Florida State Rep. Shevrin Jones is the LGBTQ Victory Fund candidate for Florida’s 35th Senate District. Shevrin is one of just three openly LGBTQ legislators in the Sunshine State and will become Florida’s first openly LGBTQ state senator if elected.
Victory Fund: You came out as gay a couple of years ago while you were in your fourth term as a state representative. What’s something that’s surprised you about how you’ve been received in the time since you’ve come out?
Shevrin Jones: The amount of love and support from my family, friends, and constituents. It has not only been surprising but confirming and affirming.
VF: Recently one of your primary opponents made remarks that were designed to single you out as a gay candidate. When you heard about the remarks, how did that sit with you?
SJ: I was surprised that someone who desires to serve in the legislature, representing over 20 million people (466,000 of which live in District 35) would resort to that kind of language. The people of Florida send us to represent them, not to be their judge.
VF: If you could pass just one bill, what would it be?
SJ: The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FWCA). This year marks 11 years since the FWCA was introduced. And, as diverse as Florida’s population is, it’s time for Florida to lead the way in ensuring fairness and equality in employment, housing, and public accommodations by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
VF: Climate change is an existential threat to the communities you represent. What’s your plan to protect South Florida from the effects of sea level rise and extreme weather events?
SJ: I will continue working with stakeholders in both our cities and in the legislature to ensure that funding and attention is given to our communities of concern. That includes protecting our coastal cities, mitigating sea-level rise, safeguarding our ecosystems, and working to build resilient regional plans.
Putting guns in our children’s classrooms is WRONG. Arming teachers is WRONG.
— Shevrin Jones (@ShevrinJones) May 3, 2019
VF: After a highly contested two-day debate in May 2019, the Florida legislature passed a bill that will allow some teachers to carry firearms to school that ultimately became law and a topic of national conversation. During that debate you attempted to pass a pair of amendments aimed at protecting students. Can you tell us more about your stance on this bill and why you fought for that pair of amendments?
SJ: A simple and important amendment that I offered was to allow for implicit bias training. The amendment would have ensured that those teachers who were a part of the Guardian program, must go through implicit bias training, ultimately causing them to face their own perceived thoughts and feelings toward other races and ethnic groups before being placed in a situation that could result in emotional or bodily harm to someone. After the explanation of the bill, the debate from some of my colleagues suggested that I was calling non-black teachers racist, when in reality I did the total opposite. I wanted to bring colleagues into my world and my community, letting them know that African-American students are more likely to be a target rather than be protected by an armed teacher. Florida, being a state that supports Stand Your Ground, is not a place where I believe we should be putting guns in the hands of teachers. That was my position then, and it is still my position now.
VF: What’s your favorite hidden gem in Florida’s 35th Senate District?
SJ: District 35 is home to a lot of history in South Florida. It’s also a region that is growing with new and innovative businesses, restaurants, and cultural assets. One of my favorites, and definitely a hidden gem, is Lorna’s Caribbean & American Grill in Miami Gardens. It’s “go to” spot for authentic Caribbean food and it’s a place to relax, unwind, and have a good time with friends.
Florida’s primary elections will be held August 18, 2020. As a member of the Florida House of Representatives, Shevrin’s campaign is prohibited from receiving donations during the legislative session, which is expected to end March 13. For more information on Shevrin’s race visit www.shevrinjones.com.