Rep. Jennifer Webb launches re-election campaign

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Rep. Jennifer Webb welcomes supporters to the Historic Peninsula Inn Sept. 24. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.

Gulfport, Fla. | Rep. Jennifer Webb officially launched her re-election campaign for Florida House District 69 on Sept. 24 at the Historic Peninsula Inn.

Webb became the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the state legislature in 2018, where she currently serves as Democratic Deputy Whip. Her district includes 12 cities throughout Gulfport, Pinellas Park, St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg and more.

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Tampa Bay lawmakers lead fight for statewide LGBTQ protections

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg.) Graphic via Equality Florida.

ST. PETERSBURG | Equality Florida announced Aug. 28 that Tampa Bay lawmakers intend to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) with bipartisan support in 2020, extending statewide civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community.

The FCWA prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations. It would amend the Florida statute currently prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex national origin, age, handicap and marital status.

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PHOTOS: Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber hosts NGLCC Opening Reception

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | The Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce (TBDCC) hosted the opening reception for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) International Business & Leadership Conference at the Italian Club in Ybor Aug. 13.

The NGLCC’s 2019 conference is being held in Tampa Aug. 13-16 and is the largest gathering of LGBTQ business leaders and allies in the world. More than 1,000 of its attendees gathered for the opening reception at the historic venue, which was chosen to highlight Tampa’s Cuban and Italian heritage.

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Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus holds summer conference in Tampa

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: The Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus President Stephen Gaskill, Vice President Nik Harris, Secretary Dave Cutler and Treasurer Adam Sabin. Photo courtesy Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus’ Facebook page.

TAMPA | LGBTQ community activists, allies, elected officials and more will gather in Tampa July 19-21 for “Defining and Defending our LGBTQ Future,” the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus’ summer conference.

The caucus represents the LGBTQ community to Florida’s Democratic Party. The organization has nearly 20 statewide chapters—including Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Polk, Pinellas and Sarasota counties—all of which will be represented at the conference. Leaders advise the organization’s strength lies in its size and their local chapters, whose individual members stand up for equality statewide.

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Gulfport Public Library, LGBTQ Resource Center celebrate Pride, national honor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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GULFPORT, Fla. | The Gulfport Public Library has received the nation’s highest honor given to libraries and museums ahead of the LGBTQ Resource Center’s month of Pride programming.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) announced Gulfport Public Library as one of 10 recipients of the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service May 7. The winners were chosen from 30 nationwide finalists for addressing unique issues and challenges confronting communities through their services. Programming provided by the LGBTQ Resource Center, housed in the library and established as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit in April, was singled out for recognition.

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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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Jennifer Webb becomes first openly LGBTQ woman elected to Florida Legislature

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Democrat Rep.-Elect Jennifer Webb defeated Republican Ray Blacklidge in the race to represent Florida House District 69 (HD69) Nov. 6, becoming the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the Florida Legislature in the process.

Webb replaces Republican Kathleen Peters in representing HD69. The district includes Gulfport, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, Pinellas Park, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, parts of St. Petersburg and Treasure Island.

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PHOTOS: Metro raises funds, celebrates at the PeaCocktail Party

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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GULFPORT | Metro Wellness & Community Centers held its annual fundraiser Nov. 10, benefiting the organization’s diverse lineup of LGBTQ programming and honoring community leaders.

The celebration took place at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport from 7-11 p.m. It honored three outstanding individuals for their excellence in leadership – St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin, Christina Burke and Todd Richardson. Metro CEO Lorraine Langlois was also celebrated for her 25 years of service and dedication to the Tampa Bay community.

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Equality-focused organizations, candidates and voters hope to turn the tide Nov. 6

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The LGBTQ vote matters. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization—it made up five percent of the electorate in 2016’s general election.

The organization stresses that LGBTQ voters were one of the few voting blocs to increase its turnout following 2012’s cycle, noting one critical element. “Here’s the key thing to remember,” HRC President Chad Griffin tells Watermark. “Because we are intentionally excluded from the census—the Trump-Pence administration eliminated what would have been a census that included us—we know that number by independent exit polling data.

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11.1.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I have a terrible sense of humor. I’ve written about this before and how I credit my father for just how bad it is. Dad jokes are the best, and the worse they are the harder I laugh.

Here’s an example: I have an insane love of ice cream, so much so that my trainer and my scale yell at me about it all the time. St. Pete has this wonderful little shop that sells mini-doughnuts basking in a tower of ice cream. Every time we drive by it, my partner says, “We can get mini-doughnuts.” To which I reply, “How many?” Then I laugh like I’ve never heard it before. I don’t mind laughing alone.

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LGBTQ and ally candidates talk Florida’s Aug. 28 vote

By : Samuel Johnson
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The midterm election primaries are right around the corner on Aug. 28. The LGBTQ community numbers nearly 900,000 Floridians, comprising 4.1 percent of the adult population of Florida. Of that adult LGBTQ population, more than a quarter of them are raising children. Based on these numbers, the LBGTQ vote can impact elections, especially in the primaries.

In Florida there are candidates throughout the state who are advocates for the LGBTQ community. They are vowing to protect and promote equality for LGBTQ—and all—Floridians. The midterm primaries in Florida are boasting at least eight openly gay candidates, plus a slew of advocates and allies who are running.

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A look at the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency for the LGBTQ community

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Whatever your thoughts on Donald Trump, it’s difficult to deny his influence on Americans after his first year as the 45th President of the United States.

America is often altered 140 characters at a time, and the changes are felt worldwide in walls both proposed and erected by climate change denial and Twitter diplomacy. The LGBTQ community has not been immune from presidential impact.

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