Joe Saunders, who along with David Richardson, became the first openly gay member of the Florida Legislature in 2012, is rejoining Equality Florida as its new senior political director.
In his new position, Saunders will lead the organization’s civic engagement programs, pro-LGBTQ mobilization efforts, and electoral programs.
“I can’t think of a more important place to be in 2018 than Florida,” Saunders said in a statement. “Florida is poised to be the first breakthrough Southern state in the work to ensure LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination. As the largest swing state in the country, Florida will hold a defining role in the national response to the politics of Washington, and we have hugely important races for U.S. Senate, Governor, Congress and a chance to reshape our state legislature. My time working nationally has reinforced for me that Equality Florida is one of the smartest and most capable LGBTQ organizations doing this work. I’m excited to be back.”
Richardson previously served nearly a decade as Equality’s field director before making history when he won an east Orlando seat in the Florida House of Representatives in 2012, concurrently with Miami Beach’s Richardson, making them both become the first openly elected Floridians to the legislature ever.
“Joe Saunders is a proven LGBTQ and progressive leader who brings an incredible wealth of skill, knowledge and talent to our work,” said Equality Florida Deputy Director and EQFL PAC Chair Stratton Pollitzer. “We stand at the edge of incredible opportunity for progress even as we see new and emboldened attacks coming from Washington and some leaders in our state Capitol. Under Joe’s leadership, Equality Florida stands ready to hold elected leaders accountable at the ballot and to lift up those who stand on the right side of history.”
Equality Florida was hopeful that this past legislative session would have passed the “Competitive Workforce Act, ” which would have treated sexual orientation and gender identity as similar to race, sex and religion in the state’s civil rights laws. The law would prohibit an employer from being able to fire or refuse to hire someone because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Businesses like hotels, restaurants, and shops could not turn LGBT people away, and landlords could not reject a renter’s application.
The bill had picked up significant Republican support, but still ultimately died in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.