The push for equality continues

ABOVE: Eunic Ortiz. Photo courtesy Ortiz.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Florida’s government has signed into law explicitly anti-LGBTQ legislation legalizing discrimination – a bill that bans trans kids from playing sports. It was signed on the first day of Pride this year.

Just a few days later, Florida’s governor eliminated nearly one million dollars in funding for programs which serve the LGBTQ community in Florida. Among the budget cuts was a program that would bring mental health services to survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting.

And to continue his crusade against the LGBTQ community, the DeSantis administration initially denied permits for rainbow light displays in honor of Pride month on bridges in cities across the state.

If it wasn’t obvious before, it certainly is now: cruelty has always been the point. It is 2021. Lawmakers must stop playing politics with our lives and start governing to make our lives better.

Floridians faced real challenges in 2020. Amidst a pandemic, we saw the broken infrastructure of our unemployment system and what happens when leaders do not have a plan in place to provide adequate access to healthcare. And instead of responding to the real concerns we had in front of us, the DeSantis administration and Republican lawmakers decided it was better to suppress and restrict voting rights, criminalize peaceful protest and prioritize bills that make it harder for Floridians to get by.

All of this happened just in the last 12 months – and I felt compelled to serve my community in a new way by running to be the leader we need in Tallahassee. That’s why I am running for Florida’s State Senate.

As a lesbian who grew up in Pinellas County, I can’t think of a better place where I would want to serve. I first learned to stand up for my rights and my community as a student at Tarpon Springs High School, where I was a member of the school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance, and I carried that work forward into my career.

I graduated at the height of the 2008 recession. Like many, I found myself grappling to find a job. This led me to the tough decision to leave home for a work opportunity and then eventually into government and community activism in New York City.

One of my proudest achievements during my time there was bringing together nearly 40 organizations from across the city to speak with its Department of Health about healthcare access for the LGBTQ community. It was the first time these organizations and the government sat down in a room together to talk, and more importantly, to listen.

We made a real impact: together, we were able to change archaic, discriminatory policy and start the path that would guarantee equal access to healthcare for all LGBTQ New Yorkers – regardless of their race and where they lived.

My career in government, activism and labor has shown me that when people from different backgrounds come together, listen to each other and work collectively for a better life, we have the power to make real change.

If elected, I would be the first lesbian woman in the Florida Senate. I would also be the only Hispanic elected official in Pinellas County. The historic nature of my candidacy highlights the fact that in 2021, LGBTQ representation in our government is weak, at best. The priorities of Florida’s senators this year shows us why representation is absolutely necessary.

For those of us who identify as LGBTQ, we know the feeling of someone looking at us and thinking we are less than simply for who we love or our gender identity. I know I will face that from competition who not only see me and my family as less, but by those who see our community that way – and those who believe candidates like me have no place in government. We need representation that looks like us in Tallahassee to ensure our state’s future reflects what we deserve.

Like many others, I felt compelled to do something after feeling so disillusioned watching what was unfolding. There is a lack of representation, decency and empathy in our state legislature, and I am hoping to change that.

All Floridians, regardless of our race, gender identity, who we love, or what county we happen to live in, deserve representation in Tallahassee that puts the people first. Lawmakers must stop with the attention seeking tactics and get back to the work at hand: making Florida a state where we all have the opportunity to thrive.

Eunic Ortiz is a candidate for Florida’s state Senate. She has spent the last 13 years working with government and labor and advocating for communities. She grew up and currently lives in Pinellas County. For more information about her campaign, visit

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