Sen. Rick Scott blocked millions of dollars for HIV prevention when he was governor of Florida

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Then-Gov. Rick Scott speaking at CPACFL in Orlando in 2011. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, from Flickr)

Republican Sen. Rick Scott and his administration rejected $70 million in federal funds to address HIV in Florida while Scott was the state’s governor, according to an investigative report released by The Guardian on Sept. 11.

The Guardian states that between 2015-2017, Florida returned $54 million in grants to the federal government intended for combating HIV. This was “due to an apparently deliberate failure on the part of state health bosses to secure legislative permission to spend such desperately needed funds.”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis excludes LGBTQ protections from non-discrimination executive order

By : Abigail Brashear
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Gov. Ron DeSantis failed to include LGBTQ protections within an executive order that reaffirmed other existing protections and denied discrimination. 

Executive order 1910 was issued hours after DeSantis was sworn into office on Tuesday and is titled, “Reaffirming Commitment to Diversity in Government.” It repeatedly rejects the idea of discrimination against “age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status or disability,” but fails to mention anything regarding the topic of gender identity or sexuality orientation. 

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Tampa’s Jobsite Theater turns 20 with ‘Hedwig’ and more

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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“In a lot of ways we’ve been the little theater company that could,” Tampa’s Jobsite Theater co-founder and Producing Artistic Director David M. Jenkins says. “We started in 1998 with nothing, as five friends who weren’t seeing the kind of theater in town that we were interested in, as far as being artists. We decided to take it into our own hands.”

They did exactly that, forming the professional nonprofit 501(c)(3) theater company Jobsite, a collective of like-minded artists dedicated to the creation of socially- and politically-relevant theater.

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Bernie Sanders endorses several progressives ahead of primaries

By : Jeremy Williams
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Sen. Bernie Sanders has achieved rockstar status ever since running in the 2016 presidential election. While he didn’t win, he has maintained that status, so when he rolled into town to speak at a rally for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running to be the Democratic nominee in the Florida gubernatorial race, it was no surprise that several hundred young, progressive voters turned up at UCF’s CFE Arena for a chance to hear him speak.

Governor-hopeful Gillum, who earned an endorsement from Bernie, spoke about the same values that Bernie campaigned on: affordable healthcare, increasing the minimum wage and equality for all. Before Bernie and Andrew came to the stage, the crowd was greeted by our own proud progressive, feminist, queer, Latinx, Democrat, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

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AHF suing Gov. Rick Scott for not releasing public records

By : Colton Adkins
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The AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a law suit against Gov. Rick Scott on July 26 after Scott’s office refused to release public records of Scott’s schedule.

Scott and state Medicaid officials earlier this year decided to discontinue healthcare coverage to more than 2,000 HIV+ patients provided by Positive Healthcare (PHC).

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With 2018’s third transgender murder in Jacksonville, advocates seek justice and solidarity

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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At least 28 known transgender men and women were murdered nationwide in 2017, the highest number on record. On June 24, just over 2018’s midpoint, the murders of two transgender women brought this year’s total to half that—prompting community advocates to demand justice for the 14 transgender lives lost.

One of those murders was that of Cathalina Christina James, a transgender woman of color who lived her life as more than a disturbing statistic stemming from Jacksonville, Fla. James’ death sparked outrage and stoked fear for the transgender community in Florida’s fourth most populous city, with local leaders fearing a serial killer stalked Jacksonville’s streets.

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Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidates pitch for votes

By : Wire Report
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HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) – Florida’s five Democratic candidates made their pitches to party activists at their annual convention June 30, hoping to swing support and drum up donations in advance of the August primary.

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and developers Jeff Greene and Chris King dashed between interest group caucuses in hopes of solidifying support among party stalwarts in advance of the Aug. 28 primary.

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Ros-Lehtinen talks retirement, slams Trump’s military trans ban

By : Michael K. Lavers OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Letinen (R-Fla.) speaks with the Washington Blade at her office on Capitol Hill on May 21. Washington Blade photo by Michael Key.

Retiring U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) last week reiterated her criticism of President Trump over a host of issues that includes his effort to ban transgender people from the military.

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Never again, but why now?

By : Jamie Hyman
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In the weeks since a shooter killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., survivors have been featured in a town hall on national television, visited the Florida Legislature and led a march of more than a million protesters nationwide, demanding sensible gun control.

In the weeks following the shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016, the levels of advocacy and response were far more muted, which is forcing members of the LGBTQ community to wonder why, after a mass shooting that at the time was the deadliest in U.S. history, government officials, the media and the nation failed to rally behind the Pulse survivors with the volume and intensity that are leading millions to take action today.

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The Tender Activist: You’re Not Responsible Enough to Have a Gun

By : Scottie Campbell
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In the aftermath of the June 12, 2016, shooting here in Orlando, my dad and I had a discussion about guns.

Like all of our discussions on that topic, nobody was swayed. I certainly didn’t help things when I had a knee-jerk reaction to a “the gun doesn’t kill people” bon mot he lobbed at me. Fresh off hearing Rick Scott regurgitate an impotent cliché for the national media about the Second Amendment itself not killing everyone, I snapped.

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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith kicks off re-election campaign at The Abbey

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | “We have all heard him say, and I want you to say it with me, ‘I am a proud progressive, liberal, feminist, gay, Latino, Democrat,’” state Rep. Amy Mercado (D-48) said from the stage, speaking of state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49), at The Abbey Jan. 5.

Mercado, along with many liberal progressives—among them Florida House District 47 candidate Anna Eskamani, former state Rep. Joe Saunders and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer—joined Smith as he kicked off his 2018 re-election campaign .

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Florida gubernatorial candidate Chris King takes LGBTQ rights personally

By : Scottie Campbell
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WINTER PARK, Fla. | Each 2018 Democratic candidate in the Florida gubernatorial race has made statements in support of LGBTQ rights, but in a speech before the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus in August, Orlando’s Chris King revealed why his long-held support is personal.

King ended his speech talking about his eldest brother, David, who was gay. A polished and considered speaker, the cadence of King’s voice noticeably changes as he relates David’s rough childhood and adolescence growing up gay in Florida during the ‘70s and ‘80s. After battling years of insecurities and depression, David eventually committed suicide 20 years ago at the age of 30. King tells Watermark that caucus speech is the one time he has talked about this publicly.

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