Cutler’s Caucus: Blue No Matter Who

By : Dave Cutler
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Every election is important, from choosing your local city council or commission all the way up to selecting the president of the United States.

This election is the most important in the last 100 years of our nation, however, if not in the country’s entire history. That’s because Donald Trump and his administration have systematically undone or threatened all of the progress made under President Obama for LGBTQ Americans.

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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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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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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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Rep. Jennifer Webb launches re-election campaign

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Rep. Jennifer Webb welcomes supporters to the Historic Peninsula Inn Sept. 24. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.

Gulfport, Fla. | Rep. Jennifer Webb officially launched her re-election campaign for Florida House District 69 on Sept. 24 at the Historic Peninsula Inn.

Webb became the first openly LGBTQ woman elected to the state legislature in 2018, where she currently serves as Democratic Deputy Whip. Her district includes 12 cities throughout Gulfport, Pinellas Park, St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg and more.

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Tampa Bay lawmakers lead fight for statewide LGBTQ protections

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Sen. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg.) Graphic via Equality Florida.

ST. PETERSBURG | Equality Florida announced Aug. 28 that Tampa Bay lawmakers intend to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) with bipartisan support in 2020, extending statewide civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community.

The FCWA prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations. It would amend the Florida statute currently prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex national origin, age, handicap and marital status.

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Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones endorsed by Equality Florida Action PAC for state Senate District 35

By : Jeremy Williams
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Equality Florida Action PAC announced July 25 that it would be endorsing Florida Rep. Shevrin Jones for the state’s District 35 Senate seat in the 2020 election.

Jones, who is openly gay, would become Florida’s first openly-LGBTQ state senator if elected.

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The Other Side Of Life: Hashtag Amity

By : Jason LeClerc
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I was recently honored to be a guest of Pulse founder Barbara Poma for an intimate talk and tour of the interim #PulseMemorial organized by Equality Florida. As regular readers of this column know, I’m Watermark’s token conservative columnist: a red soul in a sea of blue, even as I have advocated for a just-right-of-center, nuanced approach to political discourse that I call Radical Centrism.

Arguing from a position of empathy and fact-driven rationality in favor of such positions as climate change resiliency, justifiable local taxation and the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, I have riled members of my own Party. In the age of Trump, I’ve become a bit of a #RINOsaur. While there are members of the current Republican power structure who are ready to revoke my membership card for some of my #RadicalCentrist positions, my attendance of an Equality Florida event would likely push them further toward apoplexy.

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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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Equality Florida urges lawmakers to pass FCWA ahead of SCOTUS decision on LGBTQ rights

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | With the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)poised to determine if federal law bars anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Equality Florida is urging lawmakers to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) to protect LGBTQ Floridians.

Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community, has long supported the FCWA. It would amend the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 to add sexual orientation and gender identity, extendingstatewide housing, employment and public accommodation protections to the LGBTQ community.

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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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Equality Florida highlights 2018’s statewide legislative battles

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida

Tallahassee, fla. | Equality Florida has released a highlight of the battles fought on behalf of the LGBTQ community during Florida’s 2018 legislative session.

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