Texas court affirms ruling in favor of transgender widow

By : Wire Report
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WHARTON, Texas (AP) – A state appeals court has reaffirmed its earlier decision to validate the marriage of a transgender widow seeking the estate of her firefighter husband who died battling a blaze.

The ruling Friday by the 13th Texas Court of Appeals sent the case of Nikki Araguz Loyd back to a Wharton County judge who originally voided the marriage because Texas did not recognize same-sex marriage. Kent Rutter, an attorney for Loyd, said Monday that ruling meant Loyd was not entitled to Thomas Araguz’s estate.

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Religious parents with gay children challenge church

By : Wire Report
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Rob and Linda Robertson did what they believed was expected of them as good Christians.

When their 12-year-old son Ryan said he was gay, they told him they loved him, but he had to change. He entered “reparative therapy,” met regularly with his pastor and immersed himself in Bible study and his church youth group. After six years, nothing changed. A despondent Ryan cut off from his parents and his faith, started taking drugs and in 2009, died of an overdose.

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Transgender Republican eyes Nevada state legislature seat

By : Wire Report
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RENO, Nev. (AP) – A Nevada Republican is trying to unseat an incumbent Democratic assemblyman in a blue-collar district in Sparks to become the first openly transgender person to serve in a state legislature.

Lauren Scott used to be a Democrat who worked on Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, and she has her picture with Vice President Joe Biden on her campaign website.

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Some Tampa Bay primaries involve LGBTs and our issues

By : Staff Report
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Aug. 26 is Primary Election day, and while there is historically low voter turnout for primaries, especially in no-presidential election years, a number of local races have an LGBT element to them.

In Hillsborough County, Democrats Mark Nash and Patricia Kemp are vying for the countywide District 7 seat. Whoever wins the primary will no-doubt face Republican Al Higginbotham. Higginbotham, who currently represents District 4, will be forced out due to term limits and is seeking a new post.

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World Pride 2014

By : Nick Cardello
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Watermark photographer Nick Cardello traveled to Toronto for World Pride 2014.

The annual 10-day festival typically attracts more than 1 million visitors.

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ACLU files suit seeking recognition of out-of-state marriages

By : Staff Report
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Committed, married same-sex couples shouldn’t have to choose between equality and living in their home state. At least that’s how one of eight same-sex couples who filed a lawsuit in federal court along with support from the American Civil Liberties Union feels.

The suit, filed March 12, challenges the State of Florida’s refusal to recognize each of the couples’ marriages, which were all legally conducted in states with marriage equality. With the fall of DOMA last summer, each one is now also recognized on a federal level.

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Jim Nabors, Gomer Pyle actor, marries partner

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Jim Nabors, the actor best known for playing Gomer Pyle on TV in the 1960s, has married his longtime male partner.

Hawaii News Now reports Nabors, 82, and Stan Cadwallader, 64, traveled from their Honolulu home to Seattle to be married Jan. 15. Gay marriage became legal in Washington state last month.

The couple met in 1975 when Cadwallader was a Honolulu firefighter.

“I’m 82 and he’s in his 60s and so we’ve been together for 38 years and I’m not ashamed of people knowing, it’s just that it was such a personal thing, I didn’t tell anybody,” Nabors said. “I’m very happy that I’ve had a partner of 38 years and I feel very blessed. And, what can I tell you, I’m just very happy.”

Nabors said he’s been open about his homosexuality to co-workers and friends but never acknowledged it to the media before. He doesn’t plan to get involved in the issue politically.

“I’m not a debater. And everybody has their own opinion about this and actually I’m not an activist, so I’ve never gotten involved in any of this,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now.

Nabors became an instant success when he joined “The Andy Griffith Show” in spring 1963. The character of Gomer Pyle – the unworldly, lovable gas pumper who would exclaim “Gollllll-ly!” – proved so popular that in 1964 CBS starred him in “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”

In the spinoff, which lasted five seasons, Gomer left his hometown of Mayberry to become a Marine recruit. His innocence confounded his sergeant, the irascible Frank Sutton.

Monday Ripples: Pondering Heroism

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â┚¬Å”It's our responsibility as human beings. We're put here to make people smile and to share our good fortune. Give it away and you always, always get it back.â┚¬Â â┚¬â€œ Gary Lambert

I hope you'll take a moment to locate a copy of Watermark to take a look at the heroes issue. Inspiring stories about people making a difference and I'm happy to say a few of them are friends of mine.  You'll also see my airbrushed puss featured in an â┚¬Å”A Minute Withâ┚¬Â interview by my editor Jamie Hyman. While I think there must have been some terrible mix up to lump me in with a group of heroes, I'm happy for the honor and the chance to talk about this blog.

I would be willing to bet that most of the people involved in the issue would probably shrug off the title of â┚¬Å”heroâ┚¬Â and it wouldn't be out of modesty. I think all people feel the same way about trying to make a difference: the feeling is insatiable â┚¬â€œ we always, always feel like we could be doing more. It isn't a bad thing.

What is heroic?

If you take a look at your own life, you'll probably realize there is heroism there. I work in a non-profit with a dedicated group of people and most of us landed there due to the recession, consequently some of us make half or one-third of what we normally would make. You see, once we landed, we fell in love with what we were doing, so it's hard to even consider â┚¬Å”greener pasturesâ┚¬Â (the green being actual money, in this case). Making a life work on less money because you believe in what you're doing seems nothing short of heroism.

Then again, the non-profit in question is in the arts. Right now I'm stressing over selling our annual production of The Nutcracker.  When you're life is consumed by something like that trying to get 17,000 people interested in ballet, it is good to get some perspective, which is exactly what I got this week.

A co-worker came into my office space at the end of the day and told us about her brother who is a firefighter. He just lost a longtime co-worker in a blaze. Naturally, such a thing makes worrying about sugar plum fairies absolutely ridiculous.

What is heroic?

I'll have to leave you to decide for yourself, while I try to find that path myself.  Maybe somewhere in the Ripples below you'll find your answer.

I Feel City, Oh So City
The City Solution
Here's an interesting article from National Geographic explaining how the perception of cities has changed. Environmentalists used to look at cities as blights on our landscape, cancers even, but now it appears that cities may be the answer to accommodating our growing population without destroying our planet. The photo of the infinity pool in Singapore sucked me into the article. I've put taking a swim in that on my bucket list!

I Speak for the Trees
Of Forests and Men
A little over seven minutes long, this is the official film of International Year of Forests, which was apparently this year. The film is beautiful, does a good job of looking at the state of trees today, and proves that Edward Norton probably shouldn't be a narrator. Here is the fact that chilled me the most from it: â┚¬Å”Over the past 60 years, we have inflicted more rapid degradation on the planet than in all of human history.â┚¬Â

Come On Baby, Put Out My Fire
2012 Orlando Firefighter
So, holy crap, I was at Parliament House recently to catch a bunch of friends in Wanzie's Glittering Star-Studded A Christmas Carol (hilarious, by the way) and I saw a poster for an event that I'm going to attend for certain. It turns out that the Orlando Firefighters have done a 2012 calendar and, if the poster was any indication, the firemen are hot! On December 17, PH will have firemen in attendance signing copies of the calendar. The money from the sale of the calendar goes to help firefighters through Strengthen Orlando.

The Anti-Scrooge
People Person
You would have to live under a rock not to know about the philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates. If you do or if you don't, you'll still find this article enlightening since Melinda has only recently decided to be more out in the press. She has realized how much more she can accomplish by doing so. I think my favorite part of the article is near the end when she talks about taking time to quietly consider the people she is helping each day. What if we took a moment like that each day to meditate on the work we do?

Scottie's Christmas List â┚¬â€œ Part 2
Thembaleth Beaded Elephant
What do you do? You're a rabid fan of SSTW and you want to show your appreciation by showering the Watermark offices with gifts for your favorite blogger. But you don't want to send just anything for fear he'll make you the subject of a future column on wasteful spending. Here's a suggestion: a beautiful beaded elephant ornament from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Elephants are my totem and I collect them, plus funds from the sale helps BC/EFA fund grants for AIDS service organizations in South Africa.

City of Miami Commission to provide benefits to domestic partners

By : AnitaHeading
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Breaking news from Save Dade:

The City of Miami Commission voted  5 to 0  to adopt a Domestic Partnership Ordinance this morning, becoming the third municipality in Miami-Dade County to do so. Commissioners Angel Gonzalez, Marc Sarnoff, Joe M. Sanchez, Tomas P. Regalado and Michelle Spence-Jones voted in favor of the Ordinance.

The new Ordinance will allow the City of Miami to offer health benefits to the declared domestic partners and their children of city employees in the same manner as the city offers such benefits to spouses of married heterosexual employees. The Ordinance was similarly adopted by the City of Miami Beach and the City of North Miami.  Miami-Dade County also offers similar benefits to county employees as the result of work done by SAVE Dade and its partners for an ordinance passed in May of last year.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said, “Providing employment benefits, including healthcare, to the domestic partners of our City of Miami employees is a common sense idea that has been far too long in coming. This is nothing more than treating people equally. I am proud to say our City is doing the right thing.”

Asked about the ordinance, Chairman Commissioner Joe Sanchez replied, “This allows us to recruit and retain the best and brightest workers for the City of Miami by offering benefits to domestic partners. This reaffirms our strong belief that all people are equal in Miami, the City of diversity.”

One such employee is Melissa Llera, a City of Miami Firefighter and SAVE Dade volunteer, who has been in a committed relationship with her partner Christie for over 12 years. They have a child together and now both her partner and child will be eligible for health coverage as a result of this Ordinance.

“We thank the Miami’s city commission’s leadership in recognizing that the families of all city employees deserve fair and equitable treatment,” said SAVE Dade’s Executive Director, C.J. Ortuno.

It was the combined efforts of Executive Director C.J. Ortuno, former Executive Director Heddy Pena, SAVE Dade’s Political Committee, and many volunteers that built the support needed for the Ordinance’s successful passage.  SAVE Dade also received assistance in developing the language for the ordinance from the LGBT Advocacy Project of the ACLU of Florida, and received assistance in turning out supporters for the commission hearing from other organizations, including Equality Florida.