SLC attorney Simone Chriss was honored with Equality Florida’s 2021 Voice for Equality Award, which is “bestowed annually upon a person who, with courage, passion and unwavering commitment, moves Florida’s LGBTQ community closer to full equality.” Equality Florida (EQFL) is a civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida's LGBTQ community through lobbying, grassroots organizing, and coalition building.
Chriss works extensively with EQFL’s Safe and Healthy Schools program to ensure all LGBTQ+ youth in Florida have access to a safe and affirming learning environment. This includes providing legal representation to individual students and families in rural school districts to compel systemic changes to policies and practices that harm LGBTQ+ youth, as well as authoring a series of Legal Notes with topic-specific legal analyses of policies and practices affecting LGBTQ+ students. EQFL distributes the Legal Notes to all 67 school districts in Florida.
“What made the honor of receiving the Voice for Equality award the most special and significant was receiving it alongside the late Terry Fleming, who received the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing his life-long championing of LGBTQ rights in our community,” Chriss said. “Terry had always been a personal hero to me.”
“Terry showed so many young LGBTQ youth like me how to celebrate our identities, and how to turn the hate and bigotry of others into fuel for the fight for justice” Chriss said during the EQFL ceremony.
Chriss began working with EQFL while she was in law school at the UF Levin College of Law as EQFL’s first “Public Policy Fellow.” In that role, Chriss engaged in lobbying, legislative advocacy, and assisting with the drafting of human rights ordinances for cities and counties seeking to provide protection from discrimination for their LGBTQ+ citizens.
As an attorney for Southern Legal Counsel, Chriss has continued working collaboratively with Equality Florida on some of the most important issues impacting transgender individuals. Over the years, Chriss has worked with EQFL on myriad issues, including training Florida’s housing and homelessness service providers on providing inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ individuals, negotiating policy reform with the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistic, working with all 67 of Florida’s school districts to ensure LGBTQ+ youth have access to safe and affirming learning environments, and much more. SLC values the collaborative partnership with EQFL and appreciates their recognition of Chriss as the 2021 Voice for Equality.