Florida sees 1st openly LGBTQ senator, state legislator

Shevrin Jones and Michele Rayner-Goolsby, both openly out, are making Sunshine State history.

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Michele Rayner-Goolsby is the first openly queer woman ever elected at any level of Florida’s legislature. 

Rayner-Goolsby is now the state representative-elect for House District 70. 

Michele Rayner-Goolsby (left), now a Florida state rep-elect, is the first openly queer woman ever elected at any level of its legislature, and Shevrin Jones (right) has been elected the state’s first openly LGBTQ state senator.

Shevrin Jones has been elected the state’s first openly LGBTQ state senator. He tweeted that he is “humbled to have earned the trust of the people of SD 35,” and he said he is looking forward to serving in the Florida Senate. 

Them.Us, a queer news, culture and entertainment website, did tracking of LGBTQ issues and candidates across the country on Election Night. More than 1,000 LGBTQ people ran for office in 2020. 

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“2018 was a rainbow wave,” Victory Fund CEO and former mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, told the site. “2020 is a rainbow tsunami. The numbers have just kept growing.”

Jones was previously a Florida House representative, and he came out as gay in 2018 while in office. The 36-year-old was once the director of the Florida Reading Corps, and he is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity 

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During the primary earlier this year, Jones’ campaign endured several attacks from his opponents, including one alluding to his sexual orientation in a robotext. In February, at a campaign event, Miami Gardens Councilman Erharbor Ighodaro told Floridians “there is an image that God says a marriage should look like, that families should look like. And that’s what we’re gonna fight for.”

Meanwhile, Rayner-Goolsby — who married her partner, Bianca Goolsby, in 2018 — is the first Black LGBTQ+ state lawmaker to be out at the time of their election. 

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An attorney and member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, 38-year-old Rayner-Goolsby said her election “represents a new day” for the Sunshine State.

She maintains that she ran “a campaign focused on putting people over politics and that’s rooted in a commitment to working with and for residents until the change they seek is a reality.” 

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