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Lecturer promotes equality

She has traits from every part of the community, and she is a representation of every woman, said Jennifer Gulick, marketing director for the Department of Women’s Studies graduate student organization.

That’s why Nadine Smith, a former USF student turned executive director of the group Equality Florida, spoke Tuesday at the University on the implications anti-gay and lesbian laws have in Florida.

Because March is National Women’s History Month, Gulick, who helped organize the lecture, said it is the perfect time to promote equality.

“One of the areas women’s studies is very invested in is equality,” Gulick said. “Smith’s group, Equality Florida, really helps bring the issue to the forefront of peoples’ minds and reminds them of the need to work towards equality in this new decade.”

Smith, who volunteered to speak, is an award-winning journalist and has been executive director of Equality Florida since its creation in 1997.

Equality Florida is a statewide education, advocacy and mobilization organization working to end discrimination based on sexual gender and identity, she said.

Homophobia and sexism oppresses and constrains the full range of emotion and human interaction that humans are capable of, she said. And it starts in subtle ways.

Florida is the only state to have a ban that prevents gay couples from adopting – a ban Smith says could be appealed at any time by the district court of appeals.

“The district court of appeals could issue a ruling declaring the adoption ban unconstitutional, and then the case could go to the Supreme Court,” she said. “Or they can declare it constitutional, and it will be appealed by our side and go to the Supreme Court.”

Smith said gay foster parents often end up with children who have been badly abused and are often willing to rearrange their lives to accommodate them.

“And the reward for that is to be told that you will never be allowed to permanently adopt these children,” she said. “To be adopted, to have a forever home, to have permanency is everything, and what this law does is take that away from thousands of children.”

Smith said there are about 4,000 children in Florida’s foster care system, 200 whom never receive a permanent home and family. The ban, which she said “is intended to be a legislated insult that dehumanizes gay people,” shrinks the pool of people who are eligible and could provide a good home.

Equality Florida conducts phone interviews with Florida voters every Wednesday, which is essential to educating the current generation, Smith said.

“Every generation has the opportunity where you either expand or restrict the circle of equality and freedom,” she said. “And for this generation, this is that moment.”