2019 was a year for the LGBTQ record books

By : Jeremy Williams & Ryan Williams-Jent
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Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Of course not! That’s why after a historical 365 days, Watermark has assembled our annual year in review.

2019 was a landmark year for us here at Watermark. In August, we proudly celebrated 25 years of serving Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s ever-expanding LGBTQ communities.

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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People of 2019

By : Watermark Staff
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What a remarkable year 2019 has been for the LGBTQ communities in Central Florida and Tampa Bay.

Whether it was in the field of politics, philanthropy, activism, entertainment or pageantry; there was no shortage of remarkable people for us to choose for Watermark’s annual list of the Most Remarkable People in Central Florida and Tampa Bay.

In honor of the year 2019, we choose 19 people across our readership area who were breaking records and blazing trails for the LGBTQ community. Once we selected our 19 Remarkables, we asked members of the community work know, work and admire each of them to write why they thought they were remarkable.

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Jane Castor, Mayor of Tampa

By : City of Tampa Staff
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After serving 31 years with the Tampa Police Department, Jane Castor became the 59th and first openly LGBTQ mayor of the city of Tampa this year.

She worked her way from a beat cop to the first female Chief of Police. Castor helped reduce major crime by 70% citywide, oversaw the security plan for Super Bowl XLIII and led the Department of Homeland Security’s Tampa Bay Urban Area Security Initiative. It was announced this year that Super Bowl LV will return to Tampa in 2021, its fifth time.

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Orlando, St. Pete, Tampa receive perfect HRC scores

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced Nov. 19 that the cities of Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa each received a perfect score of 100 in the organization’s eighth annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI).

The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are for LGBTQ people who live and work in the 506 cities rated. 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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Tampa philanthropist David Straz dies at 77

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: David Straz (R) and wife Catherine Lowry Straz speak at Tampa Pride’s 2019 VIP Sponsor Party March 28. Photo by Dylan Todd.

TAMPA | Tampa philanthropist and former Tampa mayoral candidate David A. Straz Jr. has passed away. He was 77.

David A. Straz Jr. Foundation spokesman Jarrod Holbrook announced Straz’s passing in a statement late Nov. 18. “It is with a heavy heart the Straz family regrets to inform you that while on a recent fishing trip with close friends David A. Straz, Jr. passed away peacefully in his sleep,” he shared.

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Tampa Mayor Jane Castor honored by National LGBT Chamber of Commerce

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor presents her executive order to recognize LGBTQ-certified businesses at the 2019 NGLCC conference Aug. 14. Photo courtesy Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

TAMPA | Tampa Mayor Jane Castor will be honored with the Courage in Government Award Nov. 22 at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) National Dinner Awards in Washington D.C.

The NGLCC serves as a direct link between LGBTQ business owners, corporate leaders and government. The organization’s annual dinner celebrates leading business owners, corporate partners, supplier diversity advocates and community leaders across the nation.

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Tampa Pride kicks off 2020 fundraising, names grand marshals

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Tampa Pride President Carrie West, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, her longtime partner Ana Cruz and Tampa Pride Vice President Mark Eary enjoy Pride Zoo-La Nov. 2 at ZooTampa. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.

TAMPA | Tampa Pride kicked off its 2020 fundraising Nov. 2 at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, welcoming supporters and unveiling next year’s grand marshals.

More than 350 attended Tampa Pride’s “Wild Carnavale,” the organization’s second annual Pride Zoo-La. Guests enjoyed a silent auction, special performances and interactions with zoo animals, including a giraffe feeding.

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Tampa appeals ruling striking down conversion therapy ban

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Tampa Pride 2018 participants make their way down 7th Ave. in Ybor. Photo by Russ Martin.

TAMPA | The city of Tampa has appealed a ruling striking down its ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

The practice purports to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and is opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and more. Tampa banned it in 2017 “to protect the physical and psychological well-being of minors.”

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PHOTOS: Tampa Pride’s wild, second annual Pride Zoo-La

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Tampa Pride kicked off its 2020 fundraising Nov. 2 with “Wild Carnavale,”  the second annual Pride Zoo-La at ZooTampa at Lowry Park.

The fundraiser began with a performance by the Tampa Bay Pride Band. Guests were treated to an artists’ showcase highlighting local talent, raffles from area organizations and up close and personal interactions with zoo animals, including a special giraffe feeding.

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Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber postpones annual gala

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Diamonds in Diversity 2018 at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel on Feb. 3. Photo by Jamarqus Mosley.

The Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce (TBDCC) announced Oct. 29 that its annual awards gala Diamonds in Diversity has been moved to 2020.

Originally scheduled for March 1 of this year, the celebration was postponed until Oct. 18 to focus on welcoming the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) to Tampa Aug. 13-16. The conference was the largest gathering LGBTQ business leaders and allies in the world.

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Judge strikes down Tampa’s conversion therapy ban

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Tampa Pride 2018. Photo by Russ Martin.

TAMPA | U.S. District Judge William Jung issued a ruling Oct. 4 striking down Tampa’s ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy purports to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It is widely opposed by prominent health associations including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association.

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The Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival turns 30

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Police officers and protesters far outnumbered patrons during the inaugural Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (TIGLFF) in 1990.

It was the result of animus and interest surrounding one of the earliest publicized LGBTQ gatherings in downtown Tampa. While details surrounding TIGLFF’s founding are scarce, early accounts advise leaders from the Tampa Bay Gay Men’s Chorus, Bay Area Human Rights Coalition and Tampa Bay Business Guild formed the festival for two purposes.

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