WASHINGTON - The two largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organizations - the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force - today condemned the Feb. 27 arrest and detention of Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. Smith was arrested during a heated hearing before the Largo City Commission in Florida, during which the commission voted 5-2 to begin the process of firing its 14-year city manager, Steve Stanton, because he announced his plans to transition from male to female.
The arrest occurred when Charlie Deppish of Tampa approached Smith and asked her for a flier that said only "Don't Discriminate." According to witnesses, Sgt. Butch Ward confronted Smith in the lobby and ordered her to take back the flier. When Smith asked why, Ward reportedly forced her into a side room where several officers violently shoved her to the floor and arrested her. She has been charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing others' assembly, a misdemeanor. Smith has been executive director of Equality Florida, the state's leading LGBT advocacy organization, since 1997 and is nationally recognized for her leadership.
Both organizations called upon the Pinellas-Pasco state attorney's office to immediately investigate the incident and drop the charges.
"HRC joins the Task Force in condemning these actions by Largo police. Arresting a community leader for simply handing out a flier is disgraceful," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "The city's bigoted action against Steve Stanton was shameful in and of itself its treatment of a citizen standing in support of Stanton is doubly appalling. We hope actions are taken immediately by city leaders to remedy both intolerable situations."
"We condemn this outrageous and unprovoked attack on one of our community's leading advocates," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "This directly associates the police department of Largo with the appalling bigotry expressed by the hundreds attending the poisonous hearing attacking an outstanding public servant, Steve Stanton. We honor Nadine's courage and dignity through this ordeal."
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