The Other Side Of Life: Hashtag Amity

By : Jason LeClerc
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I was recently honored to be a guest of Pulse founder Barbara Poma for an intimate talk and tour of the interim #PulseMemorial organized by Equality Florida. As regular readers of this column know, I’m Watermark’s token conservative columnist: a red soul in a sea of blue, even as I have advocated for a just-right-of-center, nuanced approach to political discourse that I call Radical Centrism.

Arguing from a position of empathy and fact-driven rationality in favor of such positions as climate change resiliency, justifiable local taxation and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, I have riled members of my own Party. In the age of Trump, I’ve become a bit of a #RINOsaur. While there are members of the current Republican power structure who are ready to revoke my membership card for some of my #RadicalCentrist positions, my attendance of an Equality Florida event would likely push them further toward apoplexy.

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Florida House Rep. Mike Hill caught on audio recording making homophobic remarks

By : Jeremy Williams
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In an audio recording release by Equality Florida May 31, Republican State Rep. Mike Hill can be heard laughing along during a public meeting at a constituent who suggested Hill file legislation requiring LGBTQ people be put to death.

The recording begins with Hill answering a question from a different constituent than the one who suggested killing LGBTQ people who asks why fellow Republican Rep. Alexander Andrade co-sponsored the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Hill responds saying he cannot speak for Andrade but that “thank goodness that legislation didn’t go no where.”

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Equality Florida’s Brandon Wolf named a grand marshal for Capital Pride

By : Jeremy Williams
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Capital Pride, a nonprofit organization located in Washington, D.C. that produces a Trans Pride and Pride Celebration in the nation’s capital each year, named Central Florida activist Brandon Wolf among its list of grand marshals for this year’s Pride parade.

Wolf is currently the media relations manager for Equality Florida and is a co-founder of The Dru Project, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy organization dedicated to promoting Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs) nationwide by providing curricula and scholarships to LGBTQ youth.

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PHOTOS: Equality Florida’s 2019 St. Pete Gala

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Equality Florida welcomed supporters to the Mahaffey Theater on May 11 to celebrate the organization’s annual St. Pete Gala.

The evening began by honoring Linda Lerner with the Voice for Equality Award. Lerner, an advocate for LGBTQ issues in her role on the Pinellas County Schools board, retired in 2018 as its longest-serving member. Fan favorite artist John Gascot then received the Amy S. Mandel Service & Leadership Award for his work with Diversity Arts, his nonprofit which serves disenfranchised, mostly LGBTQ youth.

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Equality Florida urges lawmakers to pass FCWA ahead of SCOTUS decision on LGBTQ rights

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | With the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)poised to determine if federal law bars anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Equality Florida is urging lawmakers to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) to protect LGBTQ Floridians.

Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community, has long supported the FCWA. It would amend the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to add sexual orientation and gender identity, extendingstatewide housing, employment and public accommodation protections to the LGBTQ community.

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Tampa Mayor-Elect Jane Castor, equality organizations celebrate historic win

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Tampa’s former chief of police Jane Castor made history April 23 when she was elected the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor.

Mayor-Elect Castor faced retired banker and philanthropist David Straz in the city’s runoff election. According to unofficial returns from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, 23.19% of Tampa’s 230,193 registered voters cast 53,385 ballots April 23. Of the 53,144 votes cast for mayor, Castor received 38,854, or 73.11% of the vote. Straz received 14,290, or 26.89%.

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One Orlando Alliance to host community discussion on LGBTQ homelessness

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | The One Orlando Alliance is hosting a Central Florida-based discussion on the topic of LGBTQ youth homelessness at the Holden Heights Community Center in Orlando on April 11.

The discussion panel will consist of representatives from Alliance member organizations Bliss Cares, Equality Florida and Zebra Coalition; and will be moderated by Homeless Services Network of Central Florida Deputy Director Brian Postlewait.

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National Out to Win Day aims to increase LGBTQ representation

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Washington D.C. | The LGBTQ Victory Institute and 18 equality-focused partner organizations are participating in the first National Out to Win Day April 2, aiming to raise awareness about the underrepresentation of LGBTQ people holding elected office.

LGBTQ Victory Institute works to increase the number of LGBTQ people in public office and to provide programming, service, and other support to ensure their success. They advise that currently, LGBTQ people hold just 0.1 percent of elected positions in the U.S. despite being 4.5 percent of the population.

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Our Visibility Matters: Celebrating the 10th Annual International Transgender Day of Visibility

By : Equality Florida
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As a classic book begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So describes the state of the transgender community as we celebrate the 10th Annual International Transgender Day of Visibility.

We come together every year on March 31 to celebrate stepping out of the shadows and being visible and viable members of society. This year has never been more the case, as the transgender community has been visible on a national scale like never before. Sparked by a fractured national dialogue, an administration determined to erase us and daily incidents of alarming violence and overt discrimination; the transgender community has never been more visible or engaged. The transgender discussion spans the globe from the classroom to the White House. Never has there been more awareness of what it means to be transgender, and never has there been more misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender.

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Human Rights Campaign endorses Jane Castor for Tampa mayor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has endorsed Tampa mayoral candidate Jane Castor ahead of the city’s runoff election April 23.

HRC, the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights advocacy organization, gathered with supporters in Ybor Square March 28 to make the announcement. They were joined by the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus—dedicated to electing progressive candidates—as well as Equality Florida Action PAC, the state’s largest political committee dedicated to electing pro-equality candidates. Each of the latter organizations previously endorsed Castor in the race.

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Jane Castor poised to become Tampa’s first openly LGBTQ mayor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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As Tampa highlights its diversity with the fifth annual Tampa Pride March 30, Jane Castor—the celebration’s two-time grand marshal and arguably one of the city’s most stalwart servants—will continue her journey to become Tampa’s first openly LGBTQ mayor.

Castor, who will face retired banker and philanthropist David Straz in Tampa’s runoff election April 23, is familiar with firsts. Ahead of her 31 years of service with the Tampa Police Department, which she began as a beat cop patrolling the city in 1983, she was elected the first female president of a Tampa Police Academy class.

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House bill threatening LGBTQ Floridians neutralized, Senate bill in play

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | A bill in the Florida House threatening to repeal every local LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance and conversion therapy ban across the state has been neutralized, Equality Florida announced March 21.

The Florida House Commerce Committee voted to amend House Bill 3 (HB 3) to remove language threatening to repeal the ordinances and bans that day. The vote was a “clear sign that legislative leaders are listening to concerns about the unintended consequences of this sweeping legislation,” Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders shared.

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