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In 1991, voters in Texas elected Glen Maxey, their first openly gay politician, to the state legislature. In the 20-plus years since, Florida has remained the largest state in the union to never have done so. But that changed August 15, 2012, when David Richardson, an accountant by trade, emerged from a heated Democratic primary as the winner and went on to run unopposed in the general election.
"I got elected to represent and support all of the people in my district," Richardson once said before his colleagues on the House floor, "including the LGBT community."
Born in Texas, Richardson moved to Florida at age 11 in 1968. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Central Florida and an MBA from the University of Tampa. A Democrat, he represents District 113, which includes Miami Beach.
Richardson has not been afraid to take the lead on gay issues. He's fought hard on behalf of the rights of LGBT foster children, has sponsored legislation that would outlaw certain licensed professionals from offering "gay conversion" therapy, and has backed nondiscrimination and civil registry legislation.
Though Richardson recognizes the importance of his history-making win, he's far from a one-issue politician. He has put his accounting background to use in bills that deal with tax incentives and the filing of homeowners associations' financial reports, is working hard to get hospitals to require stricter policies when it comes to lifting and handling patients, and has cosponsored legislation on everything from scholarships to needle exchange programs.
And Florida isn't as backward as you might think. At the time of Richardson's election, 17 states had no gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender legislators.