Equality Florida honors community heroes at 2017 St. Pete Gala

By : Jeremy Williams
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Equality Florida had another successful St. Pete Gala at The Mahaffey Theater as the celebration the 20th year of the LGBTQ rights organization continues.

The evening honored Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld, Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith, attorney Joanna Garcia Parkin and volunteer Karen Goforth.

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Vandalism of Orlando Equality Florida office raises questions about the new normal

By : Billy Manes
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On Thursday, when nobody was working in Equality Florida’s Orlando office, somebody threw something through (or at) a window at the front of the building, although no rock or brick was found, says Equality Florida development director Michael Thomas Farmer. Is this the new violence-against-gays licence Donald Trump seems to be trumpeting? The timing of the vandalism makes it that much more suspicious, Farmer agrees, but no investigation has yet been filed.

“EQFL staff member Michael Thomas Farmer is currently at our Orlando office after receiving a call that something had been thrown through one of our office windows,” EQFL wrote on its Facebook last night. “We are waiting for the police to arrive to receive further information. But know, if this was some kind of an attempt to scare us from doing the work that we do – it will not work. We will not be intimidated, and we will not back down from our fight to end hate and secure full equality for ALL.”

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Equality Florida’s Great Orlando Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art

By : Jeremy Williams
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Equality Florida held the Greater Orlando Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art Nov. 4.

Check out the photos from the event.

Photos by Jake Stevens.

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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: Streisand at Amalie and Equality Florida at UT

By : Anonymous
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Hello Gorgeous!

Most people at the age of 74 are kicked back in retirement, sipping on a cocktail and enjoying the warm weather of a tropical climate such as that in Florida, but most people aren’t Barbra Streisand. Babs has had a year that would exhaust a person in their twenties, but this Funny Girl has been globetrotting to promote her new album Encore and looking flawless along the way.

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Overheard in Tampa Bay: Activism “reigns”

By : Jamie Hyman
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Poetry in motion
Poet Steven Reigns made quite the name for himself in the Tampa Bay area before heading to the west coast to expand his craft and activism. A product of the University of South Florida, Reigns was not only a well-known poet and artist, he was also a leading activist. He was the Literary Director for the GLBT Center of Tampa for two years, headed up an outreach program in Pinellas County offering up HIV testing and education for minorities in the inner city and was even named as “Someone to Watch” by the Advocate. Reigns didn’t slow down once he took up residence in Los Angeles as he is one of the nominees for West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board’s awards in recognizing those who have made a significant contribution to our community. Well done!

Raising the bar
If you didn’t make it to the 2016 Tampa Gala at the TPepin’s Hospitality Center, then you missed out on an amazing evening with 600 of your closest friends. I mean, they had artwork as a part of the silent auction that featured a painting of Ted Cruz almost as terrifying as the real thing and an array of penis portraits of varying shapes and sizes that would have sparked hours of conversation at any Republican debate. Aside from the art, guests heard from two of Tampa Bay’s most inspiring and motivating leaders: Voice for Equality award winner Ed Lally and EQFL’s Executive Director Nadine Smith. The best news, though, is that of the numbers EQFL’s Mark Puskarich announced that the Tampa Gala brought in $355,000, a gala record. Now that would buy a lot of penis portraits!

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Pastor Protection Act headed to Florida Senate for a vote

By : Jamie Hyman
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Tallahassee – The Pastor Protection Act, an unnecessary, anti-gay bill that purports to prevent religious leaders from being forced to perform same-sex weddings, is headed to the full Florida Senate.

On Feb. 17, SB110 cleared its final hurdle when the Rules Committee voted 7-3 in favor of the legislation. The bill is redundant, as under current laws protecting religious beliefs, clergy can already opt out of marrying any couple they choose, gay or straight.

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Uprisings: Not OK, computer

By : Billy Manes
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Uprisings_JebBushOh, the headlines. Oh the damage control. Oh, this election cycle that is whittling itself into obtuse ignominy before our very eyes. This is hell. In the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the gloves coming off and the chandeliers swaying in an increasingly heated presidential-preference primary season, mostly because that’s what happens every four years and we should be accustomed to it. But it’s also because when manufactured candidates get closer to the truth, it’s almost like their wings melt, and the clashes of titans become more like stutters in rehearsed lexicon pools.

Case in point: the Feb. 5 Republican debate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. It was a Saturday, and we all know that Saturday nights are all right for fighting, so the presence of playground bullies like Donald Trump and Chris Christie wasn’t a surprise. The popcorn was already burned; the rotgut already crystallized at the bottom of a red Solo cup for later tosses into regret fires. But Rubio – oh, our poor, poor former state House speaker and author of books sold at Wal-Mart on the cheap – he wasn’t quite ready, really, and the whole of the news media and the Republican slam book was on alert. Rubio, who is loved for no reason by the Log Cabin Republicans and people who don’t like politics alike (he’s cute from a distance, really, but there’s no need to get any closer), pulled a robotic Small Wonder and waivered from his fresh-faced political sprint. There in the miniature shadow of the New Hampshire primaries, Rubio went on autopilot, pulling an attack on sitting President Barack Obama, even though said sitting president is not even in these primaries.

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The fight for medical marijuana started with the gay community, and it may end in Florida this year

By : Billy Manes
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It wouldn’t be a white Christmas in Florida in 2015; it never is. But you could argue that a green Christmas came in the form of a unanimous ruling in mid-December by the Florida Supreme Court that refined language to the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Backed by mega-attorney John Morgan and his millions of dollars, along with political organization United for Care (formerly People United for Medical Marijuana), the bill received a solid 58 percent approval from a low-turnout midterm electorate, meaning 3.4 million Floridians voted in favor of the amendment, even in a state that is hostile to progressive causes. The state requires a 60 percent vote to pass a constitutional amendment.

“I’mmmmmmmmmmbaaaaaaaaaack,” Morgan told the Miami Herald earlier this month. He’s back, only with $4 million less in his back account.

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Watermark Year in Review: September 2015

By : Jamie Hyman, Billy Manes and Jeremy Williams
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Finally, finally, Kentucky Clerk of Courts Kim Davis ends her 15 minutes of fame. She went out by apparently exaggerating her “meeting” with Pope Francis. Davis’ anti-gay attorney says it was a cozy one-on-one, the Pope’s camp said, nuh-uh! Just a meet-and-greet.

Former Exodus International pariah Alan Chambers releases his autobiography My Exodus, a curiously self-congratulatory collection of memories of not really being honest. Atonement is cute.

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2015 Equality Florida Greater Orlando Gala at The Mezz

By : Jamie Hyman
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Equality Florida hosted a sold-out greater Orlando Gala Nov. 6 at The Mezz which raised $211,ooo for the organization.

EQFL CEO Nadine Smith delivered the State of the State address, and EQFL honored Jeff Voss for his work to establish The Zebra Coalition for LGBTQ Youth and Pat Padilla for her years of advocacy as the president of Central Florida PFLAG.

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Transgender issues finally gain traction in Florida schools

By : Billy Manes
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On Oct. 13, an eighth-grade student from Fairview Middle School in Leon County who wore a dress to class finally gave in to the pressure and left the school for good. According to USA Today, school administrators called the student’s parents and requested a change of clothes because the gender confusion had the “potential” to cause a distraction. The principal, Scott Hansen, told the paper that, “Unfortunately, in middle school there is not as much freedom for expression.”

Leon County School Board superintendent Jackie Pons expressed “concern,” according to the report: not so much for the fact the student challenged gender barriers so much as for the reality that the culture of the school board district failed to address such bullying and the LGBT issues that often precede it.

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Anti-gay so-called religious freedom bill introduced in Florida

By : Jamie Hyman
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Back in April of 2015, when in the wake of marriage equality, panicked right-wingers were introducing religious freedom bills all over the country, Watermark asked when Florida would jump on the bigoted bandwagon.

Frankly, we’re surprised it took this long, but it’s official – state representative Julio Gonzalez (R-Sarasota) filed the “Protection of Religious Freedom” bill in the Florida House Oct. 21, 2015. 

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