Apopka transgender woman evicted, alleges discrimination from housing association

By : Abigail Brashear
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APOPKA, Fla. | A transgender woman of color and her husband were evicted from their mobile home in Apopka this month and claim discrimination from the Homeowners Association was a factor.

Tiara Kelley, 38, and her husband Robert Kelley, bought their Bayshore Chalet North mobile home in September. The couple bought the mobile home completely in cash, ensuring that their name was on the title of the home, and leased the lot that the mobile home was on with the Chalet North HOA.

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Florida agriculture commissioner orders LGBT protections

By : wire report
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) |Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is adding sexual orientation and gender identity to her department’s list of workplace protections against discrimination.

The Jan. 18 announcement means the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will include LGBT employment protections along with those based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age and disability.

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Second Chances: The LGBTQ community, addiction and the road to recovery

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Editor’s Note: At their request, the last names of three recovering addicts featured in this story have been abbreviated for their anonymity and to protect the programs utilized to maintain their sobriety.

It wasn’t drinking his own urine that forced Michael J. to make a change in his life. He’d already decided he should. That just got him high again from the crystal meth coursing through his system, his only access to the drug while strapped to a hospital bed in Central Florida.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis excludes LGBTQ protections from non-discrimination executive order

By : Abigail Brashear
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Gov. Ron DeSantis failed to include LGBTQ protections within an executive order that reaffirmed other existing protections and denied discrimination. 

Executive order 1910 was issued hours after DeSantis was sworn into office on Tuesday and is titled, “Reaffirming Commitment to Diversity in Government.” It repeatedly rejects the idea of discrimination against “age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability,” but fails to mention anything regarding the topic of gender identity or sexuality orientation. 

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Jacksonville sailor recreates iconic World War II photo with husband

By : Abigail Brashear
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By far, one of the most iconic photos from World War II is undoubtedly “V-J Day in Times Square.” The picture, in which a sailor non-consensually grabbed the nearest nurse and kissed her, has been recreated in movies, social media posts and more recently, by a Jacksonville couple who just couldn’t wait to see one another.

Bryan Woodington had been stationed in the Persian Gulf and eastern Europe since May, working aboard the USS The Sullivans. The guided missile-destroyer navigated over 40,000 miles and supported maritime security operations over the course of the seven-month deployment.

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We look back on 2018, a midterm year for a country that’s just living on a prayer

By : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s been two years since we, as a country, entered into the reality that is the Trump Administration. The country feels more divided than ever and the phrases “fake news” and “it’s all a witch hunt” are commonplace.

The violence that seems to define who Americans are these days is also there, particularly in Florida, where there has been no justice for the five transgender women of color who were murdered and yet another mass shooting—this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla.—pulled the focus of the world to our state.

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WatermarkOnline’s Top News Headlines of 2018

By : Watermark Staff
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WatermarkOnline.com had its largest number of visitors in 2018. Hundreds of thousands of readers came to the website throughout the year for the stories that impacted the LGBTQ community in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and across the country.

Below, we have complied the top five headlines from each of our LGBTQ news sections: Central Florida News, Tampa Bay News, State News and Nation & World News. The sections top headlines are based on the number of clicks on each story.

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Florida leads nation, introduces bill to end conversion therapy in 2019 legislative session

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | Florida became the first state nationwide to introduce legislation to end conversion therapy in the 2019 legislative session Nov. 21.

State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat who represents Florida’s 37th district in Miami-Dade, introduced Senate Bill 84 (SB 84) to protect LGBTQ youth from the discredited practice.  Conversion therapy purports to change a child’s sexual orientation and gender identity using “psychological or spiritual intervention.” It is widely opposed by prominent health associations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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The SMART Ride raises largest one-year total in 15 years for HIV/AIDS research

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The SMART Ride, the only HIV/AIDS bicycle ride in the country of its size to donate 100 percent of funds raised to HIV/AIDS research, revealed Nov. 17 that it had raised a record $1,171,849 in its 15th year – the largest one-year total in the not for profit’s history.

Hundreds of riders from Jacksonville, Key West, Orlando, Palm Beach, Tampa Bay and across the nation completed the two-day, 165-mile bike ride from Miami to Key West Nov. 16-17. Each rider was tasked with raising at least $1,250.

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Equality Florida raising funds for LGBTQ Center of Bay County following Hurricane Michael destruction

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ Floridians, is seeking donations to rebuild the Florida Panhandle’s only LGBTQ resource center after Hurricane Michael devastated it in October.

Michael—a Category 4 storm—made landfall in Florida Oct. 10, becoming the fourth strongest hurricane to strike the mainland U.S. The LGBTQ Center of Bay County, known as The Center, was directly in its path and lost part of its roof. Most of the building’s contents were damaged or destroyed.

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South Florida gay man claims Lyft driver pulled gun, shouted homophobic slurs

By : Jaime Donelson
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MIAMI | A South Florida gay man is claiming his Lyft driver pulled a gun on him and shouted homophobic slurs while he was on the way to a friend’s office in downtown Miami Nov. 15, according to NBC 6.

After placing two large boxes in the back seat of the Lyft driver’s car, Andres Berreondo says he sat in the passenger seat next to the driver.

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Shalala elected to succeed Ros-Lehtinen in Fla.

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Democrat Donna Shalala on Nov. 6 defeated Republican María Elvira Salazar in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.).

Shalala defeated Salazar by a 52-46 percent margin.

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