Orlando to host LGBTQ Leadership Summit

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | Featuring LGBTQ leaders from all throughout Florida and the Orlando area, a day of intensive training for political advocacy and advancement will be held in Orlando during the annual LGBTQ Leadership Summit on March 16.

The free summit is hosted by Victory Institute, the only national organization specifically focused on assisting open LGBTQ leaders on all levels of government, and Equality Florida, the largest political advocacy group dedicated to LGBTQ equality in Florida. It will be held at the Double Tree hotel in downtown Orlando and is open to anyone who wishes to attend, including high school and college students.

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PHOTOS: Equality Florida’s 2019 Tampa Gala

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Equality Florida held its annual Tampa Gala at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre Feb. 23, highlighting the organization’s fight for statewide equality.

The gathering featured live entertainment, silent and live auctions and honored community champions throughout the evening. John and Nancy Desmond received the 2019 Voice for Equality Award, Prin Ocea received the 2019 Youth Voice for Equality Award, the University of South Florida Office of Multicultural Affairs received the 2019 Partner in Equality Award and Gene Webster-English received the 2019 Community Service Award.  

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Equality Florida, LGBTQ Victory Fund endorse Castor for Tampa mayor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Tampa mayoral candidate Jane Castor has received the endorsements of Equality Florida Action PAC and LGBTQ Victory Fund, the equality-focused organizations shared ahead of the city’s municipal election March 5.

Equality Florida Action PAC is Florida’s largest political committee dedicated to electing pro-equality candidates. LGBTQ Victory Fund is the only national organization focused on increasing the number of openly LGBTQ elected officials at all levels of government, which would include Castor.

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Judge says Tampa should be barred from enforcing parts of conversion therapy ban

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | A federal magistrate judge has recommended that the city of Tampa be barred from enforcing parts of its ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Tampa’s Ordinance 2017-47 is designed to protect the physical and psychological well-being of LGBTQ youth from “exposure to the serious harms and risk caused by conversion therapy.” It was signed into law in April 2017.

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Anti-LGBTQ activists target Pasco County Schools

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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PASCO COUNTY | Anti-LGBTQ activists are targeting Pasco County Schools for the district’s internal efforts to support LGBTQ students, utilizing a 26-page “pastor packet” to mobilize for the “Protect our Children Project” during school board meetings and more.

The project is spearheaded by anti-LGBTQ activist Terry Kemple, president of the Community Issues Council. The organization’s website advises its primary method of operation “is conducting small local gatherings of pastors” to protect “the traditional family” and shield “our children from indoctrination in the public schools.”

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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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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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Rock Hard Fitness to host charity boot camp for The Barber Fund

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Rock Hard Fitness held a charity boot camp to raise funds for Equality Florida, one of the many organizations the Orlando-based fitness center supports, in July. Photo courtesy Rock Hard Fitness’ Facebook page

ORLANDO | Rock Hard Fitness, a personal training and fitness facility in Orlando, holds charity boot camp sessions throughout the year to help raise funds for organizations such as Equality Florida and Zebra Coalition. The LGBTQ-friendly fitness center announced it will host the next one on Dec. 9 to help raise money for the Orlando-based charity The Barber Fund.

The Barber Fund, named for the late John “Tweeka” Barber who passed away in 2011 after fighting a rare form of cancer known as Sinonasal Carcinoma, was established in 2014 as a way to help those living with cancer in any way that they needed help.

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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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PHOTOS: Equality Florida holds 2018 Suncoast Celebration

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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SARASOTA | Equality Florida held its annual Suncoast Celebration at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium Nov. 18, benefiting the organization’s work in fighting for statewide equality.

The evening featured live entertainment from Josh Walther and the Phase5 Band and honored community advocates throughout the celebration, beginning with Dr. Fred and Lee Brockmann. The duo, known for their outspoken advocacy, received the 2018 Voice for Equality honor. Dorothy Neufeld received the 2018 Spirit of Service and Leadership honor.

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Equality Florida’s Michael Thomas Farmer announces departure

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Michael Thomas Farmer speaks at the Equality Florida Greater Orlando Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art earlier this month. Photo by Meghan Sweeney

ORLANDO | Equality Florida is losing one of its star players. Statewide Deputy Development Director Michael Thomas Farmer announced via Facebook that he will be leaving the statewide equality organization on Nov. 30.

“When I started working at Equality Florida nearly 10 years ago, I never could have imagined where I, and we, would be today,” Farmer wrote. “It’s been the honor of my life to have been part of the leadership team at Equality Florida. Although at times the work was daunting, trying and challenging, the rewards of the work far outweighed any of the cons.”

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PHOTOS: Voting is the message of the night at Equality Florida’s Greater Orlando Gala

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Equality Florida had a huge turnout for its Greater Orlando Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art Nov. 2, and its message to everyone in attendance: “Get out and vote this Tuesday!”

The event was a who’s who of Central Florida’s LGBTQ, Democrat and progressive communities. The crowd watched as Pulse survivor and gun safety advocate Brandon Wolf was awarded the Voice For Equality Award and Michael Thomas of John Michael Exquisite Weddings and Events accepted the Equality Means Business Award.

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