Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Thursday appointed Nik Harris as her LGBTQ Consumer Advocate — a first for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Harris, an attorney, “will serve as the Department’s liaison to Florida’s LGBTQ community, raising awareness on opportunities within the agriculture industry, and helping address discrimination and fraud targeted at the LGBTQ community,” a press release said.
“Historically, the State of Florida has turned a blind eye to discrimination against our LGBTQ community – but today is a new day in our state,” Fried said in a statement.
The appointment follows Fried’s becoming the first member of the Florida Cabinet to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity workplace discrimination protections shortly after taking office in January.
“We’re building a Department that represents all Floridians, and it’s paramount that LGBTQ Floridians have a voice in defending their safety, economic security, and well-being,” she added. “I’m pleased to have Nik Harris as our LGBTQ Consumer Advocate, helping safeguard consumer rights within this underserved community.”
Harris has been a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ community and equality and diversity, serving as a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee of The Florida Bar, and has been involved with the Human Rights Campaign as a member of the Board of Governors, Chair of the Steering Committee in South Florida, a National Community Engagement Co-Chair, and a Women & Leadership Fellow.
Harris has also been a member of the Dolphin Democrats’ Board of Directors and a LGBTA Democratic Caucus member.
Harris most recently served as Senior Attorney at the Florida Department of Transportation, and previously served as Assistant General Counsel at FDOT and as Claims Administration Director for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority.
Before that, Harris was in the Department of Health’s Prosecution Services Unit as an Assistant General Counsel, responsible for litigating administrative cases before the Department of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).
Fried “has sent a strong message that Florida is open to all – that every consumer, resident, and visitor should be treated fairly, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “Now is the time for Florida to lead the South by updating our civil rights laws and redeeming a history of anti-LGBT discrimination.”
“I am thrilled that we now have an LGBTQ consumer advocate that will look out for our community’s best interests, and thank you, Commissioner Fried, for making certain that the LGBT community is included and represented,” added Tony Lima, Executive Director of SAVE, South Florida’s “longest serving organization dedicated to protecting (LGBTQ) people against discrimination.”