Never again, but why now?

By : Jamie Hyman
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In the weeks since a shooter killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., survivors have been featured in a town hall on national television, visited the Florida Legislature and led a march of more than a million protesters nationwide, demanding sensible gun control.

In the weeks following the shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016, the levels of advocacy and response were far more muted, which is forcing members of the LGBTQ community to wonder why, after a mass shooting that at the time was the deadliest in U.S. history, government officials, the media and the nation failed to rally behind the Pulse survivors with the volume and intensity that are leading millions to take action today.

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Gainesville first north Florida city to ban conversion therapy

By : Jeremy Williams
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. | Gainesville became the first city in north Florida to ban conversion therapy for minors April 5 when the Gainesville City Commission unanimously voted to outlaw the practice.

The ordinance will “prohibit licensed professionals from engaging in counseling efforts, practices or treatments with the goal to change a minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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Equality Florida highlights 2018’s statewide legislative battles

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida

Tallahassee, fla. | Equality Florida has released a highlight of the battles fought on behalf of the LGBTQ community during Florida’s 2018 legislative session.

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Dean Trantalis becomes Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor

By : Jeremy Williams
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Wilton Manors attorney Dean Trantalis defeated former police chief and current vice mayor Bruce Roberts with 64 percent of the vote March 13 to become Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay mayor.

Trantalis was also Fort Lauderdale’s first openly gay city commissioner. Trantalis was elected to the city’s District 2 seat in 2003 and served until 2006. Trantalis was re-elected to the seat in a 2013 special election and served up until his mayoral win.

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Pride-banning Ronda Storms announces bid for Florida House

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Republican Ronda Storms, who spearheaded Hillsborough County’s now-defunct ban on the recognition of LGBTQ Pride, has announced her candidacy for Florida’s House District 59.

“I’m Ronda Storms,” the two-term state senator and Hillsborough County commissioner announced via social media on March 9. “I want to thank each of you that have stopped [to encourage] me to run for office. After much prayerful consideration, my family and I have decided to step forward and make the personal sacrifice necessary to run… this time, State House, District 59, Republican.”

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Students walk out of class to protest gun violence

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Thousands of students participated in the National Student Walkout march and rally against gun violence at the U.S. Capitol on March 14, 2018. Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers.

Thousands of students who walked out of class on Wednesday in protest of gun violence marched from the White House to the U.S. Capitol.

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2018 WAVE AWARD WINNERS – TAMPA BAY

By : Watermark Staff
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FAVORITE LOCAL POLITICIAN/ACTIVIST

First: Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg Mayor

Second: Nadine Smith, Equality Florida CEO

Third: Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Mayor

GREATEST STRAIGHT ALLY TO THE LOCAL LGBTQ COMMUNITY

First: Rick Kriseman, St. Petersburg Mayor

Second: Joanna Garcia Parkin, ESQ., St. Petersburg attorney

Third: Bob Buckhorn, Tampa Mayor

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PHOTOS: Equality Florida 2018 Tampa Gala

By : Jake Stevens
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Equality Florida held its annual Tampa Gala on Feb. 24 at the TPepin Hospitality Centre, and Watermark was there to take in the elegant proceedings. Attendees were treated to a live band providing the musical backdrop to a tasty meal of braised short ribs, paella and gourmet mac & cheese with a dessert station featuring a variety of miniature donuts.

On hand to give the keynote was Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith who gave an impassioned speech on how 2018 will be the year of hope in the wake of attacks on LGBTQ rights in 2017. With the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School fresh in everyone’s mind, she also took a moment to highlight the #NoNRAMoney movement she has helped to co-found seeking to put pressure on politicians to refuse money from the NRA. The night ended with a live auction, that along with a silent online auction, proceeds from the gala and its sponsors, raised over $380K for Equality Florida and its LGBTQ advocacy work.

You can check out some of our photos below:

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Celine Walker becomes fourth reported transgender homicide victim in 2018

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. | Celine Walker became the fourth reported transgender homicide victim this year on Feb. 4, though news of her death was delayed after local police reportedly misgendered her and utilized her birth name in official reports.

Walker, a 36-year-old transgender woman of color, was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound at an Extended Stay America hotel near the St. Johns Town Center. According to transgender advocate Monica Roberts of the TransGriot blog, “the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is claiming they have a policy that does not refer to victims as transgender.”

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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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