Pride, Manatee County Pride and Space Coast Pride saw increased numbers. Tampa Pride made a long awaited comeback in 2015. Come Out With Pride has overcome allegations of mismanagement and has a clear vision to put unity back in Orlando’s community. Finally, the success of St. Pete Pride is unquestionable. The introduction of a nighttime parade has revolutionized St. Pete Pride, and it is obvious by the sea of glow sticks and glow necklaces at the parade that it is working.
  5. Honorable mentions: Patty Sheehan received the Stuart Milk Lifetime Achievement Award, Laverne Cox, Cut the Cake Bakery, Ginger Minj, Florida’s bathroom bill dies, Florida’s gay adoption ban is officially ousted, Kate Brown becomes first bisexual US Governor, Caitlyn Jenner and President Barack Obama.

It’s impossible to mention all successes and failures on this page, but I hope you have enjoyed this stroll down memory lane of what stuck out in my mind during this inaugural year as publisher. I look forward to many more stories of the good and the bad, the tops and the bottoms. I look forward to the future.

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