Florida gubernatorial candidate Chris King takes LGBTQ rights personally

By : Scottie Campbell
Comments: 0

WINTER PARK, Fla. | Each 2018 Democratic candidate in the Florida gubernatorial race has made statements in support of LGBTQ rights, but in a speech before the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus in August, Orlando’s Chris King revealed why his long-held support is personal.

King ended his speech talking about his eldest brother, David, who was gay. A polished and considered speaker, the cadence of King’s voice noticeably changes as he relates David’s rough childhood and adolescence growing up gay in Florida during the ‘70s and ‘80s. After battling years of insecurities and depression, David eventually committed suicide 20 years ago at the age of 30. King tells Watermark that caucus speech is the one time he has talked about this publicly.

King, 39, graduated from Harvard majoring in religion and politics, then law school at University of Florida. He practiced law for about 19 months, then decided to start Elevation Financial Group with his brother Michael. The company is focused on affordable housing for fixed-income seniors and low income families. Despite starting during the recessional climate between 2005 and 2007, the company has thrived and now includes a philanthropic footprint in Florida, Haiti and Africa.

At the beginning of 2016, King and his wife, Kristen, shared his desire to pursue the governorship during a brief annual retreat the couple takes to discuss goals. His father, David King, was lead attorney on the Fair Districts case which gave the family, always civic minded but not necessarily political, “a window into how bad things had gotten in state government.” King met with what he calls the “Obama high command” in Chicago in early 2016, who offered their support. He launched his campaign in April of this year.

The Competitive Workforce Act is the prime issue for the LGBTQ community in this gubernatorial race. The bill seeks to ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations for all Floridians with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. Introduced in 2015, the bill has floundered in the legislature under the Rick Scott administration.

“That is something [my administration] should be able to pass in a session; if not one, two,” says King. “I believe the votes are there in the House and Senate to pass it. I believe it’s leadership: the governor, the speaker and a lot of the guys running on the Republican side right now who just stopped that from happening.”

King asserts the bill is good for the economy, though he insists that point isn’t to diminish the essence of the bill. “I still start with this is a civil right, this is human rights, this is a fairness issue. It’s common sense. I don’t care if you’re conservative or liberal. I don’t care if you’re coming from a faith community or you’ve got no background there. This should be something we all agree on: that you can’t bully and discriminate against a group of people.”

King’s “faith story” is front and center in his campaign; he views this as a bridge between communities rather than a hindrance. He is also not shy about taking the faith community to task as he did in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed a week after the Pulse tragedy.

“Historically,” he wrote. “I see a church that has often gotten it wrong—really wrong—when it comes to serving the needs of the LGBTQ community.”

Fellow candidates Gwen Graham, daughter of former governor Bob Graham, and Andrew Gillum have also spoken on their LGBTQ records. Tallahassee Mayor Gillum says he has spoken about LGBTQ rights for the past 15 years in part because his older brother is gay. Former U.S. Representative Graham points to her support of marriage equality during her successful 2014 campaign to represent Florida’s District 2. King trails Graham in fundraising by just under $1 million.

King says he was the first candidate to demand lawmaker Frank Artiles’ resignation in the aftermath of his racial tirade, as well as the first candidate to say all the confederate monuments need to come down. Last month, he was the only candidate to attend the protest against white supremacist Richard Spencer who spoke at University of Florida , “I say we were the only ones who showed up to show him the door out of the state.” For King, his presence fit with the consistency of his campaign.

“Wherever there’s an opportunity to use my platform to stand up against bullies and folks who are trying to create a smaller world, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Share this story: