Florida Orchestra conducts first Pride Weekend

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | The Florida Orchestra (TFO) will hold its inaugural Pride Weekend across two performing arts centers Oct. 5-6.
TFO, which launches its 51st season Sept. 28, is Florida’s largest professional symphony orchestra. The organization performs nearly 100 concerts annually in and outside of its three main concert halls—Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.

Pride Weekend will highlight “Bernstein’s Broadway,” honoring the centennial of American composer Leonard Bernstein’s birth. Its three performances, one at the Straz Center Oct. 5 and two at the Mahaffey Theater Oct. 6, will feature selections from “West Side Story,” “Candide,” “On the Town” and more.

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Utah lawmakers look to expand hate crime rules to cover LGBTs

By : Wire Report
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GayUtahAbstrSalt Lake City (AP) – Utah state senators back a proposal that would beef up the state’s hate crime law and add protections for gay and transgender people.

Lawmakers voted 17-12 Feb. 26 to give preliminary approval of the plan after debating it. They must still cast a final vote on the measure sometime in the next two weeks.

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Wedding Bells at Watermark: Melissa Crispo and Candace Salemi

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Melissa Crispo and Candace Salemi“My favorite thing about Candace is she has a beautiful heart,” Melissa says. “She has so much love in her, and not just for me but for everybody—and it just shines.”

Candace Salemi, who is a senior higher education specialist, and Melissa Crispo, who is a musician/songwriter and paramedic, hung out in the same circle of friends for 15 years. Candace came to see Melissa perform regularly, but they only ever considered themselves acquaintances.

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Metro purchases St. Pete location, solidifies permanent home

By : Jeremy Williams
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Metro Wellness & Community Center, in partnership with Community AIDS Network (CAN), has purchased its St. Petersburg location after a seven-month legal battle.

The previous owner attempted to sell the building last summer out from underneath Metro, even attempting to have the clinic evicted. Metro was forced to file for an injunction and fight it out in court.

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Lesbian settles lawsuit after being fired from job at Kansas City church

By : Wire Report
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Kansas City, Mo. (AP) – A former Kansas City church worker who said she was fired after her same-sex marriage was publicized settled her lawsuit with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The amount awarded to Colleen Simon, a former food pantry coordinator, was not released after her lawsuit was settled, The Kansas City Star reported. Simon was seeking unpaid wages, fringe benefits, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages.

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Mormon Church wary of heightened anti-discrimination laws

By : Wire Report
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Salt Lake City (AP) – The Mormon church says Utah lawmakers considering hate crimes legislation this year should not upset a balance they struck last year with an anti-discrimination law protecting both religious rights and LGBT rights.

The statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was in response to a proposal to beef up Utah’s hate crimes law and add new protections for gay and transgender people.

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Workforce protections bill postponed after tie vote

By : Jamie Hyman
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The Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTs in the workplace, is postponed to the Florida Senate Judiciary Committee’s Feb. 9 meeting after initially failing on a tie vote.

It was the first time the bill, which has been filed and refiled every Legislative session since 2007, made it before a committee.

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Wedding Bells at Watermark: Stephen Gibson and Rob Johnson

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Rob Johnson and Stephen GibsonStephen Gibson, 45, who oversees vacation rentals and entertains as “Stephane Blair,” and Rob Johnson, 54, who is a graphic designer by trade, met online toward the end of 2007. Stephen noticed they had a lot in common,so he decided to message Rob.

“I got this message and email, and it said it was this guy from Florida,” Rob says. “And I was like ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to meet anybody from out of town.’ He and I started talking, and it got to the point where we would send messages back and forth online all the time, then we started talking on the phone and then we started talking on the phone every day.”

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St. Pete mayor gives State of the City speech at The Palladium

By : jeremy williams
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St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke of change and progress at the State of the City address at The Palladium Jan. 23.

“The state of St. Petersburg is strong and sunny,” Kriseman said reading a list of words posted to the city’s Facebook and Twitter accounts by people describing the city, even managing to get another dig at presidential hopeful Donald Trump.

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Minnesota governor appoints first openly-gay judge to State Supreme Court

By : Wire Report
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Gov. Mark Dayton named Appeals Court Judge Margaret Chutich to fill an open spot on the Minnesota Supreme Court Jan. 22, installing the first openly gay justice on the state’s highest court. Dayton said the diversity of the bench is a priority. Chutich is the third woman the Democratic governor has appointed to the court since he took office in 2011.

The Democratic governor said that while he is aware of Chutich’s sexual orientation, her performance over the last four years on the state’s appellate court trumped any other factors.

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Kevin McCarty, Florida’s Insurance Commissioner, resigns

By : Wire Report
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Tallahassee (AP) – Kevin McCarty, who helped guide Florida’s fragile insurance market in the wake of eight hurricanes a decade ago, is resigning as the state’s insurance commissioner.

During his 13-year tenure, McCarty dealt with the near collapse of the state’s homeowners insurance market, major changes in health insurance and contentious legislative battles over auto insurance, medical malpractice and the state-created Citizens Property Insurance.

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Watermark looks back: When marriage equality came to Florida

By : Jamie Hyman
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Happy anniversary! One year ago Jan. 6, same-sex couples around Florida legally, joyfully were married.

Watermark staffers spent the day hopping from mass wedding to mass wedding interviewing couples, taking photos, eating cake and shedding more than a few tears.

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