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Equality Florida is a political advocacy group which advocates for civil rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents of the U.S. state of Florida. It has a non-profit arm, "Equality Florida Institute." It was established in 1997 and has been headed since inception by executive director Nadine Smith. Smith, a former award-winning journalist at the Tampa Tribune, served as one of the four national co-chairs on the 1993 March on Washington.[1][2] After graduating high school, Smith attended the Air Force Academy, but left after the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy in 1993.[2]Smith began her role as an activist in college, 1986, and went on to serve on the founding board of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation. Smith also led the movement to enact the St. Petersburg Human Rights Ordinance which was passed in January 2002. This law originally protected those who resided in St. Petersburg, Florida from discrimination no matter their sexual orientation, and provided them with equal rights to public accommodation, housing, employment, and as of 2016, wage theft. Now this protection has expanded to all of Pinellas County.

Equality Florida
Equality Florida Logo.png
Map of USA FL.svg
U.S. State of Florida
Motto"Securing Equality & Justice for Florida's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community"
TypeLGBT political advocacy
Area served
Key people
Nadine Smith, Executive Director
Stratton Pollitzer, Deputy Director
David Costa, Operations Director,
Michael Farmer, Statewide Deputy Development Director,
Hannah Willard, Public Policy Director
Carlos Guillermo Smith, Government Affairs Manager
Gina Duncan, Director of Transgender Equality
De Palazzo, Safe Schools Director

Equality Florida consists of two organizations: Equality Florida Institute (Educational Charity), and Equality Florida Action (Advocacy Organization).[3] The organization has chapters throughout Florida and actively works with other organizations to promote acceptance and change in the state. One example of such collaboration is with GLAAD. The two organizations have released an LGBTQ Guidebook for the state that it provides information covering current legislative efforts, personal stories, LGBTQ+ dialect, and a list of other organizations that both GLAAD and Equality Florida are affiliated with. Every year, Equality Florida fights against bills it views as discriminatory toward LGBT Floridians and launches pro-LGBT legislation. Equality Florida played a critical role in ending Florida's 33-year anti-gay adoption ban, as well as assisting in the passage of the 2008 Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act, an anti-bullying law that has resulted in protections from anti-LGBT bullying and harassment for students across the entire state.[1] Equality Florida deals with a range of issues including: discrimination, family recognition, hate crimes, and marriage. There is no state-wide law that prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people in Florida.[4] However, Equality Florida continues to stand up to hate crimes each time they occur. Equality Florida aims to ensure that hate crime victims are treated with dignity by local law enforcement, and prosecutors. Equality Florida also seeks to help make the marriage process as seamless as possible during the marriage license, waiting period, and the ceremony.



Equality Florida has chapters in Gainesville, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Pinellas, Jacksonville and Sarasota. Each chapter hosts its own annual gala to raise funds for the organization's advocacy actions.[5] The Institute arm also presents awards to local individuals who have contributed to advancing equality in the local or state areas.[6] The records of the Tampa Chapter of Equality Florida are held by the University of South Florida Special Collections Department and are available with unrestricted access for students and community users.[7]

Miami chapter: The Miami chapter is led by Miami development officer Jonathan Barrio. The Miami chapter holds an annual gala for Equality Florida. The National Center for Lesbian Rights and Equality Florida combined to file a lawsuit to challenge Florida's 2008 same-sex marriage ban. On January 5, 2015, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the ban that allowed for same sex marriage.[8]

Orlando chapter: The Orlando chapter has raised more than $9 million on their #HonorThemWithAction GoFundMe in honor of the victims of the Pulse shooting in 2016. Every dollar that was raised to honor the victims was donated. Since 2016, The Orlando chapter has continued to fight to get an anti-discrimination order signed. This order would protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation within the Florida government. [9]

Tallahassee chapter: The Tallahassee chapter is led by development officer Michelle Adams-Manning. Jon Harris Maurer is the Public Policy Director for Equality Florida in Tallahassee. The Tallahassee chapter holds an annual gala to celebrate leaders who make a difference in the LGBTQ community.[10] On November 20, 2018, Equality Florida held a vigil to recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance and Visibility to remember transgender and gender non-conforming individuals whose lives were taken because of transphobia.[11]

Pinellas chapter: The Pinellas chapter is led by development officer Todd Richardson. Esmé Rodríguez is the Pinellas Safe and Healthy Schools Coordinator for Equality Florida.[10]

Sarasota chapter: The Sarasota chapter coordinates many opportunities for community members to volunteer to support the LGBTQ community. These events include but are not limited to, Sarasota's Harvey Milk Festival and the 2018 Suncoast Celebration. They also contributed to the Sarasota Pride Festival in 2017. In 2016, Equality Sarasota gathered supporters for an event called Rally to End Hate to protest against Mike Pence's anti-LGBTQ campaign when he came to Sarasota.[12]

Gainesville chapter: The Gainesville chapter of Equality Florida is led by Susan Bottcher. Susan joined in the effort of defeating a local anti-transgender “bathroom ordinance” in place in Gainesville in 2009. Her efforts in this matter led to her introduction to Equality Florida and the work that is done by the organisation around the state. Susan serves on the Gainesville chapter of the Equality Florida Steering Committee, which plans the annual Gala that is held. Being a straight ally, Susan is fully aware that her support and advocacy surrounding the issue can help to amplify the issues and voices of her loved ones in the LGBTQ community. [13]

Key West chapter: The Key West chapter of Equality Florida is led by Babs Wade — the Development Associate. Babs has been residing on the island for 18 years, following a 20-year career in real estate in the UK. She was the area manager for one of the country's largest corporate estate agents. Babs has put most of her time here into travel and tourism, and has also volunteered and served on the board of the Key West Business Guild. The Key West Business Guild is the nation's very first LGBT destination marketing organization. [14]

Fort Lauderdale chapter: The Fort Lauderdale chapter of Equality Florida is led by Chris Rudisill — the Executive Director of Stonewall National Museum & Archives. Chris is dedicated to working to preserve, and share the proud culture, of the LGBTQ community. [15]

Tampa chapter: The Tampa chapter of Equality Florida is run by Development Director Mark Puskarich. Mark is a proud member of this organisation and works to raise support and awareness for the important work they do around the state. Before joining the organization full-time, Mark had served on Equality Florida's Tampa Gala Steering Committee in 2012, and as the vice chair and chair of the committees for both galas held in 2014 and 2015. Mark's duty as the Development Director for the organization is to manage Equality Florida's major fundraising programs, including membership, annual galas, corporate gifts, and legacy giving. [16]

The Tampa Chapter of Equality Florida has focused their work in several different areas since inception. They have been involved constantly in pushing pro-LGBT laws and legislation and defeating anti-LGBT initiatives. A selection of their activities follows:

  1. Adopt-A-Legislator
  2. Bay Area Youth Roundtables
  3. Citizens for a Fair Tampa
  4. Dignity for All Students Campaign (which later became the Jeffrey Johnson Stand Up for All Students Act)
  5. Tampa Bay Human Rights Ordinance
  6. St. Petersburg Human Rights Ordinance
  7. Equal Partners in Faith
  8. Florida Safe Schools Summit
  9. Unity Leadership Tampa Bay [7]

Jacksonville chapter: The Jacksonville chapter of Equality Florida is led by Dan VanTice. The passion that Dan has for politics became ignited while he was living in Washington D.C. — this passion for politics was particularly involved with LGBTQ rights. Some of the work for Equality Florida in Jacksonville that Dan has been involved with is serving as the Chair and Co-Chair of the Jacksonville Gala and hosting various events with his husband Brett. These events have included Equality Connections, Council Mixers, and Committee meetings. In an effort to gain support, and the eventual passage of the Human Rights Ordinance in Jacksonville, Dan has met with local politicians, small business owners, influential religious leaders, and corporate leaders. [17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Nadine Smith – Florida Chamber of Commerce". Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  2. ^ a b "Congressional Record: Recognizing the Contributions of Nadine Smith". Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  3. ^ "About Equality Florida: Who We Are".
  4. ^ "Discrimination".
  5. ^ "Upcoming Events".
  6. ^ "Equality Florida presents award to Times". Tampa Bay Times. February 26, 2012.
  7. ^ a b Arms, Kevin. "The Equality Florida Records". Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Newscaster Michael Putney will be honored at Equality Florida's Miami Gala | Equality Florida". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  9. ^ "Orlando faith leaders call on Rick Scott to sign anti-discrimination order - Florida Politics". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  10. ^ a b "Our Staff | Equality Florida". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  11. ^ "MEDIA RELEASE: Equality Florida's TransAction Network and Partners Honor Lives Lost on Transgender Day of Remembrance | Equality Florida". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  12. ^ "MEDIA ADVISORY: LGBTQ Advocates to Rally to End Hate as Mike Pence Campaigns in Sarasota | Equality Florida". Retrieved 2018-11-25.
  13. ^ "Our Board | Equality Florida".
  14. ^ "Our Staff | Equality Florida".
  15. ^ "Our Board | Equality Florida".
  16. ^ "Our Staff | Equality Florida".
  17. ^ "Our Board | Equality Florida".

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