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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PHOTOS: Venice Pride holds inaugural celebration

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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VENICE, Fla. | Venice’s LGBTQ community and its allies celebrated diversity and visibility during the inaugural Venice Pride Nov. 3.

The celebration, which proclaimed “We Are Here” with its theme, was held on the five-acre campus of SunCoast Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church from 1 – 5 p.m. According to Senior Co-Pastor Rev. Vickie Miller, one of the organizers, the theme was chosen to make a statement that the LGBTQ community exists in the area. “We want our voices to be a part of the community,” she shared with Watermark. “We want to be unified and work together on issues that impact us.”

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PHOTOS: St. Petersburg holds ‘We Won’t Be Erased’ transgender support rally

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | LGBTQ community leaders and advocates gathered Nov. 4 at Williams Park for St. Petersburg’s “We Won’t Be Erased” transgender support rally.

Nathan Bruemmer organized the rally following reports that the Trump administration may attempt to define gender as an immutable condition determined at birth. Partner organizations included Equality Florida, TransAction Florida, Metro Wellness & Community Centers, St. Pete Pride, the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce and Project No Labels. “We rally for our rights, for our future and for our lives,” Bruemmer shared with Watermark ahead of the event. “These rallies are happening all over our country right now. I hope the politicians who need to hear this message do so and act.”

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St. Petersburg to hold ‘We Won’t Be Erased’ transgender support rally

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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LGBTQ community leaders and advocates will gather Nov. 4 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at St. Petersburg’s Williams Park for the area’s “We Won’t Be Erased” transgender support rally.

Nathan Bruemmer organized the rally following reports that the Trump administration may attempt to define gender as an immutable condition determined at birth. Partner organizations include Equality Florida, TransAction Florida, Metro Wellness & Community Centers, St. Pete Pride and Project No Labels.

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The 2018 Amendment Guide

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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This year’s ballot lists 12 potential amendments to the Florida Constitution. Only two of those were proposed by Florida’s citizens, including Amendment 4. It is the only amendment Equality Florida has taken a stance on, advising that the eligibility to vote is fundamental to democracy and that voting yes “is the first step in helping LGBTQ people with former convictions.”

For more information about 2018’s proposed amendments, read on below.

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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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