Fire with fire: Carlos Guillermo Smith comes out from behind the scenes swinging

By : Billy Manes
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When Carlos Smith walks into the room, he does so with purpose, a smile, a brisk bit of wit and, generally, a jacket. Even early in the morning. Call it confidence, call it politics, call it whatever you need to, but there’s no getting around his charm or his smirks made relevant by the political knowledge holding up their corners. He’s the real deal. We grabbed a gab and some coffee with Smith to talk about how he got from where he was – riding a backstage rollercoaster as fast-talking legislative aide to former Democratic state representatives Scott Randolph and Joe Saunders (seriously, it’s a lot of fast-talking and typing work) – to where he is today. Smith stepped down from his position as Orange County Democratic party chairman this summer to pursue a higher rung on the political ladder as a progressive state representative for District 49. He also stepped up off the (oft-lacking) liberal candidate-bench and into the dust of the Floridian political limelight.

“I’ve always been the person working behind the scenes,” he says.

Well that’s about to change.

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The Other Side of Life: Remarkable tidings

By : Jason Leclerc
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Jason Leclerc

Jason Leclerc

Recently, in a storied, New England Museum of Art, I stood in front of a painting of Christ on a cross. Beside me, a beautiful Reform Jewish family punctuated by twin girls, fought to gain control of voice volumes and squeaky, scampering feet. When at last, the first-grade bundles of energy were wrapped, I heard them cry out to their yarmelke-topped father: “Tell the story again.” I listened hopefully as they stood—innocent and excited—beside me, eyeing the same ab-perfected, long-haired, halo-sporting figure. I tried to not overhear. Of course, I listened with every bit of my heart.

After an elaborate dance—Na’ale Na’ale, or was it a cha-cha—around the subject, the uncomfortable father began his story, “So this baby was born in a barn,” only to be cut off by the boisterous inquisitors, “No, tell it like Mommy did.”

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Uprisings: Our new quiet terrorism

By : Billy Manes
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There was a day in my life when all new life seemed caught up in the politics of worthlessness, and I remember that day clearly. Having spent the better part of post-adolescence trying to bridge the gap between harmony and hostility, I did not know of the gun scourge, of the hatred, nor of the political machinations put in place to destroy that order and, in its face, murder people for the sake of a headline. Why should I have? I always understood the abortion battle to be one that took place personally, in a home, dangling in the well of a tear, lingering in a personal weight. Bang. And then they shot Dr. Gunn in Pensacola in 1993. And then I was on TV.

Why else would I have driven girlfriends to warzones, walked them through, kept silent and comforted them as if at home. There were actual people who thought their semen to be sacred (men); there were people who thought their excrement in ecstasy to be a thing of genius. I was not one of them. I lived and breathed for my friends; I never asked questions about wherefore and why. If you knew, you knew. You moved forward as briskly as forward allowed. This was not a true story. This was real life.

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Islamic State group targets gay men with brutal public killings

By : Wire Report
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REYHANLI, Turkey (AP) – Before a crowd of men on a street in the Syrian city of Palmyra, the masked Islamic State group judge read out the sentence against the two men convicted of homosexuality: They would be thrown to their deaths from the roof of the nearby Wael Hotel.

He asked one of the men if he was satisfied with the sentence. Death, the judge told him, would help cleanse him of his sin.

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Ohio group adopts road in memory of transgender teen

By : Wire Report
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CINCINNATI (AP) — The Ohio Department of Transportation has erected signs indicating that a group has adopted a stretch of highway in southwestern Ohio in memory of a transgender teenager who killed herself there nearly a year ago.

The State Highway Patrol says say 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn left a handwritten note on her bed – “I’ve had enough” – and did an online search about runaway assistance and a Tumblr search for the word suicide before walking into the path of a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 in suburban Cincinnati in late December.

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Homicides of transgender women in U.S. reach alarming high

By : Wire Report
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For a few transgender Americans, this has been a year of glamour and fame. For many others, 2015 has been fraught with danger, violence and mourning.

While Caitlyn Jenner made the cover of Vanity Fair and Laverne Cox prospered as a popular actress, other transgender women have become homicide victims at an alarming rate. By the count of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, there have been 22 killings so far this year of transgender or gender-nonconforming people – including 19 black or Latina transgender women.

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South Dakota panel shoots down transgender policy changes

By : Wire Report
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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A legislative panel has shot down two policies that would have required transgender people to define their gender by the anatomy listed on their birth certificate.

The Argus Leader reports that the South Dakota High School Activities Association Interim Committee on Oct. 30 tabled a measure that would have required transgender high school athletes to sign up for activities based on the anatomical sex listed on their birth certificate. It was a 6-5 vote.

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Uprisings!: The Republicans are talking at each other again. We’re liveblogging.

By : Billy Manes
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If there’s anything that we love about the public drawing and quartering of the Republican Party presidential bench during this frightful election cycle, it’s that there are tiers of candidates, that there is, indeed, a Varsity and a Junior Varsity contingent, and the lower down you get on the success scale, it doesn’t get any more absurd – it just stays absurd. Juniors are as good as seniors, a Santorum is as good as a blowjob and Lindsey Graham is still happening. Beyond the greenroom issues which made us fall out of our hot tub and into our home theater today, the real issue is whether any of the four folks being cut off constantly on CNBC in the not-ready-for-prime-time-let-me-try-to-get-a-word-in-edgewise. ”

We already have too many government mandates,” tiny man Bobby Jindal says. “FLAT TAX!” Oh, shut up. So, for now, we have Graham, George Pataki, Jindal and Santorum. Someone smells an orgy. No one smells a president. We’ll liveblog the serious ones (cough), later. For now, we’ll just waste our time and gawk.

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Five for fighting: Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan isn’t going anywhere

By : Billy Manes
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It’s getting ugly out there. As this article was coming to fruition, scant weeks before the Nov. 3 municipal election, you could taste the mud, even if you weren’t in its slinging distance. Between the District 4 election, featuring likely victor Patty Sheehan (who is seeking her fifth term), and the mayoral election starring purported victor Buddy Dyer (a race which seems to be overcome with bad political hacks and the shoes they pranced in on), Orlando’s great race has taken on an ugly hue. Talk of smearing the blood of certain candidates’ parents along the road aside, the tone is worse than we’ve ever seen, and we tend to look at a lot of smears and laugh.

We sat down with Sheehan, the city’s first LGBT commissioner, elected in 2000, as a means of hearing her out, good and bad (though even she can’t explain the “hyperbolic” display of local-politics animosity being played out here). Sheehan isn’t a figurehead to be grandfathered into anything, mind. She’s been painted as an opportunist, a former activist, a perpetual “yes” vote to Mayor Buddy Dyer’s Tomorrowland of expensive projects and the bonds they rode in on. She’s taken her punches, but she remains accessible. Also, as one of the key movers in the fight to make LGBT rights matter in Central Florida, she is, without a doubt, an ally.

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A convenient truth: Former president of conversion-therapy church Exodus International publishes a book, apologizes

By : Billy Manes
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There’s a sly production moment, a flash of informed camerawork, during a remarkable 2013 special on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, “Our America with Lisa Ling: Special Report: God and Gays,” (still on YouTube). A look of disbelief caught in frame.

Former reparative-therapy icon Alan Chambers, in full-court apology mode with wife Leslie at his side (they married in 1998 and have two daughters), tries to make sense of more than a decade of heading up conversion-therapy church Exodus International, which was located in Central Florida, with a mea culpa. He was wrong, he says, as he stares into the faces of a gathered gaggle of former patients (for lack of a better word). He came to OWN to sit in front of that jury who, he says, haven’t had their fair shake in contributing to the conversation on his “side” of the argument, which, of course, is the side of the Christian right. It’s a weak apology, really, one that came only a couple of months after his notorious public statement, and the subsequent statement from the Exodus camp, that the ministry was over. It was all a big mistake, apparently. The same message that was sent to the victims of Exodus at their most vulnerable stages of development, he now admits.

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Virginia gunman claims shootings are payback for gay, racist discrimination

By : Wire and Staff Reports
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MONETA, Va. (AP) — Vester Flanagan, the Virginia gunman who killed two co-workers on live television, said he did so because he allegedly had been discriminated against both for being gay and black.

In a 23-page letter sent by fax Aug. 26 to ABC News shortly after the shooting, Flanagan described several instances where he had been harassed. He also wrote “I’ve been a human powder keg for a while, just waiting to go BOOM!!!!”

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US Marine admits choking transgender Filipino, denies murder

By : Wire Report
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MANILA, Philippines (AP) – A U.S. Marine charged with murder testified in court Aug. 24 that he choked a Filipino unconscious during a fight that started when he discovered that she was a transgender woman in a Philippine motel but stressed that he didn’t kill her, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Rowena Flores said her client, Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, told the court in Olongapo city, northwest of Manila, that Jennifer Laude was unconscious but breathing when he left her in the shower of a motel, where they checked in to have sex after meeting in a bar in October last year. Pemberton panicked after seeing her unconscious and left.

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