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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12.27.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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It’s hard to believe the end of the year is here. It’s cliche to say, but when you live your life in two week cycles across two metropolitan areas—time flies. 2018 zoomed by in the blink of an eye.

Watermark did well in 2018. We saw an increase in sales, so thank you to the businesses and organizations that support us and help us to continue bringing the latest in LGBTQ news to our readers—and congratulations to Senior Account Manager Sam Callahan who had a stellar year. We also saw an increase in distributions sites and are now available at over 600 locations in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and surrounding areas.

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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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12.13.2018 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s here! That magical time of the year, kiddos—where the holidays are upon us and most people have a little more pep in their step and cheer in their voice.

It’s also that time of year when everyone is doing up lists. Santa has a list of nice and naughty children. Entertainment critics have lists of the year’s best films, shows and songs. Everyone has their list of all the personal changes they hope to make stick in 2019, me included. May the odds be ever in our favor.

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The fifth annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit unites LGBTQ youth

By : Melanie Ararat
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ABOVE: City of Orlando’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Senior Specialist Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez gives a speech at the Orlando Youth Summit at Valencia College – West Campus. Photo by Melanie Ararat

ORLANDO | LGBTQ youth, organizations and allies were able to network, engage in interactive workshops and listen to community leaders for the fifth annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit (OYES) at Valencia College – West Campus on Nov. 3. A special appearance was made by Orange County Mayor and School Board Chair-Elect Teresa Jacobs.

“It’s important for our youth, our educators and our professionals to all come together and talk about the best ways to help our youth as they discover who they are and how they can make sure that they can live their authentic selves in our community,” Jacobs says.

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PHOTOS: Pride Rally at Lake Eola brought the love

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Come Out With Pride held a Pride Rally at the Walt Disney Amphitheater during Saturday’s celebration at Lake Eola.

The crowd heard from Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and more.

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One Orlando Alliance names Board Chair Jennifer Foster as new Executive Director

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Jennifer Foster, who served as board chair for the One Orlando Alliance since formation, was named the organization’s founding executive director Oct. 11.

Foster’s appointment as the Alliance’s director comes on National Coming Out Day and during Orlando’s Pride Week — a weeklong celebration led by Alliance member Come Out With Pride.

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08.09.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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“Guys in Orlando suck!” “The gay community in Orlando is so transient.” I heard these phrases way too often in the early 2000s, but I never bought into that way of thinking.

I moved to Central Florida in 1986. This was back in the days when the 408 was just two lanes each way, The Winter Park Village was an enclosed Mall and Ronnie’s was serving the Mogambo Extravaganza (a sixth grade ice cream lover’s dream dessert). I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on track to meet some amazing people with incredible stories to tell, and who would disprove the notion that Orlando was not a strong LGBTQ community.

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Two years later many groups, individuals will honor and remember those affected by the Pulse tragedy

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE:  The Pulse memorial will be one of several locations with events June 12.

ORLANDO | It’s been nearly two years since our community woke to the news that a gunman entered one of our LGBTQ nightclubs in downtown Orlando on Latin Night with a semi-automatic rifle and handgun. 49 patrons were killed and another 53 injured while they danced, drank and celebrated with friends and family.

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One Orlando Alliance retracts ED offer after Patricia Todd suggests Alabama Gov. is lesbian

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The One Orlando Alliance has retracted the offer of employment made to former Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd to serve as the organization’s executive director after Todd suggested on Twitter May 15 that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is a lesbian.

“The Board affirms that Ms. Todd’s recent comments are not aligned with the values of One Orlando Alliance. We strongly believe that coming out is a personal choice and we do not support involuntarily outing,” said Jennifer Foster, Chair of the Board of Directors and one of the original co-conveners of the Alliance, in a press release. “This has been a challenging situation. While Ms. Todd has a well-established record of outstanding service to the community, her lapse in judgment has led us to end our relationship with her. We admire her many decades of exemplary service and believe that, with the right opportunity, Ms. Todd will continue to use her many talents to make significant progress advocating for justice and equality.”

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One Orlando Alliance names former Alabama Representative as new executive director

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Board of Directors of One Orlando Alliance announced the selection of former Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd as the organization’s executive director in a press release May 1. The selection follows an extensive nationwide search that began in August 2017.

Todd becomes the first executive director for the One Orlando Alliance, a non-profit group of more than 30 LGBTQ organizations formed in the days after the Pulse shooting on June 12, 2016.

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Central Florida attorney elected chair of HRC board of directors

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Central Florida attorney John Ruffier was elected as the vice-chair of the Human Rights Campaign board of directors and will become the chair of the organization next year.

The announcement was made by the law firm Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A.— where Ruffier is a practicing attorney—in a press release Jan. 12.

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