J.J. Abrams confirms gay characters coming to Star Wars

By : Jeremy Williams
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One of the biggest differences between the new line of Star Wars films and the Lucas-driven originals has been the diversity in the cast of characters and according to Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ director J.J. Abrams, it’s about to get more diverse.

In an interview with The Daily Beast at a pre-Oscars shindig, Abrams confirmed that there will be gay characters in the upcoming Star Wars sequels.

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Utah lawmakers look to expand hate crime rules to cover LGBTs

By : Wire Report
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GayUtahAbstrSalt Lake City (AP) – Utah state senators back a proposal that would beef up the state’s hate crime law and add protections for gay and transgender people.

Lawmakers voted 17-12 Feb. 26 to give preliminary approval of the plan after debating it. They must still cast a final vote on the measure sometime in the next two weeks.

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Kentucky bill allowing companies to deny services to LGBT people advances

By : Wire Report
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Kentucky businesses could refuse services to gay, lesbian or transgender clients in the name of protecting religious beliefs under a bill advancing in the state Senate.

The bill comes after the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ordered a Christian T-shirt company to get diversity training for refusing to print shirts for a gay pride festival. A state judge overturned the order, but an appeals court is reviewing the case.

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Wedding Bells at Watermark: Melissa Crispo and Candace Salemi

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Melissa Crispo and Candace Salemi“My favorite thing about Candace is she has a beautiful heart,” Melissa says. “She has so much love in her, and not just for me but for everybody—and it just shines.”

Candace Salemi, who is a senior higher education specialist, and Melissa Crispo, who is a musician/songwriter and paramedic, hung out in the same circle of friends for 15 years. Candace came to see Melissa perform regularly, but they only ever considered themselves acquaintances.

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Partners in prevention: HIV prevention drugs available in more Central Florida locations

By : Jamie Hyman
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Central Floridians interested in HIV prevention medications now have several options.

Planned Parenthood announced at the end of 2015 that they offer both PrEP and PEP (pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis) at local clinics.

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Overheard in Tampa Bay: Tampa Pride’s celebrity

By : Anonymous
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Tampa Pride snags its celebrity
With about a month to go, details for Tampa Pride are starting to come in and get finalized. After last year’s huge success when 40,000+ attendees filled the streets in Ybor the pressure is on to try and be bigger and better. Tampa Pride held there Miss Tampa Pride pageant and selected their queen. The grand marshals have been plunked from the community – Fox 13 News morning anchor Russell Rhodes and CEO of Metro Wellness & Community Centers Lorraine Langlois – and now we have our celebrity grand marshal, photographer and designer Mike Ruiz. You might remember Ruiz from Logo’s reality series The A-List, or his appearances on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, America’s Next Top Model and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ruiz has also been recognized and praised for working to help LGBT homeless youth.

There be Mormons outside this theater
One of Broadway’s biggest hits, the Book of Mormon, paid a visit to the bay area and had a sold out run Feb. 16-21 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. If you were lucky enough to get a chance to see the show, you probably noticed something charming occurring right outside the theater. A group of well mannered, clean cut, real life Mormons! That’s right, the light hearted Latter Day Saints were parked outside saying “Hello!” to guests as they entered the show. Unlike many conservative, religious groups who would set up camp with picket signs and yell out ignorant chants, these young lads hung out Two by Two with a sign that read, “have your picture taken with the real thing.” They smiled, they shook hands and they talked with anyone about anything without pushing any agenda, only talking about the All-American Prophet and handing out the Bible Part 3, if you so wanted to. They even hung out after the show, asked theater goers if they had a good time and enjoyed themselves and never once condemned anyone to a Spooky Mormon Hell Dream. Well done boys.

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Kinky Boots event brings LGBT youth behind the curtain

By : Jamie Hyman
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About 20 of Central Florida’s LGBT youth will get an opportunity to learn about what goes into a Broadway production.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, in partnership with Zebra Coalition, Kinky Boots and the True Colors Foundation is hosting the event, which is an afternoon of educational speakers followed by a dinner, performance and then a Q&A with the Kinky Boots cast.

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CDC study finds half of gay black men will get HIV

By : Wire Report
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NEW YORK (AP) — About half of gay and bisexual black men will be diagnosed with the AIDS virus in their lifetime, according to new government estimates.

Overall, for the average American, the odds of an HIV infection is 1 in 99 and has been declining.

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ANSWERS Suncoast rallies to have voice in trans bathroom debate at next Sarasota County School Board meeting

By : Jeremy Williams
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The Sarasota County School Board split on whether to implement transgender-inclusive bathroom policies at a board workshop Feb. 16 and have decided to hear public opinion on the subject at the next school board meeting March 1.

The last time the Sarasota County School Board heard on the matter Feb. 2, the meeting had more than 150 attendees.

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Metro purchases St. Pete location, solidifies permanent home

By : Jeremy Williams
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Metro Wellness & Community Center, in partnership with Community AIDS Network (CAN), has purchased its St. Petersburg location after a seven-month legal battle.

The previous owner attempted to sell the building last summer out from underneath Metro, even attempting to have the clinic evicted. Metro was forced to file for an injunction and fight it out in court.

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Screened Out – Eddie the Eagle

By : Stephen Miller
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Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman

There aren’t any surprises in the Olympic biopic Eddie the Eagle. In fact, “Eddie” Edwards’ story – as it’s slightly modified from fact here – plays a lot like Cool Runnings, in more ways than one. It’s the ’88 Winter Olympics, and champions who never really had a chance somehow capture the audience’s admiration of the underdog. The world falls in love.

Within its rote plot, Eddie does a nice job of aping ‘80s “glory” pics, with a synthesized soundtrack, loopy camera shots, typical plots, and broad characters that would’ve felt perfectly comfortable in 1988. If audiences know that this sort of long-shot athletic story is what’s being sold, they’re going to love what they buy.

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Jason and deMarco to Perform at SunCoast Cathedral MCC

By : Krista DiTucci
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As part of their “Anything is Possible” tour, contemporary pop worship artists Jason and deMarco will be performing live at SunCoast Cathedral MCC in Venice on Friday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. The concert will be a free-will offering and coincides with the church’s 21st anniversary.

Susie Brenner, SunCoast MCC program developer, says she is excited about their music and the message they bring.

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