This week I talked with Nadine Smith, co-founder and CEO of Equality Florida about the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre that left 49 dead and many critically injured last month in Orlando, Florida. Since this mass murder occurred Equality Florida has established an online fundraiser for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that has raised over $7M from over 117,000 contributors and 120 countries. With recent terrorist attacks in Nice, France and tragic deadly shooting in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana we must ensure that our LGBT community is not forgotten in these times of such atrocities. During the current Republican National Convention references were made to both Dallas and Baton Rouge but not a word was uttered about the Pulse Nightclub Massacre. Though this isn't surprising since the Republican National Convention is likely to ratify what has been described as the most anti LGBTQ platform in its history endorsing so-called conversion therapy, calling for the ban of marriage equality, rejects LGBTQ families and bans transgender and gender non-conforming people from using restrooms that match their gender identity. I talked to Nadine about moving forward after the Pulse Nightclub Massacre and her spin on our LGBT issues.
When asked what she would like to see happen for LGBT equality in the next few years Smith stated:
I think there are two arenas that we really have to focus on. One of them is ending workplace discrimination because it really is a battle not only about the actual discrimination people experience but it's a battle about naming and acknowledging the existence of the LGBT community. The far right when they oppose us at every turn what they're really saying is we don't want the state and we don't want the laws to acknowledge you as actual people. We think that you don't really exist, you just need what God we worship, you just need whatever psychological analyses we provide. We don't believe LGBT people exist and every time a law passes that says you do exist and that you deserve dignity, it undermines their worldview. They think we shouldn't exist and if we say we do exist we should be forced to hide and if we don't hide successfully, violence or discrimination befalls us, then that's just the way things ought to be, to drive us back in the closet. So that is the worldview that drives them to oppose even anti bullying laws in our schools. The work of ending discrimination is certainly about protecting people from losing their jobs or even living in a world where we fear that at any moment discrimination is possible. Will I be denied access to that restaurant; will I be denied this job; will I be harassed trying to get a hotel room? But it is also about addressing the basic recognition and dignity of our lives. The other area that I think should be at the top of our agenda if we're going to uproot the hatred and fear is at the core of this discrimination and violence we have to focus on schools. We have to stop having the lowest bar possible which is students who go to school should not be physically assaulted, verbally abused and emotionally terrorized. That's the least our schools should be. That should not be the highest we aspire to. We should create learning environments where dignity and respect of difference is built in. Where LGBT young people cannot only just go and expect not to be harassed, but can go and expect to thrive and there are models for it and we need the investment in it now.
Nadine Smith is also a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Florida Advisory Committee, a Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee and served on President Obama's National Finance Committee. She was named one of the state's "Most Powerful and Influential Women" by the Florida Diversity Council in 2013. Nadine was also given the 2016 League of Women Voters Woman of Distinction Award earlier this year. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with her wife Andrea and son Logan.
For More Info: eqfl.org