Equality Florida gala pays tribute to Prather


Robert Prather holds up the 2013 Voice for Equality Award which he was given by Equality Florida as Michelle Ott, with the local chapter of Equality Florida, smiles during the Equality Florida Greater Gainesville Gala, held at the Florida Museum of Natural History, in Gainesville Saturday, May 4, 2013.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 11:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 11:18 p.m.

Robert Prather has come a long way since his first foray into activism in 2008 when he campaigned to put Barack Obama into the White House.

In 2010, Prather supported Democrat Craig Lowe's bid to be Gainesville's first openly gay mayor.

In 2009, he campaigned against and successfully defeated a referendum to repeal a Gainesville ordinance protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, people such as himself.

That same year, he served as president of the Stonewall Democrats of Alachua County, an organization that looks to help get members of the LGBT community elected into office.

Then last December, at age 31, he was elected chairman of the Alachua County Democratic Executive Committee, replacing a man twice his age.

On Saturday night, he received the Voice of Equality award at the fifth annual Equality Florida Gala.

“I'm humbled and shocked,” he said.

The Equality Florida Greater Gainesville Gala at the Florida Museum of Natural History on Saturday evening helped to raise money and awareness for LGBT issues in Florida.

“The Greater Gainesville Gala is to celebrate the success Equality Florida has had in promoting protection and rights for the LGBT community,” said Michelle Ott, 55, chair of Equality Florida's steering committee.

Equality Florida is involved with issues such as preventing the bullying of LGBT students, preventing workplace discrimination against LGBT employees and preventing discrimination against LGBT people by landlords.

Last year, the gala surpassed its fundraising goal of $35,000 to raise around $42,000, Ott said. This year, the goal is $40,000, collected from sponsors of the event, ticket prices, donations and a silent auction selling everything from massages to gift certificates to a year's supply of bird seed.

“People who come are very committed,” Ott said.

Saturday evening, guests mingled for about an hour, after which Stratton Pollitzer, deputy director for Equality Florida, gave the “State of the State” speech, focusing on the shape of LGBT rights in Florida. Then Prather received the Voice for Equality award for his involvement in working to pass pro-equality legislation and elect pro-equality politicians.

By the time the program started, the room was packed with guests.

“The reason that we're here is to make sure that everybody is equal,” said Jeremy Radford, 20. “The LGBT community can be invisible at times. It's important to make our presence known.”

Eileen Roy, a member of the Alachua County School Board, was there to support gay and transgender students.

“I'm so glad we believe in equality here,” she said. “I don't know of anybody that's not supportive of those kids.”

Gainesville is a great town for LGBT rights, said attendee Duane Tully. Although Gainesville has ordinances protecting LGBT rights, Alachua County has no such ordinance.

“In spite of all the progress we've made, the work is not done,” Tully said.

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