4.6.17 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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As some of you might recall, I’ve been through a public battle with gun violence, suicide and gay marriage for the past few years. As some of you also know, I am married now to my best friend, Tony (two years and counting). The only reason I bring this up is that I couldn’t have survived the suicide of Alan Jordan, my partner of 11 years, without the assistance of Equality Florida and Orlando attorney Mary Meeks.

This issue, we celebrate 20 years of Equality Florida’s work throughout the state. This is an organization that came from virtually nothing and grew into the leading force for municipal and statewide rulings on LGBTQ rights at a time that most thought Florida was going to drip into the backwoods of the South. Equality Florida published a letter that I wrote to Florida state senators in 2013, one year after Alan took his life in front of me, with a gun, in our backyard. So, for the sake of posterity, as April 8 was the day he left me, I present you with a shortened version of that letter, and I wish you well as we persevere through these difficult times.

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Local leaders weigh in on the way we were and the way we will be

By : Billy Manes
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Dumbfounded. Knocked out. Afraid. Broken. These are just a few of the things that many of us are feeling in the wake of Donald Trump’s historic rise to presidential power on Nov. 8.

If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of questions. You may have even been harassed already. We reached out to some of our best and brightest for answers, options, hope. And they provided just that. We’re not done yet. And so we rise. Here are some words from our friends. Stay strong.

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Overheard in Orlando: King Kong and Kesha

By : Anonymous
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Tall, Dark and Hairy
Although this sounds like the headline for a Scruff or Grindr profile, we’re just describing the new resident arriving at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is a brand new attraction nestled in between Island’s Toon Lagoon (which really hasn’t seen much progress since the park’s opening) and Jurassic Park.

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Palm Bay Council rejects addition of LGBT-protections to HRO

By : Jamie Hyman
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In a 4-1 vote that didn’t happen until about 1:30 a.m., the Palm Bay City Council rejected a proposal that would have added LGBT protections to the city’s existing human rights ordinance.

Councilwoman Michele Paccione proposed adding the protections, which turned out to be extremely controversial. More than 500 people attended the meeting, and according to Space Coast Pride president Lexi Wright, there was a line of people snaking around the corner of the building and into the parking lot hoping to get in. The considerable overflow watched the meeting from outside in the courtyard. After about 45 minutes of regular business, the discussion began and lasted nearly six hours.

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Florida couples ask judge for immediate birth certificates

By : Jamie Hyman
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Tallahassee – The same-sex couples fighting Florida’s refusal to add both parents’ names to their children’s birth certificates are asking the court to immediately move forward and issue the proper paperwork.

Attorneys for Debbie and Kari Chin of St. Petersburg and Yadira Arenas and Alma Vazquez of Winter Haven filed a request for temporary injunction Oct. 16.

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10.8.15 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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“Turn and face the strange,” a certain crazy-eyed pop-cultural god once warned us through the bedazzled bullhorn of a 1970s rainbow of weathered hope. “Ch-ch-changes” were at the root of David Bowie’s 1972 rhythmic cause for alarm and call to arms, a sort of anthemic response to a society teetering on various brinks, with only the scary monsters and super freaks holding on to any notion of prescribed normality. Everything – from war crises to social shifts to women’s rights to gay rights – was caught in the shuffle, and, these days, we’re better for it, right? Plate tectonics, changing fads, political upheaval and shifts in the weather have all resulted in who we are right now. And, in many ways, we are better for it. In some, we are far worse.

This week’s Watermark explores the changes we’re going through, both nuanced and on the real-estate surface, against the backdrop of Orlando’s Come Out With Pride celebration, of which we are always proud to be a part. While many, including those of us making journalistic noise at this publication, are urging caution in just how the LGBT community evolves from dissimilation to assimilation, how we negotiate our path into the grand old world of marriage and acceptance and infinite joy, we’re also aware of the shoulders upon which we’ve stood to get us here, even to get us in the conversation. You’ve heard this lecture before: Don’t forget from where you’ve come and never forget the history upon which you stand. You get it.

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Take action! Osceola County to consider living wage ordinance on Monday

By : Billy Manes
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Perhaps we should blame Hollywood and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for the false pretense of queer pageantry, but that tired stereotype that gays and lesbians sip cosmos and casually ponder how to spend their vast sums of disposable income masks some harsh realities.

The truth, as UCLA’s Williams Institute pointed out last year, is that more than 20 percent of LGBT adults rely on food stamps, and twice as many report being food insecure, compared to the nation as a whole. We’re not all taking long walks down far-thrown beaches waiting for our next disposable purchase. We’re talking just getting by and serving people turkey legs. In Osceola County, an MIT study concluded, the living wage for one adult with one child is $22.92 an hour. The inequities are clear.

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Space Coast Pride chooses grand marshals

By : Jamie Hyman
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The 9th annual Space Coast Pride will have grand marshals representing the L, the G and the T, but not the B.

“We were unable to locate a bisexual grand marshal,” Lexi Wright, president of Space Coast Pride, says when running down the list of the chosen individuals. “Our original intent was to select one grand marshal to represent each letter of LGBT who has contributed to the community.”

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Osceola Commissioners unanimously approve HRO

By : Jamie Hyman
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Editor’s note: this story was updated 8/19/15 to clarify and provide more detail about how the HRO was drafted and what protections it includes.

Kissimmee – All five Osceola County Commissioners are in agreement that it should be illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Supporters applauded as the Commissioners Aug. 17 unanimously approved an updated human rights ordinance that added LGBT protections to the county’s existing discrimination ordinance. The HRO covers employment, housing and public accommodations and was introduced by Commissioner Viviana Janer earlier this month.

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State responds to birth certificate lawsuit

By : Jamie Hyman
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Tallahassee – The state is fighting back in a lawsuit where three lesbian couples are asking to have both parents’ names listed on their children’s birth certificates.

Attorneys on behalf of the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics filed a motion for clarification Aug. 13, essentially asking whether the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage applies to vital statistics records and whether the existing gender-specific language somehow exempts the state from birth certificates.

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Florida same-sex couples sue over birth certificates

By : Jamie Hyman
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Three lesbian couples are fighting to have both parents’ names put on their children’s birth certificates.

Cathy Pareto and Karla Arguello, who were lead plaintiff’s in Florida’s marriage equality lawsuit, celebrated the birth of their twin son and daughter earlier this month. However, the hospital would not allow Pareto to put her name on the children’s birth certificates, despite Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage being declared unconstitutional nearly a year ago.

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FL Rep. Scott Plakon files “Pastor Protection Act” despite lack of threat to pastors

By : Billy Manes
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While discussion of the fabled “Pastor Protection Act” has been long in the pipeline – Texas has already passed similar legislation from which Florida is cribbing its bill language – Florida Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, filed HB 43 on Aug. 10, laying down the proverbial gauntlet for the social conservative battle set to play out in next year’s legislative session. The bill, as expected, seeks to protect churches from litigation should they refuse to “solemnize” same-sex marriages.

Plakon is sticking to his guns on criticism of the bill as being “superfluous” and “unnecessary,” because, at least in his opinion, it’s a protection for all parties involved. There are so many unknowns in modern times, he says.

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