Equality Florida's Nadine Smith warns LGBT supporters at Tampa Gala: "The backlash is real."

February 24, 2014

Written By: Mitch Perry

A jam-packed crowd of 450 attended Equality Florida's Tampa Gala at the Vault in downtown Tampa on Saturday night, where they were warned by CEO Nadine Smith that despite the enormous progress the LGBT community has enjoyed in Florida and the country in 2013, this is actually a "dangerous moment" for the movement.

The annual fundraiser was a festive affair filled with Tampa and Hillsborough County Democrats, and the drinks were flowing. The Vault is a spectacular setting; constructed in 1923 as the Exchange National Bank, the Franklin Street building was reopened as an event space last year and features floor-to-ceiling window walls and a second-floor mezzanine, where works of art were auctioned on Saturday to raise funds for the gay rights organization.

Among those Democrats were Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and five of the seven members of Tampa City Council, who were rewarded with EQFL's Voice of Equality Award for being named the number one Florida city on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipality Index.

But Nadine Smith's State of the State address brought a necessarily sobering tone to an otherwise joyous occasion.

She began by noting the most newsworthy events of the past year, including the news that Equality Florida, along with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, is teaming up with six same-sex couples in filing a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Sunshine State’s gay marriage ban.

Smith said that there has been "extraordinary progress" in seeking a statewide non-discrimination law in Florida (such ordinances exist in places like Tampa and St. Petersburg but not in Hillsborough County), and said "Florida leads the South in terms of support around the range of things that affect our lives."

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