We look back on 2018, a midterm year for a country that’s just living on a prayer

By : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s been two years since we, as a country, entered into the reality that is the Trump Administration. The country feels more divided than ever and the phrases “fake news” and “it’s all a witch hunt” are commonplace.

The violence that seems to define who Americans are these days is also there, particularly in Florida, where there has been no justice for the five transgender women of color who were murdered and yet another mass shooting—this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla.—pulled the focus of the world to our state.

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Jennifer Foster: One Orlando Alliance Executive Director

By : Justine Thompson Cowan
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Justine Thompson Cowan

When asked to write about Jennifer Foster, I knew it would be easy enough to list her accomplishments.

A natural leader, she always has her hands in something transformative. She co-founded the Human Rights Campaign community in Central Florida, served on the statewide board of the Florida Red and Blue Campaign and co-founded One Orlando Alliance.

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Jim Nixon: St. Petersburg LGBTQ Liaison, LGBTQ Welcome Center manager

By : Kevin King
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Jim Nixon is remarkable. He is known to the LGBTQ community through his many years of advocacy, his sales work with Watermark and his efforts to elevate Metro Wellness and Community Centers through strategic outreach and marketing. Thanks to Jim, the LGBTQ Welcome Center in St. Pete’s Grand Central District has been refreshed and refocused, serving as a safe and inviting place for both residents and visitors.

The broader Tampa Bay community, and especially our growing arts community, may know Jim through his work with Ruth Eckerd Hall or The Dali Museum. Today, we also know Jim as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s LGBTQ Liaison, a vital role encouraged by the Human Rights Campaign. It speaks to Jim’s remarkability that he volunteered for the position long before our city coffers allowed us to fund it. As both a volunteer and an employee, he has excelled. Readers of Watermark likely know that Mayor Kriseman is a longtime champion for the LGBTQ community and has illustrated that in ways big and small.

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Advocacy groups mark International Human Rights Day

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Advocacy groups in the U.S. and around the world on Dec. 10 used the 70th annual International Human Rights Day to reaffirm their calls for LGBTI rights.

“Today on the 70th Human Rights Day, we celebrate the global recognition that every human being is born with basic human rights and dignity that should never be violated,” said Human Rights Campaign Global Director Ty Cobb in a statement. “Yet, as an LGBTQ community, we still have a long way to go to achieving that goal. We need look no further than the humanitarian crisis happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, where the Trump-Pence administration is shamefully rejecting those who are fleeing violence in Central America — a good number of whom are members of the LGBTQ community. From Chechnya to Egypt to Indonesia, we will not stop until every member of our community, anywhere in the world, is safe, secure, and truly free and equal.”

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Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin stepping down

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Equality activist Chad Griffin – president of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – announced Nov. 15 that he will vacate the position in 2019 after seven years.

“Under Griffin’s leadership, HRC has become a leader in the resistance to the Trump-Pence administration, and one of the most politically powerful organizations in the country,” the organization shared.

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With Democrats winning the House, LGBT advocates have great expectations

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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After a disappointing election night in 2016 and two years of President Trump in the White House, Democrats came back with an important win Nov 6. and were projected to win control of the U.S. House — a victory celebrated by LGBT rights supporters eager to thwart the administration and advance equality measures.

NBC News and Fox News declared Democrats would win enough seats on Election Day to take control of the House, marking the first time since 2008 Democrats won a majority of seats in the chamber. Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to win control of the House, but the early call meant they could win significantly more as the night progressed.

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56 major companies denounce Trump admin anti-trans plan

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Fifty-six major companies came out Nov. 1 against a reported Trump administration plan to eliminate transgender protections under federal law, asserting transgender people must “be treated with the respect and dignity everyone deserves.”

“We oppose any administrative and legislative efforts to erase transgender protections through reinterpretation of existing laws and regulations,” the companies said in a statement. “We also fundamentally oppose any policy or regulation that violates the privacy rights of those that identify as transgender, gender non-binary or intersex.”

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Activists gather at White House to protest Trump anti-trans proposal

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Upwards of 200 people gathered outside the White House on Monday to protest against the Trump administration’s proposal to define sex in federal policy as biological gender.

National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado are among those who spoke at the #WontBeErased rally. Keisling, Corado, National LGBTQ Task Force Rea Carey, Freedom for All Americans CEO Masen Davis and others spoke at the Human Rights Campaign before they marched to the White House.

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Outrage over report of sweeping Trump administration anti-trans plan

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Transgender advocates were vocal in their indignation Oct. 21 over a report in the New York Times about a sweeping anti-transgender plan within the Trump administration to limit the definition of “sex” in U.S. government policies to biological gender.

According to the New York Times, the Department of Health & Human Services is set to spearhead the initiative with the proposed rule that has been drafted and circulating since last spring and will be presented to the Justice Department by the end of the year. In the words of the New York Times, the proposal would amount to “defining transgender out of existence.”

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20 years after his tragic death, we look back and remember Matthew Shepard and the work done in his name

By : Jeremy Williams
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In the early evening hours of Oct. 7, 1998, a cyclist was heading down a desolate, dirt road outside of the town of Laramie, Wyo. when he passed by something hanging from a fence. The cyclist initially thought, with it being so close to Halloween, that it was a scarecrow decoration. The “scarecrow” turned out to be the beaten and broken body of 21-year-old, openly-gay college student Matthew Shepard. He was barely breathing. His face was completely covered in his own blood, sans a strip down each side of his face where his tears washed the blood and dirt clean.

This was the introduction of the heinous attack to police, and eventually Shepard ‘s friends and family, the media and the world. The attack was felt firsthand by Shepard 18 hours prior after meeting two men in their early 20s at the Fireside Lounge, a bar in Laramie.

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HRC gives a perfect score to Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg in annual ratings

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced Oct. 8 that Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa each received a perfect score of 100 in the organization’s seventh annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI).

The report examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are for LGBTQ people who live and work in each city rated by the organization. The score is based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality.

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HRC, NextGen America encourage UCF students to “charge your vote”

By : Jaime Donelson
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ORLANDO | NextGen America, a nonprofit and political action committee focused on environmental advocacy, dispatched teams across Florida for National Voter Registration Day Sept. 25, attempting to register as many students as possible before the Oct. 9 deadline.

The organization claims it has registered almost 40,000 voters in the state so far for the 2018 election and received over 15,000 pledges to vote.

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