Christina Aguilera will be honored by Human Rights Campaign

By : MARIAH COOPER OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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Human Rights Campaign will honor Christina Aguilera with its Ally for Equality award.

Human Rights Campaign hails the 38-year-old singer for raising funds in the battle against HIV/AIDS, advocating for marriage equality and fighting against anti-LGBT bullying.

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Florida lawmakers, activists divided on how to best legislate equality

By : A.S. Reynolds
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Florida’s legislative session convenes each March, a time where our legislators make or amend state law. With each session comes an opportunity for lawmakers to add LGBTQ employment and accommodation protections to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which currently secures freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

Since 2007, lawmakers have introduced legislation fighting for equality on these fronts but have met failure in the conservative Florida legislature. This year, Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-Gulfport), Sen. Darryl Rouson (D- St. Petersburg) and Sen. Joe Gruters (R- Sarasota) have introduced two differing LGBTQ equality bills ahead of the 2019 Florida legislative session, scheduled to begin March 5.

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Senate panel spikes bill to ban teaching on gender dysphoria

By : wire report
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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) | A South Dakota Senate panel rejected a bill Feb. 22 that would have banned teaching about gender dysphoria in public schools through seventh grade.

People with gender dysphoria suffer discomfort or distress due to the difference between their gender identity and gender at birth. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted against the measure, which passed the House last week.

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HRC pushes lawmakers to expand background checks, protect LGBTQ community

By : Amanda Espinosa
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, reiterated the request for Congress to advance H.R.8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. This will enforce a background check for every sale that involves a firearm, and prevent anyone who has a violent criminal history from easy access to firearms.

Under the current federal law, there is a loophole that permits access to non-licensed dealers to sell guns to individuals without a background check. This gap in the law is allowing private gun sales to be done online or at gun shows.

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Arkansas court rules city can’t enforce LGBT protections

By : wire report
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) | Arkansas’ highest court on Jan. 31 said a city can’t enforce its ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, saying it’s already ruled the measure violates a state law aimed at preventing local protections for LGBT people.

The state Supreme Court unanimously reversed a Washington County judge’s decision to allow Fayetteville to continue enforcing its anti-discrimination ordinance while the city challenged the constitutionality of a 2015 law preventing cities and counties from enacting protections not covered by state law. Arkansas’ civil rights law doesn’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Parents of transgender kids share hardship stories on Capitol Hill

By : Chris Johnson OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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The parents of transgender children met on Capitol Hill Wednesday to share stories about hardships their families have encountered, including anti-trans policies of the Trump administration.

The parents gathered for a one-hour meeting at the Cannon House Office Building for a public meeting hosted by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-Mass.), chair of the Transgender Equality Task Force. The meeting followed a two-day summit of the Parents for Transgender Equality National Council at the Human Rights Campaign building in D.C.

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Mormon church says it’s not opposed to hate-crime bill

By : wire report
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) | The Mormon church said Jan. 24 it doesn’t oppose hate-crimes legislation in Utah that includes protections for LGBT people, an announcement that could break a longtime legislative logjam on the issue.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ sought to clarify that it has not actively been blocking hate crimes legislation and will not stand in the way if lawmakers take up the issue this year, said Marty Stephens, the faith’s director of government and community relations and a lobbyist for the church.

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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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