Nadine Smith, the St. Petersburg resident who founded Equality Florida a quarter-century ago, is one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022.
“Her work is an inspiration for LGBTQ organizations around the world, providing a blueprint on how to make progress for our communities through strong commitment and perseverance,” wrote novelist Kristen Arnett, also a Floridian, in the publication’s section on Smith. “She is a powerhouse, a champion of equality for everyone and a truly incredible humanitarian.”
Smith, who serves as Equality Florida’s executive director, was one of a handful of people with Florida ties named Monday to the magazine’s prestigious annual list, often referred to as the Time 100. Among the others: Gov. Ron DeSantis (with a blurb by former Gov. Jeb Bush); Tampa Catholic High School graduate Channing Tatum; and Supreme Court Justice-in-waiting Ketanji Brown Jackson, who grew up in Miami.
“I was thrilled, and I think it speaks to the moment, where Florida is at the center of this culture war launched by our governor,” Smith said, pointing to the recent passage of the state’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which detractors call the the “don’t say gay” bill.
Smith, who began her professional career as a journalist and has been a nationally prominent LGBTQ rights organizer since the early 1990s, said Monday’s recognition wouldn’t have been fathomable to her teenage self, who came of age amid the AIDS epidemic and in a social climate where being openly gay could cost someone their job or their family.
She comes from a family of activists and organizers. She said she’s seen enough change to believe more will come.
“I lived through Anita Bryant, and I know people whose lives were destroyed by the Johns Committee,” she said. “I think in the same way that the effort to stop marriage equality actually helped to solidify support for it, that we’re going to see the same outcome here.”
Being in the company of pop culture household names on the Time list is a strange sensation, she said; the magazine listed her under a subsection called “Icons,” which also includes Adele, Keanu Reeves and Rafael Nadal. Unlike her new peers, though, she doesn’t expect she’ll have to worry about getting stopped on the street for autographs or held up by the paparazzi.
“I don’t think I’m going to have to buy a floppy hat and sunglasses,” she said.