Joe Saunders takes leadership role with HRC

By : Christal Hayes
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Former State Representative Joe Saunders has started his next gig.

Florida’s first openly gay legislator was ousted by opponent Rene “Coach P” Plasencia for the District 49 seat in the House in November. Since then, Saunders has been flooded with job offers and questions about what his plans for the future would hold. On Dec. 8, Saunders announced he will be working with the Human Rights Campaign as the Southern Regional Field Director.

“I was surprised by how many people approached me with offers, and there were really a wide range of offers, which was great,” Saunders said. “At the end of the day though, I just think my heart is in the movement for LGBT equality. It’s just something I feel very passionately about.”

Saunders will be helping to lead the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization with legislative and electoral efforts in the Southern states, which include Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. He will be keeping his home base in Orlando and helping the HRC gain legislative support to pass the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA), which he sponsored during his two years in office and would change Florida’s employment discrimination law to include protections for the LGBT community.

Saunders said he’ll also work with Equality Florida to build momentum for a human right’s ordinance for the LGBT community in Jacksonville.

Saunders has been a part of Equality Florida’s staff for about 10 years, and said it was a bit of a bittersweet feeling to leave that family.

“This is a bit of a transition period into the HRC family, but I think the only way these campaigns work is if national, state and local partners are all sitting down together to figure out effective strategies,” Saunders said. “I think my time with Equality Florida has taught me a lot about how to do this work. I’m really excited to take those lessons and that experience to the national stage and across state lines.”

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