Orlando to host LGBTQ Leadership Summit

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | Featuring LGBTQ leaders from all throughout Florida and the Orlando area, a day of intensive training for political advocacy and advancement will be held in Orlando during the annual LGBTQ Leadership Summit on March 16.

The free summit is hosted by Victory Institute, the only national organization specifically focused on assisting open LGBTQ leaders on all levels of government, and Equality Florida, the largest political advocacy group dedicated to LGBTQ equality in Florida. It will be held at the Double Tree hotel in downtown Orlando and is open to anyone who wishes to attend, including high school and college students.

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CommUNITY Rainbow Run to honor Pulse victims, releases new medal design

By : Abigail Brashear
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ABOVE: Runners make their way through the streets of Orlando as part of the 2018 4.9k CommUNITY Rainbow Run. Photo by Jeremy Williams

ORLANDO | Registration has opened for the third annual 4.9k CommUNITY Rainbow Run, scheduled to take place on June 8. The event is hosted by Orlando Health and Nike, and produced in partnership with UCF’s DeVos Sport Business Management Program. Organizers of the 2019 Rainbow Run, which honors the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting by benefiting the onePULSE Foundation, have also released images of the run’s new medal.

According to a press release sent out by the onePULSE Foundation, this year’s medal is full of symbolism. Designed by the Yellow Shoes Creative Group at the Walt Disney World Resort and the onePULSE Foundation, the front of the medal is etched with a rainbow feature and the onePULSE logo in place of the zero in 2019. On the back of the medal is a pair of angel wings with 49 feathers, in addition to the quote, “We will not let hate win.” To top it off, the medal hangs from a white lanyard with 49 doves on it.

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Patty Sheehan, Orlando’s first openly gay city commissioner to run for re-election

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | Patty Sheehan, Central Florida’s first openly gay City Commissioner, announced Feb. 19 that she is running for re-election.

Sheehan is city commissioner over Orlando’s District 4, which consists of the majority of historic districts in downtown. During her time as commissioner, Sheehan has overseen the restoration of the Lake Eola fountain, the preservation of the Eola House, the addition of 1.3 acres to Lake Eola Park and the construction of sidewalks for children going to and from school.

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Central Florida LGBTQ homeless coalition offers foster parenting informational sessions

By : Abigail Brashear
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The Zebra Coalition, a Central Florida-based network of organizations that provide aid to LGBTQ youth, is offering foster parenting informational sessions for those who are wondering how to become a foster parent. 

Robin Daily, community engagement and coalition manager of the Zebra Coalition, said during these informational sessions, staff from the Zebra Coalition and their partners Devereux and Embrace Families, as well as current foster families, will answer any questions that attendees might have about the process. 

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Watermark’s Most Eligible – Central Florida: Blue Star

By : Jeremy Williams
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Share this story:

AGE: 44

HOMWTOWN: Marietta, Ga.

IDENTIFIES AS: “Me, just me.”

PRONOUNS: “Me.”

SIGN: Aquarius

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Watermark’s Most Eligible – Central Florida: Kathy Ruiz

By : Jeremy Williams
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AGE: 21

HOMETOWN: Miami, Fla.

IDENTIFIES AS: Bisexual

PRONOUNS: She/her

SIGN: Aquarius

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells Jason Ruggerio and Nick Crush

By : Aaron Drake
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Jason Ruggerio and Nick Crush met in November 2011.

“On our first date, after dinner, I took him to a little playground off Mills and that’s where I proposed to him five years later,” Crush shares.

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01.23.19 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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To celebrate the 25th year of Watermark and my first column of 2019, I want to share an exclusive with readers. It’s something that you’ve likely never read anywhere else, so feel free to take a moment and mentally prepare because this is big.

Smoking is bad for you.

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Apopka transgender woman evicted, alleges discrimination from housing association

By : Abigail Brashear
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APOPKA, Fla. | A transgender woman of color and her husband were evicted from their mobile home in Apopka this month and claim discrimination from the Homeowners Association was a factor.

Tiara Kelley, 38, and her husband Robert Kelley, bought their Bayshore Chalet North mobile home in September. The couple bought the mobile home completely in cash, ensuring that their name was on the title of the home, and leased the lot that the mobile home was on with the Chalet North HOA.

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Second Chances: The LGBTQ community, addiction and the road to recovery

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Editor’s Note: At their request, the last names of three recovering addicts featured in this story have been abbreviated for their anonymity and to protect the programs utilized to maintain their sobriety.

It wasn’t drinking his own urine that forced Michael J. to make a change in his life. He’d already decided he should. That just got him high again from the crystal meth coursing through his system, his only access to the drug while strapped to a hospital bed in Central Florida.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Mark & Ricky Celaya-Renaud

By : Aaron Drake
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“I proposed to Mark – we are both Eagle Scouts and have a shared affinity for the outdoors and nature, so I planned out a camping trip to the Florida Caverns State Park,” Ricky Celaya-Renaud shares. “We did a flashlight tour of the main caverns, and at the last possible chance before leaving the cave, I gathered my courage, got down on one knee and asked him to marry me.”

“Ricky decided to sign us up for a cave tour in the woods – I’m terrified of bats, by the way – where he decided to ask me to marry him at the very end,” Mark Celaya-Renaud adds. “At that point, I would’ve done anything to get out of that cave! Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t already want to, so not only did I get to get out of the home of winged-monsters, but I came out of it engaged to the love of my life.”Ricky, a property manager and native of St. Petersburg, currently lives with his husband Mark, a senior analyst and transplant from Granada Hills, Calif., in Tampa.

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OYA in the running to be Lucky’s Market Orlando 1st quarter fundraising recipient

By : Amanda Espinosa
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ORLANDO | Lucky’s Market is a supermarket chain not only with a focus on organic foods but also a focus on giving back to its local community. Bags of Change, a fundraiser organized by the supermarket chain, helps three local nonprofits to raise some much needed funds each quarter.

Each one of Lucky’s Market locations nominate five nonprofits and its customers vote on which three will be the fundraising recipients, and Lucky’s Market Orlando selected the Orlando Youth Alliance as one of the five nominees for its first quarter. Now it is up to you to make OYA one of the top three.

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