Patty Sheehan re-elected for sixth term to Orlando City Council after opponent withdraws

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: Commissioner Patty Sheehan. (from her Facebook page)

ORLANDO | Patty Sheehan was re-elected for her sixth term as Orlando City Commissioner for District 4 after her opponent dropped out of the race.

Sheehan is the first openly gay elected official in Central Florida, first being elected to the Orlando City Council in 2000.

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Come Out With Pride to go eco-friendly for festival and parade

By : Jeremy Williams
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Come Out With Pride will have a lot of the same things that you have come to expect over the last 15 years since the parade and festival have been held in and around Lake Eola. Food vendors, parade floats, live entertainment, fireworks and thousands upon thousands of attendees.

Some things you won’t see this year—or any upcoming years—will be single-use plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene foam single-use food containers. This is because the Orlando City Commission voted unanimously to ban these items from all city properties back in June.

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Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan goes up against new-to-politics Corey DeVogel for District 4

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | While most political eyes are set squarely on 2020’s election year, the City of Orlando is holding general elections Nov. 5 for mayor and several city council seats; including that of District 4, currently occupied by the city’s first openly LGBTQ commissioner Patty Sheehan.

Sheehan, who was first elected to the District 4 seat in 2000, is running for her sixth term. During Sheehan’s fifth term as a city commissioner, she helped to pass the Orlando Police Department’s Safe Place Initiative, which provides safe spots for those within the LGBTQ community throughout Orlando should they find themselves victims of crime. She also assisted in the creation of the Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit, which is a free conference dedicated to empowering LGBTQ youth and allies through education and support.

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PHOTOS: Watermark celebrates its 25th anniversary in Central Florida

By : Jeremy Williams
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Watermark celebrated its 25th anniversary in Central Florida Aug. 23 with an event at the Orlando Museum of Art in Orlando.

The event featured a blessing from the Central Florida chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, as well as city and county proclamations. Mayor Jerry Demings was on hand to read the Orange County proclamation and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan read the proclamation form the City of Orlando.

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Orange County Mayor names new LGBTQ+ Community Liaison

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Chief of Staff to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Roseann Harrington announced Marc Espeso as Special Assistant to Demings during the One Orlando Alliance quarterly meeting held on Aug. 14. Espeso will act as the LGBTQ+ Community Liaison for Demings.

Espeso, who is currently Orange County’s Digital Communications Editor, will expand his responsibilities to include the new position.

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‘Sweet Dreams’ raises $71K for Bliss CARES

By : Jeremy Williams
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Bliss CARES had a successful night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Orlando on July 13 with its inaugural “Sweet Dreams: Dancing for TRANSitional Housing” fundraiser.

The event — which partnered 11 amateur dancers, all LGBTQ community leaders in Central Florida, with professional dancers for a night of fast-paced, fancy footwork — raised $71,344, which will go towards creating semi-permanent housing for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities where they can have access to health services, life skills and career counseling to prepare them to live on their own in their own safe space.

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Central Florida LGBTQ pioneer Joel Strack passes away at age 59

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Joel Strack at his celebration of life at Leu Gardens in Orlando June 23. (Photo by J.D. Casto)

ORLANDO | Joel Strack—an LGBTQ leader, activist and pioneer in Central Florida’s fight for equality— passed away in the early morning hours of July 15. He was 59.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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PHOTOS: Central Florida LGBTQ trailblazer Joel Strack honored with proclamation from City of Orlando

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Joel Strack has been an out and proud leader, activist and trailblazer in the Central Florida LGBTQ community for over 40 years.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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Orlando bans single-use plastics, foam on city properties

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Former Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor and environmental activist Eric Rollings says he was beside himself with joy when the Orlando City Commission voted unanimously to ban plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene single-use containers in the city of Orlando on all its properties.

“I was just one giant goosebump seeing it actually happen,” Rollings says with a smile.

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PHOTOS: The 49 Fund announces scholarship winners at Orlando City Hall

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The 49 Fund at Central Florida Foundation announced its four scholarship recipients at a ceremony held at Orlando City Hall’s Rotunda on June 8.

Created in 2017 as a partnership between Central Florida attorney and LGBTQ activist Barry Miller and The LGBT+ Center Orlando, The 49 Fund awards scholarships of $4,900 to students who self-identify as an out member of the LGBTQ community, attend an accredited two- or four-year institution of higher learning on a full-time basis, earn a 3.0 GPA or higher and demonstrate a commitment to making Central Florida a better place.

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Orlando remembers 3-year mark of Pulse tragedy this June

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | June 12, 2019 will mark three years since a gunman walked into the Pulse nightclub, killing 49 people and injuring dozens more.

Several organizations will hold vigils, memorials and events in and around Central Florida to honor the victims leading up to and on June 12. We have gathered information on a few and provided it below. Watermark will continue to update this list over the next two weeks with more events as information becomes available.

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AIDS Walk Orlando raises over $52K for Hope & Help

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | More than 400 walkers gathered at the Walt Disney Amphitheatre at Lake Eola Park in Orlando April 27, helping raise over $52,000 for Hope & Help’s 29th annual AIDS Walk.

AIDS Walk Orlando was moved back to the morning hours after two years as an evening walk around Lake Eola, kicking off at 7:30 a.m. with registration and guest speakers at the amphitheater. Speakers included City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and Hope & Help’s community developmental director Joshua Myers, also the AIDS Walk Orlando event director.

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