2.11.16 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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Billy Manes

Billy Manes

“Love is real. Real is love.” Those were the terms breathily reinterpreted by new-wave breathers Dream Academy via John Lennon as I walked down the aisle at the Acre in College Park on Feb 14, 2015 with my (then) soon-to-be husband Tony Mauss. I blubbered and my shirt came untucked and I bit my lip and I forced my way through the emotional cloud that a gathering of 300 people implies, finally arriving upon a stage – a romantic plateau if you will – face to face with my future and Orange/Osceola circuit judge Bob LeBlanc. It was on.

Marriage equality had only become the law of the land one month earlier, and, given the Google Docs and weekend meetings and vodka and online invitations and planning that are wrapped into a control freak’s idea of a wedding, we did a pretty good job. All our favorite dignitaries and dirtbags, family, friends and freaks were there, the sky was as clear as our right to marry and our vows were the towering beams of overstatement and poetry required to signify our shift in our time. We were legal within moments; we’ve been happy every day since.

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Leader of the pack: Patty Sheehan makes remarkable waves as she launches her fifth term

By : Billy Manes
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District 4 Commissioner Patty Sheehan hasn’t had the easiest of years, but she’s made certain to make it easier for much of Orlando’s LGBT population. In addition to being out, loud and proud, Sheehan has tackled all of the issues, from marriage equality to sidewalks and back again. By now, most Orlandoans know of Sheehan’s attention to detail – don’t even try to take away her giant binder of ordinances and research; she will attack, and you won’t like that.

She’s got the power.

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22.23 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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Billy Manes

There are things we choose to remember, and there are things we can never forget along this bumpy road toward full equality for the LGBT community. A sort of monumental “Where were you when the sky turned blue – or black?” flashback syndrome of the historical variety, littered with victims and victors, footprints moving forward and sometimes back.

For me, Jan. 6, 2015, sticks right there in the craw for the same-sex marriage victory in Florida, as it should; nearby, you’ll find Feb. 14, 2015, the day that I married my best friend and husband Tony at a glorious outdoor wedding, hastily assembled as if out of fear that we might be imagining things or that it could disappear within the blink of an Alito eye. Then there was June 26, 2015, the day on which we could all – for now, anyway – breathe a sigh of relief, unclench our fists, put on some rings and hold hands in matrimony in all 50 states.

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Uprisings: October 22 – November 5

By : Billy Manes
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“What a dump!” is effectively the only thought that comes to mind when we think of this year’s municipal election follies and their requisite dusty bad apples. To be clear, it’s not the city itself that we’re baffled by – with all its tall buildings lining one downtown street, the millions in bonds holding them up, the Amway naming rights straight out of the pyramids (or their schemes), the traffic on I-4, the blight on Colonial Drive. We’ve actually grown accustomed to the quirks off our little burg that is called the City Beautiful. Beauty, ladies and gentlemen, is subjective. Also, we like the people here, generally, and, were Central Florida not America’s veritable prison colony (mate!) of underpaid jobs and overhyped “attractions,” we’re not certain what we would do. Wherefore the thrill-rides?

But politics in Orlando – which is holding its municipal pageant on Nov. 3, even though that means nobody will vote – have grown a bit sour in the past few weeks. You’ll note that our cover star Commissioner Patty Sheehan, queen of downtown’s core and longtime LGBT advocate, is trying to stay above the fray, but not everyone else is playing nice in the political sandbox. This column is comfortable endorsing Sheehan, not only because she’s a bit of a firebrand for LGBT causes, but because, even approaching her fifth term (perhaps especially approaching her fifth term), she knows how to get things done. Her opponents, Randy Ross and Aretha Olivarez, may make formidable opponents in the abstract, but in an election which will likely tick below the 15 percent margin in turnout, Sheehan’s reputation (which has been recently dried out and refinished) precedes her well. Ross is running without much of a discernible platform beyond “I don’t know!”, and Olivarez (a veteran and entrepreneur) is leaning a little too hard on the “veteran” platform for our liking, especially in a city election.

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Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie, the county’s last sane person, will not run for re-election (sobs)

By : Billy Manes
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MarthaHaynieLet’s all think back to 1988, shall we? There were acid-washed jeans beneath giant Aquanet hair installations, there were Winter Olympics, Michael Dukakis was a thing, I got my driver’s license, the first World AIDS Day was recognized (even though the U.S. government had done a shoddy job of even acknowledging our “gay cancer”) and we were all in some odd election flux that resulted in a Bush growing by the side of the White House. More importantly, however, that’s the year that 38-year-old Martha Ogden Haynie joined Orange County government as its comptroller. Haynie, a Republican with a gorgeous southern drawl, has always been an ally for the LGBT community as well as an activist and donor to LGBT and human rights causes. Come this morning, some 27 years since her taking her seat on the Orange County dais, the Orlando Sentinel reports that Haynie, she who fought for the rights of the few and the finances of the many, has decided not to run again for her eighth term. Our first reaction was to run for the cabinet and eat all of the Oreos (ALL OF THEM), but then we realized that three decades of public service beneath one good and two questionable mayors is probably enough. She has grandkids, she says. She wants to spend more time living life, she says.

Lest we forget, it was Haynie who bucked up against the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center when its finances were at its most frivolous. Lest we forget, it was Haynie who stood strong throughout the painfully unnecessary battle against a true Domestic Partnership Registry prior to this year’s marriage equality judgment by the Supreme Court. Lest we forget, Mayor Teresa Jacobs didn’t even show up for that announcement, because she must have been on her cellphone with lobbyists (Hello, Textgate). Lest we forget, Haynie is a hero.

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One commissioner refuses to sign Pride proclamation

By : Steve Blanchard
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Tampa – In a momentous show of support for the LGBT community, Hillsborough County Commissioners signed a proclamation recognizing March 28 as Tampa Pride day in the county. That is, all but one commissioner stood in solidarity with the LGBT community.

Newly elected commissioner Stacy White was the only member of the board who refused to sign the proclamation, celebrating the return of Pride to Tampa the last weekend in March.

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Equality Florida raises $350K at 2015 Tampa Gala

By : Steve Blanchard
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Tampa – More than 600 supporters of Equality Florida packed TPepin’s Hospitality Center for the organization’s annual Tampa Gala Feb. 21. As organizers continued to calculate the night’s success, it was determined that more than $350,000 was raised for the LGBT organization.

It was a celebratory night and speakers discussed the changes brought about within one year—specifically marriage equality. But the message of the night was clear—there is still a lot more work to do.

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Top 5 Tampa Bay and Sarasota Stories of 2014

By : Staff Report
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LGBT Welcome Center opens its doors
It has taken a full year, but Metro Wellness and Community Center opened its St. Petersburg LGBT Welcome Center at 2227 Central Ave. in 2014. With the official ribbon cutting Dec. 12, the year-long project was open and ready to welcome the LGBT community, special events and, probably most importantly, LGBT youth.

Hillsborough evolves on LGBT issues
This was a year of growth for Hillsborough County. The notoriously conservative county commission approved both a domestic partnership registry and an amendment to its human rights ordinance to protect gay and transgender residents. Gays and lesbians were protected from discrimination once before—in 1991—but a previous commission striped those protections in 1995. Even more shocking, yet extremely welcome, is both measures had the full support of the entire commission.

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Through her ongoing volunteerism, Cindy Barnes reaches beyond Sarasota Pride

By : Steve Blanchard
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Sarasota – Before she was the face of Sarasota Pride, Cindy Barnes was a landscaper, a motorcycle dealership manager, a DJ and now, a property manager.

But it’s Barnes’ reimagining of Sarasota Pride and her volunteerism that has landed her on this year’s Most Remarkable list.

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Orlando Mayor responds to city’s perfect score on HRC’s Municipal Equality Index

By : Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
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From my first day in office in 2003, I pledged to preserve a democratic and inclusive government that serves and represents our diverse community.

I am honored to share with you the City has obtained the highest score of 100 on the 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a nationwide evaluation of 353 cities on how inclusive the city’s laws and policies are for the LGBT community. Orlando is one of the few major cities in the country to obtain the top score of the MEI.

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Orlando receives perfect score on HRC’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index

By : Staff Report
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Orlando – The City of Orlando scored a 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), making it only one of three cities in the state to obtain a perfect score. This places Orlando as one of the top 38 LGBT-friendly cities in the nation.

The MEI is an annually conducted survey that examines cities—including city capitals and the 150 largest cities—across the nation and scores them based on nondiscrimination laws, relationship recognition (domestic partnership registries), LGBT equality in employment laws, LGBT services and programs, and the city’s relationship with LGBT community. There are subcategories within each of the five main criteria, including transgender-inclusive benefits, anti-bullying policies in schools and having an LGBT police liaison.

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Watermark’s 2014 General Election recommendations for Central Florida

By : Staff Report
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Governor: Charlie Crist (D)

Attorney General: George Sheldon (D)

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