St. Pete Pride Lets the Public Choose Its Grand Marshal

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A court Grand Marshal is nominated, a NASCAR Grand Marshal is chosen, but for the St. Pete Pride Carnavale, the public will vote for three of them.

From now through May 1, anyone can visit and vote for one female, one male and one organization, respectively, as Grand Marshals for the 2013 St. Pete Pride Carnavale Promenade.

“In the past, Grand Marshals were decided by a small group from within the community much like other parades,” says Eric Skains, St. Pete Pride’s executive director. This is the first year that the community, as individuals, can vote for Grand Marshals.

According to the St. Pete Pride website, “Individuals and organizations nominated for Grand Marshal have made significant achievements for LGBT rights and have made considerable contributions to the LGBT community at large.”

The Grand Marshals will be announced at a special event on May 18, and the Pride Carnivale will be from June 26 to June 30. See the nominees below and vote online at


ReneeCossetteRenee Cossette - Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

Cossette has been the festival director for the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival for the last 9 years. Her love of film and the audience experience is what has driven her to spread the message of TIGLFF, which is to entertain, empower and enlighten the local community through film.

She is also the administrator of the Tampa Bay Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, formerly known as the Tampa Bay Business Guild. She has been in this role for 9 years, helping to provide an environment for business owners and local organizations on both sides of Tampa Bay, to build a community based on shared goals, friendship and trust. “Our diverse membership defines gay friendly”.

Renee and Kathie Michael, her life partner of 12 years, share their home with their cat Thelma and their dog Ivy.

SharonHermanSharon Herman - LGBT Contributor

Herman’s investment firm, Silver Key Wealth Management, is the only investment firm in the U.S. to be accredited by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and to have an ADPA (Accredited Domestic Partner Advisor) accredited financial advisor.

Sharon is involved in her community, belonging to the Working Women of Tampa Bay, the Good Old Girls Network, Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Tampa Bay Business Guild, and the Tampa Seminole Club. She has been a financial advisor since 2002, and holds a series 7, 63, 66, Life/Health/Annuity licenses.

SusanMcGrathSusan McGrath - Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas

McGrath is the president of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas, an organization that helps elect pro-equality candidates from the local races all the way to Washington.

Locally, the Stonewall Democrats were instrumental in the elections of two openly gay Pinellas pioneers: St. Petersburg City Councilman Steve Kornell and Largo Commissioner Michael Smith. Kornell was the first openly LGBT elected official in Pinellas County and Smith defeated a long time anti-equality incumbent who gained national notoriety in the firing of transitioning city manager Susan Stanton.

Nationally, Susan was an organizing fellow for President Obama’s 2012 campaign and was elected a delegate representing the LGBT community at the national convention in Charlotte.


MarkCarrieMark Bias and Carrie West - LGBT community activists

Bias and West, partners of 35 years, met in Minneapolis before moving to Tampa in 1980 to attend the University of South Florida. Carrie is an Air Force Military Canine Police Veteran and received degrees in TV Communications & Political Science/Public Administration. Mark, nickname “Tea Cup,” is honorary bartender at multiple venues throughout Tampa and received his degree in Drafting and Architecture Building Design.

Both have been lifelong activists in human and gay rights and involved in political and community activism. Women’s World Magazine named the couple “Honorary Lesbians” for their work within the community.

Organizations the couple has been a part of include: MCC Tampa; National Lesbian & Gay Journal Association; National Lambda Car Club; Flamingo Auto Group (FAG); and the National Marine Safety Council. Both were founding members of the Tampa GLBT Community Center, St. Pete Pride, GaYBOR District Coalition, MC Arts Foundation, and Tampa Gay Video & Pride Store MC Film Festival.

MichaelKeeffeMichael Keeffe - Trans*Action Florida

Keeffe has been the executive director of Trans*Action Florida (formerly known as Transgender FORGE) since November 2009. Michael is a lifelong resident of Tampa Bay and currently resides in Pinellas County. He is dedicated to working for equality and human rights for all people, especially the transgender community.

Keefe “came out” as transgender in 2007 in a newspaper article concerning the Susan Stanton case. He had not yet begun his physical transition process and the newspaper interview was his catalyst for change. Over the next year he would lose his career, his family and his home. Keeffe’s passion for advocacy stems from his personal experiences with discrimination and social injustice.

Under Keeffe’s leadership, Trans*Action Florida has worked with the Florida DMV to remove the surgical requirement from policies concerning gender marker changes on identification cards and driver licenses. Trans*Action was also instrumental in recent changes to the Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board’s decision to add gender identity to their policies, creating specific protocol on how to accommodate transgender persons in homeless shelters. In addition, Trans*Action provides training and advisement to other organizations concerning gender identity policies.

SteveBlanchardSteve Blanchard - Watermark Magazine

Blanchard became the editor of Watermark Newsmagazine in the summer of 2009. He first started at the statewide LGBT publication in 2005 as a freelance contributor and eventually became a staff writer before he was promoted to Tampa Bay Bureau Chief.

A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in communications, Blanchard began his professional writing career even before he graduated college, working as a sports reporter in a small, mid-Missouri town. When he and his partner, Phil, moved to Florida in 2000, he continued his journalism career at the Sun Newspapers located in Port Charlotte Florida. It wasn’t until he moved to Pinellas County in 2004 that Steve found interest in covering LGBT news and issues.

In 2008, he and his partner were one of 18,000 same-sex couples to be legally married in the state of California and in 2012, the couple registered as domestic partners in the City of St. Petersburg, and plan to also register with Pinellas County later this year. Outside of his work with Watermark, Blanchard is a fitness enthusiast and an animal lover. He lives with his partner of 15 years and their five dogs in St. Petersburg.


ASAPAIDS Service Association of Pinellas

AIDS Service Association of Pinellas is an AIDS Service Organization providing comprehensive HIV services since 1987. ASAP has served thousands of individuals living with HIV or AIDS. In addition to those on-going services, they also provide prevention education, free HIV testing, a children’s program and other support services to the HIV affected population in Pinellas and surrounding counties.

MetroMetro Wellness & Community Centers

Metro Wellness and Community Centers was founded as Metropolitan Charities by King of Peace MCC in 1993. This year, the organization celebrates its 20th year of service in the Tampa Bay Community. What started as an effort to assist those suffering from HIV/AIDS in Pinellas County has grown into a thriving beacon of service and education to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and a hub of activity for the LGBT community across the Tampa Bay area.

Metro Wellness and Community Centers, a 501(c)(3) organization, is committed to providing premier HIV services, social networking, and other health and wellness programs that enhance the quality of life. Today, the organization serves an average of 8,000 clients each year.

pflagPFLAG Tampa

PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), is a national nonprofit that promotes the health and well-being of LGBT people, their families and friends through support, education and advocacy.

Recently, the ACLU has reached out to PFLAG Tampa to uncover problematic areas for transgender school-age youth, and to better understand these issues in order to assist them in set legal precedents.

PFLAG Tampa is staffed entirely by volunteers and started operating in Tampa Bay in August of 2011. It has quickly immersed itself in numerous educational and LGBT advocacy efforts in Tampa Bay. Dori Zinn

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