LGBT groups condemn Fla. high school shooting

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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LGBT advocacy groups on Wednesday condemned the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that left at least 17 people dead and more than a dozen others injured.

The Pride Center in Wilton Manors, which is located roughly 20 miles southeast of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Wednesday said in a Facebook post that “at least 17 families and countless loved ones face unspeakable tragedy tonight in Broward County.”

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Pro-LGBTQ groups file motion for Equality Florida to defend Tampa’s conversion therapy ban

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Tampa | The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the law firm Carlton Fields have filed a motion on behalf of Equality Florida to defend Tampa’s conversion therapy ban.

In December, the anti-LGBTQ group known as Liberty Counsel filed a suit against the city for banning the practice of conversion therapy on minors, citing a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

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Watermark’s Top headlines of 2017

By : Watermark Staff
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2017 was a roller coaster of a year. Our highs were marked with great achievements and big celebrations, and our lows were filled with the passing of great LGBTQ leaders and fear-filled headlines we thought we would never read.

Below we look back on the top 5 LGBTQ headlines out of Central Florida, Tampa Bay, from the state of Florida and across the nation, and the world.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People 2017: Nathan Bruemmer, ALSO Youth’s Executive Director and organizer for St. Pete Pride’s Trans March

By : Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s State Director of Transgender Equality
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Gina Duncan

I am so pleased and honored to recognize my close friend, advocate and leader of LGBTQ social justice, Nathan Bruemmer. Nathan is a member of Equality Florida’s TransAction Advisory Council, our Speakers Council and a Workplace Transgender Cultural Competency trainer. I have had the good fortune of sharing the stage many times with Nathan in speaking out for LGBTQ equal rights across Florida.

Nathan currently serves as the executive director of ALSO Youth Sarasota and is a member of the Pinellas County Office of Human Rights. He has an extensive legal background having served as a teaching assistant at the Stetson University College of Law, a Federal judicial extern for the U.S. District Court and serving as a Andrew S. Cray Law Fellow at the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, D.C., all while pursuing his Juris Doctorate at Stetson where he will graduate with honors in 2018. While a law student at Stetson, he was a Trial Team member, ADR Board member, American Bar Association representative and vice-representative, Lambda Legal Society president, Stetson Law Democrats president, American Constitution Society president, and a member of the Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity.

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Equality Florida’s Todd Richardson shares his story of being discharged from the United States Air Force because he is gay

By : Jeremy Williams
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“Airman Richardson, I am here to escort you to the commander’s office.”

Long before Todd Richardson, the Pinellas County Regional Coordinator at Equality Florida, was an openly gay man living in Tampa Bay, he was an airman in the United States Air Force. He was also in the closet.

“Escort me?” Richardson said to the Technical Sergeant who had just walked into his office. The sergeant’s tone let Richardson know that he was in trouble, but for the life of him he could not figure out what he had done. Richardson’s performance reports showed he was an exemplary airman with an impeccable record. As they approached the commander’s office door, Richardson noticed several airmen standing in front of the office. Richardson suspected he knew what they were there for, probably the same reason he was there.

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Longtime community advocate joins Equality Florida board

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | LGBTQ-inclusive and celebrated law firm Carlton Fields has announced that its Chief Operating Officer, Anastasia “Annie” Hiotis, has been elected to serve a three-year term on the board of Equality Florida.

“We are thrilled about the addition of Annie to our board of directors,” says Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith. “Annie has been a long-time advocate in the St. Petersburg community and she and her colleagues at Carlton Fields have provided countless hours of support for our work to advance LGBTQ equality. Annie’s experience and energy on Equality Florida’s board will help us continue to achieve our mission.”

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Helping Hands: Pulse survivors, families join LGBTQ groups and politicians to send support, supplies to Puerto Rico

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | As the sun was coming up on the east coast of the United States Sept. 30, the responses by the president in Washington, D.C., and the people of Orlando to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria on the island of Puerto Rico could not have been more different.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the commander-in-chief tweeted. ”Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”

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We look at St. Petersburg’s (partisan) non-partisan primary mayoral race between Baker and Kriseman

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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On August 29, St. Petersburg could choose its next mayor. According to the Pinellas County supervisor of elections, 169,770 residents of the city will be eligible to vote in the upcoming primary election, meaning that 169,770 residents of the Sunshine City will have one of three choices that day.

First, to elect the next mayor. Second, to send two candidates to a run-off election in November, should no one receive 50 percent plus one of the vote. Or third, to stay home and let every other eligible voter decide on their behalf.

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Former State Representative Joe Saunders returns to Equality Florida as Senior Political Director

By : Jeremy Williams
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Florida’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, Equality Florida announced Aug. 9 that former State Representative Joe Saunders would be rejoining the staff as the new Senior Political Director.

Saunders previously held the position of Field Director with Equality Florida for nearly a decade before running for, and winning, a seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2012. Saunders, along with Miami Beach’s David Richardson, became the first openly gay Floridians elected to the legislature.

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Staunch liberal Anna Eskamani to take on State Rep. Mike Miller in HD 47

By : Billy Manes
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ORLANDO – “It’s been wild. It’s been incredible, and just the support has been overwhelming and humbling.” As director of public affairs and communications at Planned Parenthood of Central and Southwest Florida, Anna Eskamani should know. Florida has not been kind to women, to the LGBTQ community, to minorities or to teachers, really. On July 3, Eskamani launched her campaign to unseat State Rep. Mike Miller (R-Orlando) in a bid to bring some reason back to the region.

Miller’s victory over former State Rep. Linda Stewart in 2014 didn’t exactly ring with a shock, though Stewart has now advanced to the state senate. Florida’s governmental bodies have generally leaned to the right, and Stewart couldn’t be much more left. That is, unless, you consider the Eskamani campaign.

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6.29.17 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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Amid all of the hue and cry about the transformative nature of St. Pete Pride over the weekend – it was all going to be about moving the parade route; it would be new shoes to bear the 15 years upon which the celebration previously stood – most concerns seemed to melt into the violet of the sunset sky along Bayshore Drive on Saturday night, dancing in abandon with the glitter and the confetti to various mixes of pop songs you might be too old to know, much less remember.

What struck me most, though, was just how together – how empathetic, collective and genuine – that a mass gathering that may have attracted 200,000 people could be.

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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: Amy Foster wins, Nadine Smith inspires and Scott & Patti entertain

By : Anonymous
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FOSTER CARES

Running unopposed, it wasn’t any surprise that Amy Foster was elected as the District 8 council member in St. Petersburg. Foster filed her paperwork to run on May 24, after social worker Tharius Bethel challenged her. However, after only one day, Bethel was forced to drop out of the race after informing the City Clerk’s office he did not live in District 8. Bethel originally listed his address as 4316 78th St. N, and in a withdrawal letter wrote he fell outside the required residence for District 8 and was “sorry for the inconvenience.”

Foster’s win is added to a long list of achievements. She served as the National Collaborative Network Manager for the EdLab Group’s National Girls Collaborative Project, focused on gender equity, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She was also the former Vice President for St. Pete Pride. Congratulations Amy!

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