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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Watermark’s LGBTQ Voter’s Guide 2016

By : Watermark Staff
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We made our list and checked it twice, and now Watermark’s endorsements are here.

We covered key national, state and local races as well as a few state constitutional amendments. Be sure to read our interviews with Florida House of Representatives hopeful’s Jennifer Webb in District 69 and Beth Tuura in District 47.

Don’t forget Election Day is Nov. 8 and early voting in Florida runs Oct. 24 – Nov. 6. On to the endorsements.

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Watermark endorses Jennifer Webb for District 69 in the Florida House of Representatives

By : Billy Manes
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As director of community partnerships at the University of South Florida, Jennifer Webb knows her way around the cacophony of dissent. She cuts a friendly character when we meet up in St. Petersburg, but she’s got the wonk-like traits that make a candidate a real politician, a life in academia notwithstanding.

“I went back to get an advanced degree, specifically because I wanted to have one foot in academia and one in the real world,” she says. “We need more really thoughtful people engaged in our process, whether that means coming up with common sense solutions through community work or through developing policies, that’s where I think certain people do the impact. That’s why I went back to an advanced degree for anthropology. And the anthropology that I do is anthropology in public policy, which is how certain policies can impact local communities and local businesses.”

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10.20.16 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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Billy Manes

It’s always with a sense of consternation that we face down these weeks leading up to the November political sweepstakes, especially in presidential-election years.

The white noise can overpower the progressiveness and inspiration that leadership is meant to ignite; the television advertisements find their way to the nearest drain to see just how low they can go before the gutter becomes the wall; the erosion of trust becomes its own beast, as conspiracy theorists draft their narratives as a means of leveraging their distaste with nearly everything. Meanwhile, pies meet skies in overstated narratives of importance, polls slip into their margins of error and apathy, inevitably, reigns supreme. It’s an ugly story and it always has been. It’s also the key to the core of our nation, and should be treated as such: with respect and the sense of duty that public service requires.

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In the wake of the Pulse massacre, the LGBT community inadvertently intersects with the gun-rights battle

By : Billy Manes
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“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine for the 49,” was just one of the transcendent protest hymns echoing through the lobby outside the Orlando office of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on July 11.

While organizers representing the full panoply of Central Florida staged their “#sitinforthe49” – a clear reference to the 49 people gunned down by a semi-automatic rifle in the early hours of June 12 – echoes of unrest from the fringes were everywhere. Members of Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, Equality Florida and Organize Now, among others, assembled peacefully, even mournfully, for a morning of conscientious objection.

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