Florida lawmakers, activists divided on how to best legislate equality

By : A.S. Reynolds
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Florida’s legislative session convenes each March, a time where our legislators make or amend state law. With each session comes an opportunity for lawmakers to add LGBTQ employment and accommodation protections to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which currently secures freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

Since 2007, lawmakers have introduced legislation fighting for equality on these fronts but have met failure in the conservative Florida legislature. This year, Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-Gulfport), Sen. Darryl Rouson (D- St. Petersburg) and Sen. Joe Gruters (R- Sarasota) have introduced two differing LGBTQ equality bills ahead of the 2019 Florida legislative session, scheduled to begin March 5.

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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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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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Jerick Mediavilla: Educator and Central Florida LGBTQ Activist

By : Ida Vishkaee Eskamani
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Ida Vishkaee Eskamani

It’s fall 2017 and we are somewhere in Tallahassee. Legislative committee weeks had commenced and Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida’s first LGBTQ Latinx lawmaker, was telling me about a new man in his life.

He was both giddy and bewildered by how well they were vibing. This guy was handsome (I immediately verified this with some light social media lurking), kind, funny, attentive, smart, successful and, most importantly, emotionally available and into Carlos. His name is Jerick Mediavilla and my friends—This man is remarkable!

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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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Equality-focused organizations, candidates and voters hope to turn the tide Nov. 6

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The LGBTQ vote matters. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization—it made up five percent of the electorate in 2016’s general election.

The organization stresses that LGBTQ voters were one of the few voting blocs to increase its turnout following 2012’s cycle, noting one critical element. “Here’s the key thing to remember,” HRC President Chad Griffin tells Watermark. “Because we are intentionally excluded from the census—the Trump-Pence administration eliminated what would have been a census that included us—we know that number by independent exit polling data.

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11.1.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I have a terrible sense of humor. I’ve written about this before and how I credit my father for just how bad it is. Dad jokes are the best, and the worse they are the harder I laugh.

Here’s an example: I have an insane love of ice cream, so much so that my trainer and my scale yell at me about it all the time. St. Pete has this wonderful little shop that sells mini-doughnuts basking in a tower of ice cream. Every time we drive by it, my partner says, “We can get mini-doughnuts.” To which I reply, “How many?” Then I laugh like I’ve never heard it before. I don’t mind laughing alone.

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PHOTOS: ‘We won’t be erased’ rally held at Orlando City Hall after Trump administration’s anti-trans memo leaked

By : Melanie Ararat
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ABOVE: An audience gathers on the steps of City Hall Plaza in Downtown Orlando for the Orlando We Won’t Be Erased Transgender and Allies Support Rally on Oct. 27. Photo by Melanie Ararat

ORLANDO | Colorful flags and posters waved in the air as people chanted “We won’t be erased” outside City Hall Plaza in Downtown Orlando on Oct. 27. The chant was led by Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality.

“We send this message to the White House saying that the Orlando transgender and gender nonconforming communities will not be erased,” Duncan says. “We will not be defined out of existence.”

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PHOTOS: Equality Florida Action PAC hosts fundraiser for State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Equality Florida Action PAC hosted State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith’s final re-election fundraiser before the Nov. 6 general election at The Venue in Orlando on Oct. 23.

Dozens of Central Florida voters listened as The Venue owner Blue Star and Smith’s partner Jerick Mediavilla spoke about the importance of voting for the self-professed “proud progressive, liberal, feminist, gay, Latinx, democrat.”

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PHOTOS: Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith says YAS! to Pride proposal from partner Jerick Mediavilla

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Come Out with Pride 2018 had a lot of memorable events, but few came close to the marriage proposal during the Pride Rally at the Walt Disney Amphitheater Oct. 13.

LGBTQ activist Jerick Mediavilla went down on one knee in front of thousands of Pride attendees and proposed to his partner, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

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PHOTOS: Pride Rally at Lake Eola brought the love

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Come Out With Pride held a Pride Rally at the Walt Disney Amphitheater during Saturday’s celebration at Lake Eola.

The crowd heard from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and more.

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