Hillsborough, Pinellas special needs and general shelters to open ahead of Irma

By : Jeremy Williams
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Hillsborough County is issuing a voluntary evacuation for special-needs residents located in Evacuation Zone A starting Friday, Sept. 8, at 8 a.m. Two shelters will be opened to accommodate special-needs residents only. Residents can confirm evacuation zones at HCFLGov.net/StaySafe or call (813) 272-5900.

Hillsborough County strongly urges special-needs residents to observe to the voluntary evacuation notice.

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An EPIC Taking: Joy Winheim now manages the largest HIV/AIDS service provider in the Tampa Bay area as EPIC’s executive director

By : Jeremy Williams
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Sometimes being remarkable can be bittersweet. Francis House announced this year that they would be merging with AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) under the umbrella of Empath Health. This new organization, Empath Partners in Care (EPIC), would be headed by Francis House’s previous executive director Joy Winheim.

“When we were first approached [by ASAP], we thought there is no way we’re doing this, we don’t need to do it,” Winheim says. “We had plenty of grant money. We’re doing well you know, we have 800 clients. We’re not having any issues so why would we think about this.”

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2016 World AIDS Day events round-up

By : Watermark Staff
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The 28th Annual World AIDS Day is Dec. 1. From the early morning hours of that day at the YMCA in Ocala to the not-as-early morning hours of Saturday’s AIDS Walk in St. Pete, the community will be honoring the memories and celebrating the lives of those impacted by HIV/AIDS.

World AIDS Day is held on the first of December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.

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After two terms as Hillsborough’s first openly gay commissioner, Kevin Beckner is taking some time to rest before getting back into the ring

By : Jeremy Williams
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TAMPA – For eight years, Kevin Beckner has served as the District 6 Commissioner for Hillsborough County, coming in on the wave of President Obama’s first term of a country that wanted change.

“Like so many at the time, I was not satisfied with the direction our government was going, especially our local government,” Beckner says. “I started thinking of getting in after 2005 when the county commission put a ban on gay pride. That was a tipping point for me. I felt like our local government was not focusing on the issues that were most relevant to the issues of our community.”

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[Update] Deadline to register to vote in the presidential election is Weds., Oct. 12… Do it!

By : Billy Manes
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We’ll hold back on the locker-room banter motif that defined a weekend that was likely to be blown away by mass destruction via Hurricane Matthew. What’s more important, especially after watching last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is that you are engaged in a manner that can make a difference.

Following a request by the Clinton campaign to extend voter registration in order to make up for days lost at home during a natural disaster, our favorite (not favorite) Gov. Rick Scott has refused said extension. Wonder why? Google “Voter Suppression.”

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Tampa Bay HIV/AIDS service organizations ASAP, Francis House to merge

By : Jeremy Williams
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Empath Health announced that AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) and Hillsborough County’s Francis House will merge in order to expand the HIV/AIDS services available to the Tampa Bay region.

The two non-profits signed an initial Memorandum of Understanding and will operate under a newly-named member of Empath Health.

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Kevin Beckner launches campaign against Pat Frank to become Hillsborough’s Clerk of Court

By : Greg Stemm
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Tampa – Two-term Hillsborough County commissioner Kevin Beckner has announced that he will be running for Hillsborough County Clerk of Court. Beckner was elected to the county commission in 2008 as the first openly gay elected official in Hillsborough County. He easily won re-election in 2012 and has reached his term limit.

His filing challenges current clerk of court and fellow Democrat Pat Frank, who said she will seek re-election in 2016.

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Kevin Beckner to be honored at EQFL Tampa Gala

By : Staff Report
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Tampa–Equality Florida will present Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner with the 2015 Voice for Equality Award at the Ninth Annual Tampa Gala for his leadership efforts in helping progress LGBT legislation in Hillsborough County.

Beckner was elected as the first openly gay person to hold office in Hillsborough County in 2008. Beckner, a couple months into holding office, introduced a domestic partner registry to the county, which was shot down by a 5-2 vote.

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Three-day waiting period could be waived for Hillsborough same-sex couples

By : Staff Report
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Clerk’s offices prepare for an influx of same-sex couples whom plan on marrying Jan. 6, the first day they can legally be issued marriage licenses. Hillsborough County’s Clerk of Court Pat Frank is making sure there is nothing standing in the way of couples who want to get married on that very first day.

According to WFLA News Channel 8, Clerk Frank is ready to waive the state-mandated three-day waiting period requirement, without couples having to take a pre-marital course.

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Top 5 Tampa Bay and Sarasota Stories of 2014

By : Staff Report
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LGBT Welcome Center opens its doors
It has taken a full year, but Metro Wellness and Community Center opened its St. Petersburg LGBT Welcome Center at 2227 Central Ave. in 2014. With the official ribbon cutting Dec. 12, the year-long project was open and ready to welcome the LGBT community, special events and, probably most importantly, LGBT youth.

Hillsborough evolves on LGBT issues
This was a year of growth for Hillsborough County. The notoriously conservative county commission approved both a domestic partnership registry and an amendment to its human rights ordinance to protect gay and transgender residents. Gays and lesbians were protected from discrimination once before—in 1991—but a previous commission striped those protections in 1995. Even more shocking, yet extremely welcome, is both measures had the full support of the entire commission.

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Watermark’s 2014 General Election recommendations for Tampa Bay

By : Staff Report
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Governor: Charlie Crist (D)

Attorney General: George Sheldon (D)

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Hillsborough amends HRO, proceeds with registry formation

By : Staff Report
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Tampa – With a unanimous vote, Hillsborough County Commissioners passed a law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The law, which became effective immediately, re-establishes protections that were eliminated in the 1990s, when that former commission repealed amendments to its human rights ordinance protecting the gay community.

“There’s been a cultural and political shift,” said Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who pushed for the HRO amendment. “I think people are beginning to realize the importance of making sure everyone is treated equally and fairly.”

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