Florida shuts down bars and clubs for 30-day period

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all nightclubs and bars across the state will close for 30 days beginning March 17 in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

“We know the people who are the most vulnerable,” DeSantis said during a press conference. “We have done a lot to try to help with that, the younger folks are going to be key to that [and] we hope this will reduce gathering in large numbers.”

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Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus brings winter conference to Orlando

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: President Stephen Gaskill (2nd from L) and members of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus with state Rep. Amy Mercado (3rd from L) during Lobby Days this year in Tallahassee. (Photo from Caucus’ Twitter)

ORLANDO | With less than two weeks until the state’s presidential primary, the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus will gather at the Marriott Orlando Airport Lakeside Hotel in Orlando for its 2020 winter conference March 6-8.

Themed “All in to Win in 2020,” the caucus hopes to stoke excitement among Florida Democrats in a pivotal area of a battleground swing state.

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Central Florida and Tampa Bay survivors of conversion therapy tell their stories

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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It’s been 46 years since the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses, yet the pseudoscientific practice known as “conversion therapy,” as well as other socio-religious theories intended to change homosexuals into heterosexuals still exist.

The American Medical Association says plainly that the theories behind the ideas that sexual orientation and gender identity are malleable are “not based on medical and scientific evidence.” They go on to assert that conversion therapy and other similar practices can cause “significant psychological distress,” including increased rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

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Patty Sheehan re-elected for sixth term to Orlando City Council after opponent withdraws

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: Commissioner Patty Sheehan. (from her Facebook page)

ORLANDO | Patty Sheehan was re-elected for her sixth term as Orlando City Commissioner for District 4 after her opponent dropped out of the race.

Sheehan is the first openly gay elected official in Central Florida, first being elected to the Orlando City Council in 2000.

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Come Out With Pride to go eco-friendly for festival and parade

By : Jeremy Williams
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Come Out With Pride will have a lot of the same things that you have come to expect over the last 15 years since the parade and festival have been held in and around Lake Eola. Food vendors, parade floats, live entertainment, fireworks and thousands upon thousands of attendees.

Some things you won’t see this year—or any upcoming years—will be single-use plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene foam single-use food containers. This is because the Orlando City Commission voted unanimously to ban these items from all city properties back in June.

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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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PHOTOS: Watermark celebrates its 25th anniversary in Central Florida

By : Jeremy Williams
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Watermark celebrated its 25th anniversary in Central Florida Aug. 23 with an event at the Orlando Museum of Art in Orlando.

The event featured a blessing from the Central Florida chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, as well as city and county proclamations. Mayor Jerry Demings was on hand to read the Orange County proclamation and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan read the proclamation form the City of Orlando.

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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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‘Sweet Dreams’ raises $71K for Bliss CARES

By : Jeremy Williams
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Bliss CARES had a successful night at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Orlando on July 13 with its inaugural “Sweet Dreams: Dancing for TRANSitional Housing” fundraiser.

The event — which partnered 11 amateur dancers, all LGBTQ community leaders in Central Florida, with professional dancers for a night of fast-paced, fancy footwork — raised $71,344, which will go towards creating semi-permanent housing for the transgender and gender nonconforming communities where they can have access to health services, life skills and career counseling to prepare them to live on their own in their own safe space.

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Central Florida LGBTQ pioneer Joel Strack passes away at age 59

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: Joel Strack at his celebration of life at Leu Gardens in Orlando June 23. (Photo by J.D. Casto)

ORLANDO | Joel Strack—an LGBTQ leader, activist and pioneer in Central Florida’s fight for equality— passed away in the early morning hours of July 15. He was 59.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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PHOTOS: Central Florida LGBTQ trailblazer Joel Strack honored with proclamation from City of Orlando

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Joel Strack has been an out and proud leader, activist and trailblazer in the Central Florida LGBTQ community for over 40 years.

Strack was instrumental in launching what would become known as Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom, helped create Orlando’s first Pride parade and assisted in founding both the Orlando Gay Chorus and the Gay and Lesbian History Museum.

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Orlando bans single-use plastics, foam on city properties

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Former Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor and environmental activist Eric Rollings says he was beside himself with joy when the Orlando City Commission voted unanimously to ban plastic straws, plastic bags and polystyrene single-use containers in the city of Orlando on all its properties.

“I was just one giant goosebump seeing it actually happen,” Rollings says with a smile.

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