Top 5 Tampa Bay and Sarasota Stories of 2014

LGBT Welcome Center opens its doors
It has taken a full year, but Metro Wellness and Community Center opened its St. Petersburg LGBT Welcome Center at 2227 Central Ave. in 2014. With the official ribbon cutting Dec. 12, the year-long project was open and ready to welcome the LGBT community, special events and, probably most importantly, LGBT youth.

Hillsborough evolves on LGBT issues
This was a year of growth for Hillsborough County. The notoriously conservative county commission approved both a domestic partnership registry and an amendment to its human rights ordinance to protect gay and transgender residents. Gays and lesbians were protected from discrimination once before—in 1991—but a previous commission striped those protections in 1995. Even more shocking, yet extremely welcome, is both measures had the full support of the entire commission.

St. Pete Pride’s night parade sets record
History is certainly made at night, and St. Pete Pride’s first-ever night time parade did just that. More than 200,000 people attended the night parade the last weekend in June and nearly 40,000 returned the next day to celebrate the annual street festival. The parade also saw the first time a sitting St. Petersburg mayor marched in the parade when Rick Kriseman walked the seven-block route.

Edie Windsor speaks at St. Pete Gala
One of the most historical figures in modern LGBT history stopped in St. Petersburg this spring to lend her star-power to Equality Florida’s gala at the Mahaffey Theater. Edith Windsor, who in 2013, sued the federal government and convinced the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), spoke to the sold-out crowd. “You guys thank me. I thank you for a community that’s full of love and joy,” she said at the gala.

Tampa church cancels gay man’s funeral
The pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church made national headlines in 2014 when he canceled the already scheduled funeral of a gay man. Pastor T.W. Jenkins said he didn’t know that Julion Evans was gay until he saw the 42-year-old’s partner listed in an obituary. Since he saw the relationship as “blasphemous” he canceled the funeral—less than 24 hours before mourners were scheduled to arrive at the church in August.

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