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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Uprisings: Sign your name

By : Billy Manes
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While many of us were flapping around in post-traumatic winds on the one-year mark of the Pulse shooting June 12, some of the weight of a contentious legislative session met the power of the governor’s pen. Governor Scott, who never met a gay person he didn’t ignore (except for when convenient), took to uncle Donald Trump’s Twitter ways and made it clear that he was thinking about the victims.

“Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before,” his fingers tweeted. “I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.”

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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: Hateful lawn signs and Honoring the 49 with action

By : Anonymous
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Get off my lawn

In front of a quaint green-and-white paneled house, adorning the freshly manicured green lawn on 27th Avenue in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast neighborhood June 3, laid five derogatory signs. The first four calling for “No Jews,” “No Infidels,” “No Fags” and “No Retards”; a fifth sign read “…Great Again!”

The house – and the signs – are the property of St. Petersburg resident Roland Price. Price spoke with WFLA News Channel 8 and told them that the signs are self-explanatory. This isn’t the first time Price has stirred up controversy and frustration among his neighbors. According to neighbors, he has posted signs in the past displaying his political and social views ranging from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. The Tampa Bay Times has also found out that since 2004, the police have been called out to the Price residence 44 different times for aggravated assault, noise complaints, criminal mischief, theft and domestic incidents.

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Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith recalls 1993 March on Washington

By : MICHAEL K. LAVERS of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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ABOVE: National March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Rights and Liberation on April 25, 1993. Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith was one of its co-chairs. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith is among the LGBT activists who met with then-President Clinton in the Oval Office on April 16, 1993.

The meeting — which was the first between a sitting U.S. president and advocates in the Oval Office — took place nine days before the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation.

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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: St. Gina’sBurg, Newton picks sides and The Studio @ 620 has Tunnelvision

By : Anonymous
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Duncan in the ‘Burg

You may see a familiar face more often as you run your errands around downtown or grab a latte at your favorite coffee shop in St. Petersburg. Equality Florida’s Director of Transgender Equality Gina Duncan announced May 25 on her Facebook page that as of the end of June she will call St. Pete her new home after living in Orlando for 37 years.

“While I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the City Beautiful and its amazing people, I am excited about this next adventure. Fortunately my position with Equality Florida lets me live anywhere in the state,” Duncan wrote. Along with those heartfelt words Duncan, posted a photo of herself on St. Pete’s amazing beach at sundown calling it “heaven.”

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