LGBTQ businesses announce closures as local government has declared state of emergency

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (center), Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (center L) and other officials at a press conference to declare a local state of emergency March 13. Photo courtesy Orange County Government

ORLANDO | As Central Florida started reporting its first cases of the coronavirus, COVID-19, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer held a joint press conference March 13 to declare local states of emergency.

“We are living in some unusual times which call for unusual measures,” Demings said. “We are now at a critical point in the coronavirus threat. New cases of positive tests are being determined daily throughout Florida.”

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Watermark’s 2020 WAVE Award Winners – Central Florida

By : Jeremy Williams
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FAVORITE LOCAL POLITICIAN

First: Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

Second: Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan

Third: State Rep. Anna Eskamani

FAVORITE LOCAL ACTIVIST

First: George Wallace, LGBT+ Center

Second: Eric Rollings, Foundation for the Florida Environmental Protection

Third: Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida

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2019 was a year for the LGBTQ record books

By : Jeremy Williams & Ryan Williams-Jent
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Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Of course not! That’s why after a historical 365 days, Watermark has assembled our annual year in review.

2019 was a landmark year for us here at Watermark. In August, we proudly celebrated 25 years of serving Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s ever-expanding LGBTQ communities.

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Orlando, St. Pete, Tampa receive perfect HRC scores

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced Nov. 19 that the cities of Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa each received a perfect score of 100 in the organization’s eighth annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI).

The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are for LGBTQ people who live and work in the 506 cities rated. The score is based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality.

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Rainbow Democrats, Equality Florida Action PAC endorse Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The Rainbow Democrats Caucus and the Equality Florida Action PAC have both endorsed current Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for re-election ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

The Rainbow Democrats Caucus made its announcement in a statement Oct. 17.

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City of Orlando recognizes October as LGBTQ+ History Month

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Proclamation reading at City Hall in Orlando Oct. 21. (Photo courtesy the City of Orlando)

ORLANDO | Mayor Buddy Dyer and the Orlando City Council recognized October as LGBTQ+ History Month in the City of Orlando at City Hall Oct. 21.

“Orlando is a city for everyone! This is one of the many ways we continue to build a community that values equality and inclusion,” said Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez, the City of Orlando’s  Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Senior Specialist for the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

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onePulse Foundation announces design finalists in national memorial and museum competition

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | The onePULSE Foundation released six potential designs for the National Pulse Memorial and Museum on Oct. 3.

Each of the six concept designs are available for the public to view at the Orange County Regional History Center, located at 65 E. Central Blvd. in downtown Orlando, or online via the accompanying digital exhibition at onePULSEFoundation.org.

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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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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Carlos Guillermo Smith and Jerick Mediavilla

By : Marianella Falbo
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“When we met and we first started flirting, in my mind I couldn’t accept that someone so sweet, so kind, and so handsome would actually take an interest in me that had NOTHING to do with politics,” says Florida Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

Carlos met Jerick Mediavilla at The Venue in Orlando during an event supporting the Latinx community impacted by the Pulse shooting in 2016.

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onePULSE Foundation makes land purchase for future location of museum

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: The Pulse Interim Memorial. (from onePULSE Foundation’s Facebook)

ORLANDO | The onePULSE Foundation took its next step toward creating the National Pulse Memorial & Museum with a $3.5 million purchase of land near Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the organization announced in a press release Sept. 16.

Scheduled to open in 2022, the museum will honor the 49 victims of the 2016 Pulse shooting. The 1.75-acre parcel of land purchased is located at 438 W. Kaley St.

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Equality Florida Action PAC endorses Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for re-election

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Equality Florida Action PAC endorsed the re-election of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer in a Facebook post Aug. 22.

“Equality Florida Action PAC is proud to endorse Mayor Buddy Dyer – a champion for our LGBTQ community,” the organization posted.

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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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