Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, announced in a press release the appointment of Nik Harris as the department’s first LGBTQ consumer advocate.
“Historically, the State of Florida has turned a blind eye to discrimination against our LGBTQ community – but today is a new day in our state,” said in a statement. “’re building a Department that represents all Floridians, and it’s paramount that LGBTQ Floridians have a voice in defending their safety, economic security, and well-being.”
Fried is Florida’s only statewide elected democrat, who was elected this past November.
The new position will raise awareness of opportunities within the agriculture industry, and help address discrimination and fraud targeted at the LGBT community.
“Commissioner Fried has made history and sent a strong message that Florida is open to all – that every consumer, resident, and visitor should be treated fairly, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida in a statement. While Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, added, “I am thrilled that we now have an LGBTQ consumer advocate that will look out for our community’s best interests.”
Harris has been a licensed Florida attorney since 2004. She has worked at the Florida Department of Transportation for over a decade and most recently served as senior attorney, where she provided legal counsel including negotiation, drafting, and review of contracts, and intergovernmental agreements.
Harris has also served as a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee of the Florida Bar Association, and has been involved with the Human Rights Campaign as a member of the Board of Governors, as chair of the Steering Committee in South Florida, as co-chair of National Community Engagement, and as a fellow for Women & Leadership.
Additionally she has been a member of the Dolphin Democrats’ Board of Directors and the LGBTA Democratic Caucus.
For Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, Fried has already gone above and beyond in her support of the LGBT community.
“When we interviewed her during our endorsement process she discussed how she was going to put an emphasis on consumer rights. But this wasn’t even on our map,” Hoch told SFGN. “This is a historic first for Florida, and it’s really exciting.”
Hoch said it’s important to have people who are openly LGBT working in government.
“People in our community will be more likely to use these services knowing they will be treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
Fried recently made headlines when she added sexual orientation and gender identity to her department's list of workplace protections against discrimination.
“We are pledging…that our…Department is committed to an inclusive culture of equality, in which every employee is hired, promoted, and respected on the basis of their merit. This is a common-sense, long-overdue measure that the majority of Fortune 500 companies have implemented, and the majority of Floridians agree with,” she said at the time in a press release. “I encourage my fellow Cabinet officials to enact similar policies within their agencies and throughout our government.”