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The Annual Equality Florida St. Pete Gala

The annual Equality Florida St. Pete Gala will take place on Saturday, May 11 from 7- 10:30pm at The Mahaffey Theater (400 1st Street South).

This year they will be honoring two very special recipients with their first ever Edie Windsor Lifetime Achievement Award, Georgetown Professor Nan Hunter, and activist/author David Mixner.

David Mixner has spent over 50 years at the forefront of American politics and international human rights, championing LGBTQ equality and more. He is also the best-selling author of Stranger Among Friends, At Home with Myself, and Brave Journeys (co-written by Dennis Bailey). Once described by Newsweek as “the most powerful gay man in America,” Mixner played instrumental roles as manager, fundraiser and strategist on numerous political campaigns, most notably those of Bill Clinton, Gary Hart and Jerry Brown. In 1978, he helped defeat the Briggs Initiative in California, which would have made it illegal for gays and lesbians to be school teachers. During the AIDS crisis in the 80’s, he helped draft California legislation to deal more aggressively with the epidemic. In 1993, he chained himself to the fence outside the White House to protest his friend Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the military. He continues to be a prolific writer and activist.

Nan Hunter specialized in constitutional and civil rights law as a member of the national legal staff of the American Civil Liberties Union in New York. For the first half of her 10 years at the ACLU, she worked on reproductive freedom issues and litigating in federal courts around the country. In 1986, she founded the LGBT Rights Project, the first entity dedicated to LGBT rights to be sponsored by a non-gay public interest law organization. Under her leadership, the ACLU integrated LGBT and AIDS rights advocacy in its national office, its Congressional advocacy work in Washington, DC, and throughout its 50-state affiliate network. Professor Hunter is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. Her awards include the Pioneer of Courage award from the American Foundation for AIDS Research and the inaugural Dan Bradley award from the LGBT Bar Association.

Retired school board member Linda Lerner will be receiving our Voice for Equality Award, and Equality Florida Steering Committee member John L. Gascot will be awarded with the Amy S. Mandel Service and Leadership award.

Linda Lerner retired in November of 2018 as the longest-serving school board member of Pinellas County Schools. Linda has a Masters of Science in Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. During her nearly three decades of school board membership, she was an outspoken leader for issues important to all students. She has a reputation as a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ issues and was the first school board member to say the word “gay” in meetings. In 1994, she fought and won the distribution of sex education materials in Pinellas schools. Current School Board Chairwoman Rene Flowers has said of Linda, “She always made sure that policies lined up with current community needs.” Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego said, “She was the board member for all the right reasons and she served the right way.” Linda consistently supported EQFL’s Safe and Healthy Schools program, working to ensure best practices are implemented at a systemic level in every school district so that LGBTQ+ students can be safe, stay in school and graduate successfully. Linda has actively worked in support of our LGBTQ+ youth since 1994, with participation in PFLAG Pinellas, GLSEN Pinellas and presently the Pinellas Youth Pride Board.

John Gascot moved to St. Petersburg with Ron Diana, Jr., his partner of 21 years, five years ago. They felt immediately at home, finding the sense of community they’d been searching for in numerous prior moves. Shortly after same-sex marriage became legal in the state of Florida, the two tied the knot. John, a prolific visual artist with an instantly recognizable signature style he calls Latin Pop, became involved with Equality Florida as an art donor. Soon after he became a steering committee volunteer, eventually becoming Silent Auction Chair. After receiving post-election hate mail from a neighbor, John decided to use his platform as a working artist in the Tampa Bay art scene to help disenfranchised youth. He is the founder of Diversity Arts, Inc., a non-profit which aims to serve disenfranchised youth and groups (with an emphasis on LGBTQ youth) by providing safe environments, guidance and materials for creative self-discovery, expression and socio-cultural interaction.

The gala will feature: delicious cuisine from Catering by the Family, London entertainer Wanda Cookie performing, an open bar, Kahwa Espresso Bar, dancing with DJ Fresh, a fantastic silent auction, and a State of the State address by Equality Florida’s Deputy Director, Stratton Pollitzer.

Sponsorship opportunities begin at $500. Please contact Todd Richardson at todd@equalityflorida.org.

R.S.V.P. and purchase tickets, which are only $125, at equalityflorida.org/stpetegala or call 813-870-3735.

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