#QUEERSOUTHERNSTORIES

Equality Florida and Broadening the Fight

The South is home to one in three LGBTQ people in the United States, and more than four in 10 LGBTQ people in the South are people of color. Contrary to stereotypes about the possibilities for political progress in the South, LGBTQ Southerners are often leading the way nationwide in innovative programming, organizing, and strategies to support their own communities and make meaningful change on their own terms. What can we learn from LGBTQ Southerners on building coalitions & nurturing community? MAP’s blog series on #QueerSouthernStories highlights the organizations featured in Telling a New Southern Story: LGBTQ Resilience, Resistance, and Leadership, amplifying the vital work already being done by advocates, activists, and community organizers in the region.

Equality Florida has not only been a leader for LGBTQ equality in Florida for more than 20 years — defeating every piece of anti-LGBTQ legislation filed in the state since 1997 — but has also been an active and vocal leader in statewide fights on matters of racial justice, reproductive rights, HIV nondiscrimination, protecting democracy, preventing gun violence, and much more.

The organization regularly speaks out about racial justice issues, ranging from police brutality and racial disparities in the criminal legal system to the epidemic of violence against transgender people, especially Black transgender women. In 2012, Equality Florida condemned the NRA’s Stand Your Ground law that was used to clear the man who shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, and the organization issued a Black Lives Matter statement when the movement was founded in the aftermath of Trayvon’s death.

In 2020, after another wave of killings of Black people by police departments and armed vigilantes around the country, Equality Florida hosted a virtual Black Lives Matter town hall with Black LGBTQ leaders. The organization also coordinated a movement-wide statement of nearly 800 LGBTQ groups condemning racial violence and white supremacy and committing to the work of ending racism “as integral to the objective of full equality for LGBTQ people.”

Equality Florida’s fundamental theory of change requires a functioning democracy, so that changed hearts and minds can lead to real policy advances. In 2010, the organization was part of the Fair Districts campaign to end gerrymandering. The slogan “Equality Begins With Fair Districts” drove its Field operations. More recently, in 2018, Equality Florida partnered with communities and organizations across the state in Florida’s recent and historic Amendment 4 effort to restore voting rights of more than 1.4 million Floridians, the vast majority of whom were Black and Latinx, who had been disenfranchised due to prior felony convictions.

In 2016, after a gunman took the lives of 49 people, mostly Latinx and Black LGBTQ people, at Pulse nightclub, Equality Florida also became a central figure in the fight for gun safety and anti-violence measures in the state. As part of the organization’s broader work toward racial equity and reducing violence, Equality Florida became a founding member of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, providing “support, resources, and strategic guidance to the new and growing movement of advocates for statewide change.”

In addition, Equality Florida has been a vocal leader on reproductive rights and the state’s outdated HIV criminalization laws that are not based in science, regularly discussing the connections between the movements for LGBTQ equality, HIV stigma, healthcare access, and economic justice.

According to Executive Director Nadine Smith:

Equality Florida understands that full equality for the LGBTQ community means ensuring we are equal in every aspect of our identities. It’s why we have been combating racism and been a pro-choice organization since our founding. We are committed to uprooting the forces of hatred and bigotry that continue to fuel violence and oppression because we understand what it means to stand up and push back against a culture that tells us we are less than, that our lives don’t matter.

Take Action

  • To learn more or to donate, visit www.eqfl.org.
  • We want to hear your #QueerSouthernStories! Use the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to celebrate some of your favorite photos, memories, or organizing tips for moving LGBTQ equality forward in Southern states! We’re impressed every day by the gorgeous community of organizers, activists, and storytellers who are here, queer, and ready to make change. We look forward to seeing your stories and amplifying!

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