Fifth Third Bank reverses decision, will continue to donate to school voucher program

By : Samantha Neely
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ORLANDO | Fifth Third Bank has decided to reverse their original decision to pull out of Florida’s school program after it was reported that the money goes back to private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and employees.  

The financial institution released a statement on Feb. 7 saying that after conducting a comprehensive review of the program, they decided that they could “continue to support it, while adhering to our core values.” 

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More companies pull funding from Florida school voucher program due to anti-LGBTQ policies

By : Samantha Neely
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ABOVE: Wyndham Destinations (pictured) joins Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo in stopping funding to Florida school voucher program due to anti_LGBTQ policies. (Photo from Wyndham’s Facebook)

Wells Fargo and Wyndham Destinations are the next major companies to announce they will no longer to be donating to Florida’s school voucher program as long as it continues to discriminate against LGBTQ students and employees. 

The two companies joined Fifth Third Bank, who earlier this week announced their withdraw from the program after state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna Eskamani called the company out on social media. The financial company responded to Smith in a pair of tweets, saying they stood with LGBTQ kids and would no longer be contributing until more inclusive policies were made.  

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Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna V. Eskamani praise Fifth Third Bank for standing with LGBTQ students, employees

By : Samantha Neely
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ABOVE: Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Anna V. Eskamani at the Florida State Capitol Building in Tallahassee Jan. 23. (Photo from Rep. Smith’s Facebook page)

Fifth Third Bank announced on Jan. 28 that they will no longer be donating to Florida’s voucher system if it continues to support voucher schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and employees 

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Rep. Anna V. Eskamani called the bank out on social media for funding anti-LGBTQ, with Smith tweeting, “Marching in @OrlandoPride while also funding anti-LGBTQ schools is NOT okay!” 

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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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Pasco Pride expands in second year

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Supporters flood Sims Park for the inaugural Pasco Pride Oct. 6, 2018. Photo courtesy Pasco Pride.

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. | The second annual Pasco Pride will be held Sept. 29-Oct. 6, expanding from a one-day festival to unite Pasco County’s growing LGBTQ community.

Pasco Pride made history with its inaugural outing in 2018, becoming the first LGBTQ Pride festival held in the county. The organization has since dedicated itself to fostering communication, tolerance, education and mutual support between the area’s LGBTQ advocates and allies.

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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Jerick Mediavilla tie the knot in ceremony at The Venue Orlando

By : Jeremy Williams
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Love is love, and it was definitely in the air in Orlando this past weekend!

Florida House Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and LGBTQ activist Jerick Mediavilla were wed in a ceremony at The Venue in Orlando Aug. 4, exactly two years to the day and in the same location that they first met.

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Florida House candidate Elizabeth McCarthy’s credibility questioned

By : Jeremy Williams
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SANFORD, Fla. | Elizabeth McCarthy—the openly LGBTQ, Democratic candidate running for Florida House District 28, whose full legal name is Catherine Elizabeth McCarthy—has come under fire for inconsistencies about her past, most notably her claims of working as a cardiologist at Orlando Regional Medical Center on June 12, 2016 after the Pulse tragedy.

Florida Politics reported June 15, when confronted about the inconsistencies, McCarthy insisted that “Yes, I am a doctor” and “Yes, I did work the night of Pulse.”

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Florida House Rep. Mike Hill caught on audio recording making homophobic remarks

By : Jeremy Williams
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In an audio recording release by Equality Florida May 31, Republican State Rep. Mike Hill can be heard laughing along during a public meeting at a constituent who suggested Hill file legislation requiring LGBTQ people be put to death.

The recording begins with Hill answering a question from a different constituent than the one who suggested killing LGBTQ people who asks why fellow Republican Rep. Alexander Andrade co-sponsored the Florida Competitive Workforce Act. Hill responds saying he cannot speak for Andrade but that “thank goodness that legislation didn’t go no where.”

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Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith talks wins and losses from the 2019 legislative session

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith with fiancé Jerick Mediavilla (R) on stage with Gina Duncan and Jeff Prystajko minutes after the proposal at the Come Out With Pride Rally in 2018. (Photo by Danny Garcia)

ORLANDO | Florida’s 2019 legislative session wrapped with a $91 billion budget and with less than 200 of the more than 1,800 bills filed surviving on May 4.

“For all intents and purposes, this legislative session was a disaster for Floridians. But the budget was decent,” says State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-49). “That is my assessment. The budget was just OK and [the Republican House majority] destroyed everything else.”

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Florida lawmakers, activists divided on how to best legislate equality

By : A.S. Reynolds
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Florida’s legislative session convenes each March, a time where our legislators make or amend state law. With each session comes an opportunity for lawmakers to add LGBTQ employment and accommodation protections to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, which currently secures freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.

Since 2007, lawmakers have introduced legislation fighting for equality on these fronts but have met failure in the conservative Florida legislature. This year, Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-Gulfport), Sen. Darryl Rouson (D- St. Petersburg) and Sen. Joe Gruters (R- Sarasota) have introduced two differing LGBTQ equality bills ahead of the 2019 Florida legislative session, scheduled to begin March 5.

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Florida legislator accuses fellow lawmaker of bullying

By : wire report
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) | A South Florida lawmaker has accused a fellow Democratic legislator of bullying her at a meeting of party leaders, but the other lawmaker says the exchange was being mischaracterized.

Florida Rep. Anika Omphroy on Feb. 11 wrote a letter to the Florida House speaker saying that Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith lashed out at her with “verbal assaults” at the meeting of Democratic leaders at an Orlando hotel last weekend.

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We look back on 2018, a midterm year for a country that’s just living on a prayer

By : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s been two years since we, as a country, entered into the reality that is the Trump Administration. The country feels more divided than ever and the phrases “fake news” and “it’s all a witch hunt” are commonplace.

The violence that seems to define who Americans are these days is also there, particularly in Florida, where there has been no justice for the five transgender women of color who were murdered and yet another mass shooting—this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla.—pulled the focus of the world to our state.

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