Three Voice for Equality Honorees and an Equality Means Business Honoree

The Equality Florida St. Petersburg Gala is one of the most hotly-anticipated events on the Equality Florida calendar, and a turnout consisting of hundreds of LGBT rights activists and supporters always ensures that St. Pete’s gala night is one to remember all year long. Pleased by last year’s record-breaking fundraiser, the steering committee has once again chosen The StPete-Gala_copyMahaffey Theater (400 1st St. S., St. Petersburg) to be the venue for the gala. This year it will be held on Friday, May 29, from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., with PNC Bank as a presenting sponsor.

At the gala there will be hors d’oeuvres, catered from some of the most recognizable restaurants in St. Petersburg. There will also be multiple open bar stations throughout the theater. You will also notice a silent auction table, filled with fun luxury items, and the proceeds from these items will go straight to Equality Florida. Later in the evening there will be a live auction as well, and Equality Florida will benefit from the money raised from those bids.

Halfway through the night, there will be a State of the State address given by Equality Florida’s Chief Executive Officer Nadine Smith. In the speech, she will outline the momentous year Equality Florida has had: from marriage equality becoming the law of this state, to the hard work and hours put in Equality Florida staffers in Tallahassee during the Florida Legislature’s regular session. She will also discuss what Equality Florida will do to protect LGBT people through the rest of the year.

StPete-Gala_copy2This year there will be three Voice for Equality Award honorees who will be recognized at the St. Petersburg Gala. The first honoree is Larry Biddle, who you may recognize as one of St. Pete Pride’s grand marshals for 2015. He has been involved in various capacities with Equality Florida for over a decade and was particularly instrumental in opening Metro Wellness and Community Center’s LGBT Welcome Center. He is also well-known for his work with the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

The second Voice for Equality honoree is Sylvia Rusche, a treasured LGBT ally in Tampa Bay. She has worked as a volunteer with such organizations and groups as freeFall Theatre, The Palladium Theater, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and of course Equality Florida. “When her name is mentioned in conversation, the first thing people say is, ‘LOVE her,'” Equality Florida’s St. Petersburg Steering Committee said of Ms. Rusche.

The final Voice for Equality honoree is Rose Walton, who will be presented with the special Lifetime Achievement designation. An important person in our community, Dr. Walton is also well-known for her HIV/AIDS advocacy work, working for many years as the director of SUNY Stony Brook’s AIDS Education and Resource Center. The Southampton Hospital in Southampton, New York named their HIV/AIDS services division “Rose Walton Care Services” in 2011.

Tech Data will be presented with the Equality Means Business Award. Tech Data is a longtime StPete-Gala_copy3supporter of Equality Florida and has been one of the driving forces behind the success of the Florida Coalition for a Competitive Workforce. That coalition, comprised of major Florida corporations, has been lobbying Florida lawmakers to pass a statewide LGBT non-discrimination ordinance for the past year.

Tickets are available for purchase in advance via telephone or the Internet. Ticket prices are $125 per person and are considered a tax-refundable donation. (The benefit value for tax purposes can be found at Equality Florida’s website, To purchase your tickets, visit There is no print ticket; your name will be held at the door for confirmation purposes and you can check in upon arrival. Valet service is included in the ticket price. The steering commitee asks that attendees be dressed in cocktail attire.

Sponsorship opportunities are also available and they begin at $500. If you or your company would like to be a sponsor of the St. Petersburg Gala, contact Todd at or call (727) 822-2122.

Hotspots Media Group is proud to be a sponsor of the Equality Florida St. Petersburg Gala. For more information on the gala, visit