Since taking office as commissioner for the Florida Department of Agriculture, Nikki Fried (D) has made numerous moves backing LGBTQ issues while receiving praise from Equality Florida.

Equality Florida, created in 1997, is described as a “civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community.” The group takes action in Florida through the Equality Florida Institute, Inc. a 501(c)3 and Equality Florida Action, Inc. 501(c)4.

During the 2018 election cycle, the Equality Florida Action PAC spent approximately $345,000 supporting progressive candidates and LGBTQ issues, including a $25,000 donation to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum (D). The group also endorsed Gillum in his race against Ron DeSantis (R).

Fried’s relationship with Equality Florida has grown closer since she took office, receiving its praise in 2019 when she took action to add “protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. These critical protections both affirm the equality of LGBTQ employees and provide the agency with clear guidance on equitable practices in hiring, firing, and management.”

Just a few months after, Fried also announced the establishment of the first “LGBTQ Consumer Advocate” within the Department of Agriculture designed to raise “awareness on opportunities within the agriculture industry, and helping address discrimination and fraud targeted at the LGBTQ community.”

Equality Florida’s Executive Director Nadine Smith joined the official announcement and press release for the new position saying Fried “made history.”

“Commissioner Fried has made history and 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 Smith. “Now is the time for Florida to lead the South by updating our civil rights laws and redeeming a history of anti-LGBT discrimination.”

By the end of 2019, Fried was already awarded the group’s “Voice for Equality Award” at the group’s annual gala. Smith regarded the award as Equality Florida’s “highest honor.”

Most recently, Fried took previously posted anti-bullying resources from the Florida Department of Education website, which were removed after being deemed to be left-wing advocacy, and posted them to the Florida Department of Agriculture site.

While the landing page on Department of Agriculture site provides various anti-bullying resources, the heading of the site designates the links as being categorized as “LGBTQ+.” One of the links specifically directs the user to Equality Florida’s “LGBTQ+ Safe & Healthy Schools Project.”

Equality Florida took to Twitter and once again thanked Fried for her prioritization of “LGBTQ youth.”

“Thank you, Commissioner,” Equality Florida said. “While the DeSantis administration puts an exclamation point on their bigotry by removing LGBTQ-specific resources, we can’t lose sight of whose lives are at stake: LGBTQ youth. And do everything we can to protect them.”

An endorsement from Equality Florida in the 2022 election would be helpful to the financial and electoral fortunes of Fried’s campaign for Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

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Grant Holcomb is a reporter at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Photo “Nikki Fried” by Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Background Photo “Equality Florida” by Equality Florida.