Pasco Pride expands in second year

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Supporters flood Sims Park for the inaugural Pasco Pride Oct. 6, 2018. Photo courtesy Pasco Pride.

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. | The second annual Pasco Pride will be held Sept. 29-Oct. 6, expanding from a one-day festival to unite Pasco County’s growing LGBTQ community.

Pasco Pride made history with its inaugural outing in 2018, becoming the first LGBTQ Pride festival held in the county. The organization has since dedicated itself to fostering communication, tolerance, education and mutual support between the area’s LGBTQ advocates and allies.

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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith talks wins and losses from the 2019 legislative session

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith with fiancé Jerick Mediavilla (R) on stage with Gina Duncan and Jeff Prystajko minutes after the proposal at the Come Out With Pride Rally in 2018. (Photo by Danny Garcia)

ORLANDO | Florida’s 2019 legislative session wrapped with a $91 billion budget and with less than 200 of the more than 1,800 bills filed surviving on May 4.

“For all intents and purposes, this legislative session was a disaster for Floridians. But the budget was decent,” says State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49). “That is my assessment. The budget was just OK and [the Republican House majority] destroyed everything else.”

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Florida legislator accuses fellow lawmaker of bullying

By : wire report
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) | A South Florida lawmaker has accused a fellow Democratic legislator of bullying her at a meeting of party leaders, but the other lawmaker says the exchange was being mischaracterized.

Florida Rep. Anika Omphroy on Feb. 11 wrote a letter to the Florida House speaker saying that Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith lashed out at her with “verbal assaults” at the meeting of Democratic leaders at an Orlando hotel last weekend.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2018

By : Watermark Staff
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The LGBTQ communities in Central Florida and Tampa Bay are resilient and resourceful. So many members of our community, along with our allies, proved that to be true in 2018.

They’re also remarkable. That’s why Watermark solicited readers for your suggestions of the year’s most impactful individuals in each area. From there, the editorial staff chose 18 unsung heroes and difference makers – nine from Central Florida and nine from Tampa Bay – to name them our Most Remarkable People of 2018.

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Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (HD47): first Iranian-American woman lawmaker elected in Florida

By : Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HD49)
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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (HD49)

If you haven’t heard the name Anna V. Eskamani, you have probably been living under a rock … especially since Republicans spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads to portray Eskamani as a vulgar, radical extremist (they actually made her look like a badass in a leather jacket). Voters made history in November by electing Anna as the first Iranian-American to serve in the Florida Legislature, rewarding her with 57 percent of the vote.

Odds are you have heard of Eskamani, who has become a role model for young people across Orlando. You saw her on the cover of TIME magazine featured as one of many women across the country running for public office hoping to make real change. You read in local newspapers about her healthcare expertise as a senior director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. You watched her lead the Orlando Women’s March or proudly walking in the Come Out With Pride parade at Lake Eola. If not, you more than likely overheard her signature Eskamani-style laugh in person at any number of local community events, since she makes it a point to attend every single one of them.

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12.13.2018 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s here! That magical time of the year, kiddos—where the holidays are upon us and most people have a little more pep in their step and cheer in their voice.

It’s also that time of year when everyone is doing up lists. Santa has a list of nice and naughty children. Entertainment critics have lists of the year’s best films, shows and songs. Everyone has their list of all the personal changes they hope to make stick in 2019, me included. May the odds be ever in our favor.

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Voters elect a more liberal, progressive Central Florida

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Voters called for a bluer state Nov. 6 as progressive candidates won several key races and many Democrats held onto their Central Florida Congressional and Legislative seats in the 2018 midterms.

State representative races placed a big blue dot in the middle of Florida as Rep.-Elect Geraldine Thompson, Rep.-Elect Anna Eskamani, Rep. Amy Mercado and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith all won in their districts.

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LGBTQ and ally candidates talk Florida’s Aug. 28 vote

By : Samuel Johnson
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The midterm election primaries are right around the corner on Aug. 28. The LGBTQ community numbers nearly 900,000 Floridians, comprising 4.1 percent of the adult population of Florida. Of that adult LGBTQ population, more than a quarter of them are raising children. Based on these numbers, the LBGTQ vote can impact elections, especially in the primaries.

In Florida there are candidates throughout the state who are advocates for the LGBTQ community. They are vowing to protect and promote equality for LGBTQ—and all—Floridians. The midterm primaries in Florida are boasting at least eight openly gay candidates, plus a slew of advocates and allies who are running.

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How Central Florida’s Middle Eastern and Muslim LGBTQ community has found their voice post-Pulse

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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Recall two seminal moments from our recent history: Most—if not all—of us nearing our mid-thirties and beyond remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center fell to the ground. Similarly, thousands will never forget the morning they woke up and heard about the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016.

For many, these two events may share very little in common: the scope of the terror, the size of the cities in which they occurred, the generality or specificity of their victims, how removed or close-to-home the impact.

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Central Florida candidates describe differing enthusiasm levels among young volunteers

By : Layla Ferris
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ORLANDO | A push for stricter gun laws, among other prominent issues, has politically mobilized Florida’s youth; however, Central Florida candidates say they have conflicting experiences with the enthusiasm levels of young volunteers and voters.

Three Central Florida candidates — Eric Rollings, Susan Makowski and Anna Eskamani — discussed how national enthusiasm has translated at the local level during a June 27 Pride & Allies Meeting held at the Orange County Administration Building in downtown Orlando.

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PHOTOS: Church bells fill downtown Orlando as Pulse shooting hits 2-year mark

By : Layla Ferris
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ORLANDO | The First United Methodist Church in downtown Orlando tolled its bells 49 times at noon June 12 to honor those who died in the Pulse nightclub shooting two years ago.

“It’s such a beautiful thing to know that your loved ones will never be forgotten,” Robin Maynard-Harris says to nearly 100 people who gathered at the church.

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Pride Fund To End Gun Violence looks to the November mid-terms for answers

By : Jeremy Williams
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Pride Fund To End Gun Violence founder and executive director Jason Lindsay remembers in detail the moment he decided to start the organization.

“It all began the day of Pulse,” Lindsay recalls. “I was watching the news like so many other people and saw the tragedy unfold and a pivotal moment was seeing a mom, Christine Leinonen, who was waiting to find out whether her son had survived or not, and she pleaded in a clip that’s been played over and over again asking for somebody to please do something about the assault weapons.”

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