Last week Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith was invited by the White House to meet the President and attend his speech at Disney World on increasing Tourism and Jobs.
I was honored to be invited as a guest of the White House to greet President Obama as he arrived at Disney World. He was there to announce a new initiative aimed at increasing jobs by boosting tourism. Shortly before he took the stage on Main Street I was part of a small group that was able to spend a few moments talking with the President. The topic of the day was a perfect opportunity to discuss Equality Florida's Equality Means Business project that was formed last year to improve Florida's national and international reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place to live, work and visit.
We are fortunate to have strong allies appointed to the expanded Tourism and Travel board including Maryann Ferenc of Mise en Place in Tampa. We discussed how Equality Means Business dovetails with the idea of ensuring Florida is a welcoming destination for diverse visitors from within the U.S. and abroad.
Increasingly lawmakers are waking up to the reality that business owners and major corporations have long understood: Discrimination is bad for business.
Florida is a large and diverse state and no single description captures the various regions and sensibilities of our state. But headlines about Florida are too often dominated by the worst kinds of bigotry.
Seven years ago Hillsborough County passed an ordinance banning any "recognition of gay pride". This blatantly discriminatory policy has cost the county and the city of Tampa millions in revenue from conferences that went elsewhere in protest.
But today, because people have come out and pushed for change in their hometowns and in schools and at work Florida is changing for the better. More and more people everyday are beginning to understand equality is good Florida, good for families and good for business. Through our continuous public education campaigns, we are winning the battle of public opinion with a strong majority of Floridians now supporting nearly every one of our pro-equality issues. (see our Winning Equality report)
We are proud to work with business leaders across Florida to build strategies that draws tourism and industry who care about the quality of life for their employees and customers. And we look forward to working with the Obama administration and the Travel and Tourism Task Force to ensure equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is part of the strategy.
Nadine Smith, Executive Director