Joe Saunders, Senior Political Director
As Equality Florida’s Senior Political Director, Joe leads the policy and political programs for the country’s largest state-based LGBTQ rights organization.
An award-winning progressive leader, Joe’s skills live at the intersection of strategic communications, policy, elections and movement building.
A student of the movement for LGBTQ rights, Joe began his career in progressive politics as an activist at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Since then he has led ballot measure campaigns to preserve LGBTQ protections, won local policy campaigns protecting millions of Floridians from discrimination, and held senior roles in the fight to win marriage equality in FL. In 2012, Joe was elected to the Florida House of Representatives becoming the first LGBTQ state lawmaker in Florida to take the oath of office. As a state representative, Joe served as the lead sponsor of the “Competitive Workforce Act”, legislation that would finally ban discrimination against LGBTQ Floridians.
Following his tenure in the Florida House, Saunders joined the staff of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. In this role he managed legislative and election programs in fourteen states, holding leadership positions in civil rights campaigns across the Southern U.S. In 2016, Joe served on the leadership team for the Turn Out North Carolina coalition, the successful effort in North Carolina to defeat anti-LGBTQ incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory - a champion of the notoriously anti-LGBTQ HB 2. In 2017, Joe worked across the pond as the Director of GOTV Programs for U.K. Parliament candidate Simon Hughes - a former United Kingdom Minister of Justice and openly LGBT candidate.
A nationally recognized progressive leader and strategist, in 2016 Joe was honored by Out Magazine as part of the “Out 100” list of national LGBTQ leaders and is a regular commentator in national and state press outlets