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Florida’s first openly gay state lawmakers say equality just part of their priority list

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The Palm Beach Post
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December 26, 2012

At the first meeting of a new state House education subcommittee this month, a dramatic moment in Florida history passed virtually unnoticed. Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, saw that as a good sign. When lawmakers were asked to introduce themselves and provide a little background, some mentioned careers as educators. Others talked of steering their kids through public schools. When it was Saunders’ turn, he spoke about having lobbied for anti-bullying legislation, approved in 2008. He added, “My partner is also a high school drama teacher, so that helps in my perspective as well.” Saunders, 29, is one of two openly gay Florida House members elected this year, the first in state history. In a legislature where milestones passed in recent years include the election of the first Haitian-American lawmaker, and a Cuban-American House speaker, Saunders and Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, also see themselves as pioneers. “You’ve got to be sitting at the table,” Richardson, 55, said of the importance of their election. “This is not my quote, but someone has said, ‘if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.’”