PHOTOS: Equality Florida’s 2020 Tampa Gala

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Equality Florida welcomed supporters to Armature Works Feb. 21 for its annual Tampa Gala, outlining its statewide fight for equality.

The gathering featured silent and live auctions benefiting the organization’s efforts and honored activists Don Murray and Wayne Spiwak. The two have spent their 29 years together fighting for LGBTQ rights and years ago became the first same-sex couple to adopt in Florida.

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Equality Shuffle & LGBTQ+ Youth Art Show

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Mark your calendar and join us for the Equality Shuffle and LGBTQ+ Youth Art Show on Sunday, February 23rd from noon-3pm at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Courts. The event is free and open to the public.

This is a great opportunity for our members, supporters of equality, and the Tampa Bay community to learn about the work of securing LGBTQ equality in Florida and enjoy an afternoon playing shuffleboard.

As part of this event we are proud to host the Equality Florida LGBTQ+ Youth Art Show. This is a chance for young LGBTQ+ individuals to express themselves through art. If you know of any LGBTQ+ youth that would be interested in participating, please encourage them to be part of this event.

The Equality Florida LGBTQ+ Youth Art Show is a platform to showcase and celebrate young LGBTQ+ artists. We want them to feel safe to express who they are through their art and in their life.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, Equality Florida committed to honor the victims with action. We launched our Safe and Healthy Schools Program that is aimed to end LGBTQ bias where it begins, with our youth. By helping our schools and educators create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth, students feel welcomed, supported and can thrive.

The theme of the show is “Safe” and artists will interpret it through a LGBTQ+ youth lens. Artists will explore topics such as… What does being safe mean to you? When do you feel safe to be who you are? What is your safe place? Is your safe place a location, person or activity? How can those around you make you feel more safe?

Call for Artists: If you are LGBTQ+ and 21 or under, we invite you to submit your art to be included in this special event. Deadline to submit art is February 12, 2020. For details, visit https://forms.gle/H3L9knmvtfxGS25u8 or contact Jennie O’Leary, Equality Florida St. Petersburg Steering Committee Chari at eqfljennie@gmail.com.

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Diversity Arts, Florida CraftArt, Gobioff Foundation, Mainframe Real Estate and The St. Petersburg Celebration for the Arts

Pasco Pride seeks countywide Human Rights Ordinance

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Pasco County, Fla. | Pasco Pride has launched a concentrated effort to enact a Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) in Pasco County to protect LGBTQ residents from discrimination.

The organization held its second annual festival last October. It exists to strengthen and support Pasco County’s growing LGBTQ community and sees the passage of a countywide HRO as an extension of that mission.

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Watermark’s Most Eligible Singles 2020: Michael Womack

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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AGE: 25

BORN IN: Tampa, Florida

IDENTIFIES AS: Gay male

PRONOUNS: He/Him/His

SIGN: Capricorn

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Watermark’s Most Eligible Singles 2020: Brandon Wolf

By : Jeremy Williams
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AGE: 31

BORN IN: Portland, Oregon

IDENTIFIES AS: Gay male

PRONOUNS: He/ him/ his

SIGN: Leo

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LGBTQ+ Free Youth Art Workshop

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LGBTQ+ youth throughout the Tampa Bay area are invited to attend a free art workshop where they will create a multi-media collage piece. The workshop will be led by artist, John Gascot of Diversity Arts. Pieces will then be featured at the upcoming Equality Florida LGBTQ+ Art Show.

Limited number of spots available. To attend the workshop, please sign up here (https://forms.gle/kEZYNXA2RZwa3aVG6).

The Equality Florida LGBTQ+ Youth Art Show is a platform to showcase and celebrate young LGBTQ+ artists. We want them to feel safe to express who they are through their art and in their life.

The theme of the show is “Safe” and artists will interpret it through a LGBTQ+ youth lens. Artists will explore topics such as… What does being safe mean to you? When do you feel safe to be who you are? What is your safe place? Is your safe place a location, person or activity? How can those around you make you feel more safe?

The show will be displayed at the Equality Shuffle on Sunday, February 23rd from Noon to 3pm at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Courts located at 559 Mirror Lake Dr N, Saint Petersburg, Florida 33701.

Thank You to Our Sponsors: Diversity Arts, Florida CraftArt, Gobioff Foundation, Mainframe Real Estate and The St. Petersburg Celebration for the Arts

Anti-LGBTQ bill attacking local employment protections advances in Florida House

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: State Rep. Bob Rommel’s HB 305 looks to strip local LGBTQ employment protections. (Photo from Rommel’s Facebook)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | A bill looking to remove local LGBTQ protections in employment across the state cleared a hurdle Jan. 28 as the Florida House Subcommittee on Local, Federal and Veterans Affairs voted down party lines to move State Rep. Bob Rommel’s HB 305 to its final committee.

By a vote of 10-5, the committee advanced the “Preemptions of Conditions of Employment” bill, which would repeal protections that currently protect nearly 60% of the state’s population from employers discriminating against a person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Equality Florida seeks LGBTQ youth for workshop, art show

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Equality Florida has announced two opportunities for young LGBTQ artists to showcase their talents.

“In the wake of the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, Equality Florida committed to honor the victims with action,” the organization shared. “Our Safe and Healthy Schools Program is aimed to end LGBTQ bias where it begins, in our schools. By helping our schools and educators create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth, students feel welcomed, supported and can thrive.”

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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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Ashley Figueroa, Project Manager, Bliss CARES

By : Maggie L. King, Director of Development and Community Relations, Bliss CARES
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If you knew Ashley, like I know Ashley you would know that… Ashley Figueroa is an open and proud Latina American transgender woman.

The day that I met Ashley, I knew that she was a force to be reckoned with. Almost instantly, I knew that she was kind, compassionate, and intelligent and had a great sense of humor. Her compassion for others is what really makes her stand out. Because of her displayed strong leadership abilities, she was a natural fit for Bliss Cares.

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Florida advocacy groups, nonprofits file brief urging appeal court to protect HROs

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Two women were denied access to Rachel’s Orlando because they were not accompanied by a man. (Image from Google Maps)

ORLANDO | Equality Florida, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and The Impact Fund led a coalition of statewide civil rights groups and nonprofit organizations in filing an amicus brief Dec. 17 urging Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal to reverse a trial court ruling against Orange County’s Human Rights Ordinance (HRO).

The brief requests the court to reverse the ruling in Yanes v. O C Food and Beverage, LLC. The sex discrimination lawsuit alleged Orlando resident Brittney Smith and friend Anita Yanes were denied access to Rachel’s Orlando, a local business described on its website as a “World Class Men’s Club & Steak House,” in February 2018 because they did not have a male to escort them in. According to the lawsuit, Rachel’s policy requires women to be accompanied by a male companion which the brief says violates Orange County’s HRO.

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The Last Page: Karen Atwood

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The Last Page is dedicated to individuals who are making a positive impact on the LGBTQ community in Central Florida and Tampa Bay.

This issue, we check in with Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers owner Karen Atwood from Sarasota. Keep an eye on this space to learn more about the movers and shakers of your community.

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