Joe Antonelli knew there was something missing.
It was 1990, and he’d just moved to Gainesville from Massachusetts. There, he noticed a divide between the LGBTQ+ community: women and men congregated at different bars, socialized at different clubs and generally didn’t intermingle.
To bring the community together, Antonelli founded the Gainesville Community Alliance in 1991. It was an all-inclusive organization that hosted events for LGBTQ+ members and their allies, and it still exists today.
Antonelli said Alachua County has passed laws that protect the LGBTQ+ community, including sexual orientation, gender identity and diversity training. Here is a look at significant LGBTQ+-related policy in Alachua County and Florida starting in the 1800s.
According to Equality Florida, Florida has passed more local nondiscrimination laws than any other state, including gender identity and sexual orientation protections. Those protections now cover 60 percent of people in Florida, the third-largest state in the country, Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director, said.
“We are fortunate that Florida has been a breakthrough state in the South for advancing LGBTQ+ equality,” Maurer said. “Similarly, Alachua County has really shown tremendous leadership within the region in advancing LGBTQ+ policy.”
However, Antonelli said that the community continues to face challenges.
A Florida State Senate resolution was introduced to the 2020 legislative session that acknowledged injustices perpetrated by the Johns Committee in the 1950s and 1960s and offered an apology to those whose lives, well-being and livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the committee.
But in March, the resolution was indefinitely postponed, withdrawn from consideration and died in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, a standing committee of the Florida Senate.
According to the resolution, those affected by homophobia in Gainesville have not received reparations for the discrimination they faced while attending UF.
“There are so many laws on the books that are still against us, in so many ways and in so many places,” Antonelli said. “We will be free.”