The Other Side of Life: Lent and the Twin Abstentions

By : Jason Leclerc
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My fellow God-fearers, know that we are two days into the Lenten season, bookended by Mardi Gras and the Resurrection. Like Jesus fasted in the wilderness before launching his ministry, we are to give up something that sates us. Although my usual self-denial is metaphorized by 40 days without swearing or chocolate, I’m giving up on something much more gosh darn important and savory and much more central to who I am.

Abstention one: I’m giving up on defending Republicans. Abstention two: I’m taking a break from actively bashing Trump.

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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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WatermarkOnline’s Top News Headlines of 2018

By : Watermark Staff
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WatermarkOnline.com had its largest number of visitors in 2018. Hundreds of thousands of readers came to the website throughout the year for the stories that impacted the LGBTQ community in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and across the country.

Below, we have complied the top five headlines from each of our LGBTQ news sections: Central Florida News, Tampa Bay News, State News and Nation & World News. The sections top headlines are based on the number of clicks on each story.

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09.20.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Thanks to the wonders of Facebook’s “On This Day,” a feature which allows users to grin or grimace at their social media posts from yesteryear, I recently discovered I’ve been living in Florida for 11 years.

For whatever reason, I still tell folks I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio when they ask. They tend to figure out that I’m from the North when I correctly describe Diet Coke as “pop,” but I suppose I should really start telling my Lyft drivers that I’m from St. Pete. I put too much thought into small talk, which is probably why I’m so bad at it.

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Pulse survivor challenges Disney to cease support for NRA-friendly gubernatorial candidate

By : Layla Ferris
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ORLANDO | Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Brandon Wolf is calling for Walt Disney World to “stop supporting NRA sellouts” such as Adam Putnam, a Republican running for Florida governor in the 2018 election.

Wolf denounced Disney’s contributions toward Putnam’s campaign in a video released with media company NowThis on June 12, two years after the Pulse nightclub shooting.

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04.05.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s often argued that one shouldn’t discuss religion or politics,

so I’d like to talk about both.

When I was in high school, I learned through friends in my Southern Baptist youth group that the deacons of my small-town, smaller-minded church were trying to pray my gay away. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

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Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith recognized by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation

By : Jeremy Williams
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WASHINGTON | Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando) was awarded the Legislative Leadership Award at The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation’s AIDSWatch in D.C., according to a press release issued March 27.

Smith was selected for his HIV advocacy and, more specifically, for his part in helping to convince Publix Supermarkets to cover the HIV preventative drug known as PrEP for their employees.

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UPDATE: Publix to begin covering HIV preventative drug PrEP for employees

By : Jeremy Williams
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UPDATE:

After meeting with state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Publix announced they would begin allowing PrEP to be covered for their employees under their prescription benefits.

The company took to Twitter saying:

Publix appreciates the concerns shared by our associates and customers. We offer generous health coverage to our eligible full-time and part-time associates at an affordable premium and are committed to the health and well-being of our associates and their families.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Max and Christopher Freestone

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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When Max and Christopher met in college, they had no idea they’d walk down the aisle five years later.

“He was just instantly engaging,” says Max of his new husband, Christopher. “What I didn’t know is that we’d ever get engaged,” he says. Max and Christopher met at the University of South Florida in October of 2009. Max was studying finance and Christopher was undecided. Christopher was at The Local Draught House with friends. “I saw Max walk in and knew I had to talk to him,” says Christopher. He’d been told by his friend, Megan, that a guy was coming she wanted him to meet. “I didn’t know this was the guy, but you can’t imagine how excited I was when I found out it was him.”

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Melanie Gagne and Joy Belding

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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Joy Belding was an improv comedy show host at the Nickelodeon Hotel, and Melanie was her manager. “We obviously got to know each other very well as we worked five days a week together,” says Melanie, who was in a downhill straight marriage at the time. “Joy opened my eyes and allowed me to just be me and be open to the possibilities.”

Melanie, who is French-Canadian, instantly sparked Joy’s interest. She noticed that Melanie was becoming more and more flirty with her as their friendship progressed. “It was a no brainer. She already had my attention with her beauty and personality. She just made everyone’s day better,” says Joy. They went on a date and their relationship began.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Allan Hero-Shaw and Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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“Jakob is the kindest and most compassionate person I have ever met in my life,” Allan says. “He’s such a wonderful person.

“I’ve never seen anyone who can relate to other people and give them spiritual support and emotional support. He’s always there for his friends. They look to him for that kind of role. He’s just willing to just drop everything and help someone who needs some help.”

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