Female Gay Rights Leader “Manhandled” in Brutal Arrest
Was Handing Out ‘Don’t Discriminate’ Flier


HRC and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today condemned the brutal arrest of Nadine Smith, the executive director of Equality Florida. Smith was arrested while trying to hand out a “Don’t Discriminate” flier at a hearing over Steve Stanton, the city manager recently fired because he had a sex change operation.

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force: “The arrest occurred when Charlie Deppish of Tampa approached Smith and asked her for a flier that said only ‘Don’t Discriminate.’ According to witnesses, Sgt. Butch Ward confronted Smith in the lobby and ordered her to take back the flier. When Smith asked why, Ward reportedly forced her into a side room where several officers violently shoved her to the floor and arrested her. She has been charged with resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing others’ assembly, a misdemeanor. Smith has been executive director of Equality Florida, the state’s leading LGBT advocacy organization, since 1997 and is nationally recognized for her leadership.”

Deppish told the St. Petersburg Times: “If she was upset and struggling … I wouldn’t blame her. She was being manhandled.”

Matt Foreman, exectuive director of the NGLTF, blasted Largo law enforcement: “We condemn this outrageous and unprovoked attack on one of our community’s leading advocates. This directly associates the Police Department of Largo with the appalling bigotry expressed by the hundreds attending the poisonous hearing attacking an outstanding public servant, Steve Stanton. We honor Nadine’s courage and dignity through this ordeal.”


  1. Cory says

    Anyone remember the UCLA student that was tasered repeatedly last year when he wasn’t physically attacking any one and trying to comply with their orders of leaving the UCLA student library (even though he was a student and had the documentation to prove it)? Yeah, great country America. I realize the U.S. isn’t nearly as bad as other repressed nations, but that is no excuse for the police brutality that is becoming more and more apparent. These cops and the UCLA PD give the hard working police men and women a bad name…

  2. rjp3 says

    The “Mayor” of Largo is a psychologist – and she sides with the Steve Stanton keeping his job. The “Mayor” is really just one of seven City Commisioners – Largo obviously is the UGLY SOUTH.

    Write the commisioners and let them know this latest incident needs to be addressed.
    The town is going to end up a cesspool of evangalists bigots. Who the hell else would live there.

    See the bigots yourself …

    EMAIL THEM with your thoughts:


  3. says

    Sgt. Butch Ward. Largo Police Dept. 586-7473

    Four men to throw a woman to the floor.

    Tell the good sergeant what you think of peace officers in Largo; he’s appears to be quick to provide quotes for microphones and reporters.

    Such a man.

  4. anon says

    Municipal meetings open to the public usually have rules of conduct and, like courts of law, people are subject through force if necessary to obey the rules, which pretty much means you have to do whatever the guy running the meeting says (like a judge), and of course, you have to obey police instructions or risk getting arrested. Grossly unfair perhaps, but she’ll get out of it if enough people rally to her defense. This is what you call “raw politics”.

  5. Leland says

    Repeat of info posted in other string: ”If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he’d want him terminated,” said Pastor Ron Saunders of Largo’s Lighthouse Baptist Church. ”Make no mistake about it.” He led the mob who stampeded the commissioners. Another “Christian” preacher came all the way from Kentucky to participate in the crucifixion.

    I urge every one to call or write the Reverend Saunders and tell him what YOU think Jesus would do:
    10539 122ND AVENUE, LARGO FL 34643

    I thought the treatment of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s personal mistakes by the SF Chronicle was outrageous, but papers in the swamp that is Florida can be worse. One recklessly “outed” Stanton. Here is THEIR OWN shameless description of the chain of events:

    “[On] Feb. 21, the [St. Petersburg] Times reported that Stanton was undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for gender-reassignment surgery – a plan known only to a small circle of people, including his wife, medical team and a few top officials at City Hall. Stanton and his friends had written an eight-page plan to help make his decision known in June, when he said his 13-year-old son could be out of town and shielded from the publicity. Instead, the news came out before he told his son. Outraged residents swarmed commissioners, demanding he be ousted.”

    Tell them what you think of them at:

    Absurdly, one does apparently need a permit to distribute leaflets in Largo’s City Hall where PUBLIC meetings are held, but topping that are the additional reasons given by Largo police spokesman Mac McMullen for why they arrested Smith. “Fliers present a fire hazard; plus, when they end up on the floor, people can slip on them, McMullen said.” Read that again slowly: they’re a FIRE hazard and people MIGHT SLIP ON THEM!

    Smith’s charges include a FELONY and she had to post $5,250 bail to be released yesterday, still facing possible conviction and prison. As a woman of color, she’s lucky they didn’t fire 40 rounds into her or club her into a coma.

    The only commissioner to vote to not fire Stanton was also Black. The FIRST Black commissioner in Largo in their 100+ year history.

    Brother Zeke, Zeke, get out while you can.

  6. says

    The funny thing about this is that the police claim that PAPER ITSELF is dangerous: “a fire hazard … people can slip on them.”

    Are these people even familiar with what paper is?

  7. rich says

    so anybody else notice something funky in that photo? where are the two legs in the bottom right coming from? was it shot through glass? whassup?

  8. Matt says

    I don’t get why this story is being covered. This blog is about Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual men and women. Being gay is a sexual orientation issue, while having a sex change or wanting to be the other sex is a gender issue. To this day, I don’t understand why they get dropped into our group. I guess it’s because no one will fight for them besides us.

  9. Jack! says

    I’m not surprised by the police reaction. The police tend to go berserk if they are dealing with a gay person or someone that is involved with gay issues.

    Last year, police in Arizona raided a gay bar after two weeks of surveilance because of an expired liquor liscense and no signs marking the exits. The police forcibly barged in then stripped the clients naked and pointed high powered weapons at them, all for minor enfractions.

  10. Derrick from Philly says

    Well, Matt:
    I guess transsexual folks fall under the catagory of transgendered, and transgendered falls under the big umbrella of “gay”. I guess it’s alright because long before masculine “normal looking” homosexual men started considering themselves part of a sexual minority, transgendered folks were “out of the closet” for maybe 6,000 years.

  11. Leland says

    Yes, Rich, it appears to be a reflection on the glass through which it was taken. THAT’s what you care about? Jesus Fucking Christ!

  12. Derrick from Philly says

    Sorry, I meant “category”
    Not being able to spell–is that a trans or homo trait? Why no, it’s a lazy queen trait.

  13. says

    What’s funny is that HRC and the Task Force are having to defend Nadine who has spent her entire career bad-mouthing them to anyone who will listen.

    She is one of the most sour grapes in the GLBT political community and does not have a good history working with others.

    Of course, she will get good coverage out of this story and look like a good victim. However, this isn’t about her being a lesbian, the issue is free speech. And unfortunately, in these situations, we don’t always have free speech.

  14. says

    As sent today to Mayor of Largo from Freedom Democrats in Miami Dade:

    Dear Madame Mayor and Commissioners:

    I am President of the Freedom Democrats in Miami Dade County and am outraged at your Police Department’s handling of Ms. Nadine Smith, who works tirelessly for the rights of others across Florida and the United States.

    She has visited Miami Dade many times the past few years and I have also seen her speak on numerous panels across the state. She has always been orderly and wonderful in her presentations and in her protection of rights for all people.

    I will be writing to the Governor of Florida and all of the media in Florida and the nation at large on Monday afternoon, as a call to action to look into the actions in Largo, Florida the past week in regards to the firing of Mr. Steve Stanton and, now of equal importance, the “handling” of Ms. Nadine Smith.

    I will reserve any judgment or comments publicly until I receive a response from your respective offices on the issue of the “handling” of Ms. Nadine Smith, which cannot go ignored.

    As the facts present themselves at the moment, I think you all have some explaining to do in regards to your Police Department’s handling of peaceful protesters and the treatment of civil, civic and human rights and of all people.

    Submitted by,

    Chip Arndt
    Freedom Democrats
    Miami Dade County, Florida

  15. Rey says

    Like it or not, Matt – and anybody else who wants to be kept separate from icky transgender folks:

    You are queer.

  16. mark m says

    People might slip on the fliers??????

    Well they sure are safety conscious there in Largo. They didn’t turn the hose on her because water is wet and people could slip and if they had set the dogs loose, they may have drawn blood and blood is slippery.

    I don’t know where Largo is but if it’s anywhere near the Alabama/Georgia state lines, that would explain a great deal.

  17. Je says

    Largo is actually located near Tampa. Florida isn’t known for “enlightened” attitudes any more than Alabama or Georgia, exception being Miami.

  18. Gary says

    Matt, our community is the LGBT community, and transgendered people receive some of the harshest aspects of oppression and bigotry out of all of us, which unfortunately many can not personally understand. I have transgendered friends, and they deserve as much support and solidarity as we can give them. Learn from history’s mistakes that if we become selective we will all fall.

  19. Gary says

    And as we are reminded of frequently during discussions this blog is just a blog with homosexual tendencies, and not a LGB-exclusive blog.

  20. Zeke says

    Nadine Smith is a personal friend of mine.

    I am absolutely outraged by the way she was treated. Not because she is a woman (I find pointing that out to be sexist) but because she is one of the kindest and most well spoken person I know. She is also quite small. It is shameful that four police officers treated her as if she was a violent criminal.

    I’ve spent the entire day organizing a protest through my church.

    Leland, thanks for the concern my brother. I think more and more every day about leaving this God forsaken state, as well as this country where my family and myself are treated like criminals.

    OH CANADA! Dump Harper and I’m there!

  21. Leland says

    Brother Ezekiel, good to hear from you, and bravo for your efforts through your own church to protest!

    I know I’ve used up my quarter, but of all of the endless number of things wrong in all of this, I can’t help but keep thinking about Stanton’s 13-year old son finding out through the local newspaper that his Dad is transgender [of course, there’s nothing wrong with that fact, but think of it through the shocked eyes of a young son], what he must be going through at school, to read and hear about the lynch mob at the commissioners meeting, and now his dad is without a job, too. I wish I still believed in a Hell so I could imagine the editors of the St. Petersburg Times burning in it someday.

  22. says

    Uh, yea. I’m not sure who 3 queers is but Nadine is not hard to work with. And none of these organizations can be held harmless. There kind of like people, none of them are perfect. EQFL, HRC and the TASK Force all need there feet to the fire once in a while.

  23. Zeke says

    Thanks Leland. Been very busy lately but I had to comment on this one.

    3QUEERS, where are you commenting from? Focus on the Family headquarters? Your comments about Nadine are totally off base, and I suspect, totally made up. I have NEVER heard ANYONE speak negatively of Nadine. If she speaks poorly of HRC and other national gay organizations it’s because they deserve it and most gay people I know agree that they have become party heavy and results small.

    Unless you have some specifics that you’re willing to share, I suspect that you are a troll and I suggest that Towleroaders ignore you.

  24. Zeke says

    Alex, you beat me to it. I have worked with Nadine for years and have never heard anyone accuse her of being hard to work with; not even anti-gay Republicans in the Florida state legislature.

  25. Allen says

    “If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he’d want him terminated,” said Pastor Ron Saunders of Largo’s Lighthouse Baptist Church. “Make no mistake about it.”

    In an effort to refute this hate-speading bigot borrowing the name of Jesus to work his evil, let us (at least those readers who are willing to tolerate Christianity) take a look at something that Jesus really said:

    Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdon of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”
    — Matthew 19:11-12, NRSV

    The most popular understanding of the word “eunuch” among evangelicals is that eunuchs are castrated human males. In this passage Jesus makes no hint at condemnation — and the similarity between castration and a sex change operation can hardly be denied.

    More germane to Pastor Saunders might be this teaching of Jesus:

    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bring forth evil fruit. … Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
    — Matthew 7:15-20 KJV

    My point is not to be a religious fanatic, but to remark that ravening wolves, like Rev. Saunders and his ilk, who use the Bible to justify their hatreds, need to have the Bible thrown back at them — you can’t vilify your neighbor in the name of Jesus, you can’t be a true Christian and stir up hatred at the same time. And the sooner the GLBT community gets good at refuting the hatemongering of the Religious Right, the sooner we will succeed at prying America from their grasp.

  26. Steve Florio says

    point of information:
    Steve Stanton hasn’t had the sexual reassignment surgery, yet.
    In the press conference that started this off, he had announced that his plans to begin his assimilation into “Susan” would begin shortly with him wearing women’s clothing and what-not.

    The Mayor of Largo publicly gave their support to Steve Stanton, only to be fired by the city commissioners less then a week later.

    Funny, how a man doing the same job for 20 some-odd years is “doing fine.” Yet, when he announces this plan, his work is thrown out the window in under a week. This, by people who haven’t been in office, or maybe even living in the city of Largo for the amount of time that Mr. Stanton has been a civil servant to that city.

    I hope that Steve Stanton sues the balls out of the commission. In turn the retribution would include:
    1. The city to pay for his medical needs over the next few years.
    2. The entire commission be thrown out, and newly-elected officials to take their places.
    A city-wide, out-reach program used to education the population about Trans-Gendered people, and the discrimination they face in our society.

    I have lived in Flori-duh for most of my life, and things like this reinforce why I still consider myself a yankee.

  27. Brian says

    Re: The “T” in “LGBT”

    Most of the time when a guy gets called a fag, it has little to do with his sexual oriention and almost everything to do with the way he is expressing his gender. When I was in grade school the 80s I got called “gay” and “fag” because I didn’t act like the right kind of boy (ie, didn’t play sports, read books, liked to sing, probably acted a bit nelly, etc). My classmates didn’t know my sexual orientation — they called me those names to try to force me back into a narrowly defined definition of gender.

    Trans and gender-noncomforming people are on the front lines of challenging those gender expectations. The more space we have to be whatever kind of guy we happen to be, the less hate and fear will be directed at us. Trans folks are making things safer for LGB folks. If anything, it’s unconscionable of us not to stand up for the “T”‘s.

  28. shane says

    I’m with Matt. I enjoy being a man, have never wanted to be a woman (well, unless there was a reeeally cute straight guy in the mix), and can’t relate to the trans-gender thing at all. Gay=who you love, gender issue=gender issue. Not the same.

  29. says

    Largo(City of Regress, not Progress)
    All I could do after seeing this is shake my head and cry. Its sad that here we live in country that offers freedom to those who seek it. But yet when it comes to beliefs, views, or differences that freedom is easily taken away. Brandon Pride started because Hillsborough County faced similar bigotry, and hatred 2 years ago when commissioners passed a policy that Gay Pride was no longer allowed, or recognized. The question still remains to this day…Are we truly free to live our lives the way we want to live them, or not?

    Former Hillsborough County Commissioner, and newly elected Tampa City Council member Tom Scott once said quote “Civil rights, and Gay Rights are not the same.” But this is not about Gay Rights. This is about Equality, nothing more, nothing less. By what Hillsborough County Commissioners, and Largo Commissioners have done is a great injustice to our county by spiting on the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution. Most of all they do not represent the districts they serve. Many people in both Hillsborough County, and Largo have stated that they are supportive of the GLBT community. But those commissioners have put their own interests ahead of their constituents, and that is wrong. I have decided I will no longer be confined to a prison camp created by those who spread bigotry and hate. I will continue fighting for Equality by speaking out, and standing my ground. If anyone discriminates against me for who I am my warning is this: “DON’T TREAD ON ME!” I am who I am and I will fight for my freedom and independence to my last breath.

    Mark Ferguson
    Brandon Pride President
    (attached links:)