Rep. Rayner-Goolsby fights the good fight

Photo courtesy: Colin Hackley

Michele Rayner-Goolsby has become a beacon of hope for her community. Representing marginalized people as the first openly Lesbian in the Florida House, Rayner-Goolsby is fighting to protect the liberties being challenged by the state.

Born in Pinellas, Rep. Rayner Goolsby, D-Hillsborough, sought a career in law after graduating from Florida State University for undergrad and matriculating to Florida Coastal School of Law.

Though she didn’t know where life would take her, she has always advocated for rectitude and regarded herself as a servant of the community.

“Everything I do is rooted in a framework of liberation, justice and equity,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “I ask myself, what are the things that I can push forward to ensure equity.”

When deciding to run for office in 2020, the representative did not see herself working for the Florida House. Still, with encouragement from colleagues like notable attorney Benjamin Crump, Rayner-Goolsby set her sights on change through legislation.

“After the killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, I had to meet a moment,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “That’s really what leadership is, you’re never really prepared for it, but you are in this moment, and you have to decide who you are going to be and how you will move.”

Rayner-Goolsby’s campaign commenced during the nation’s battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. She ran on a platform focused on affordable and safe housing, comprehensive police reformation/divesting and food security for her constituents. The representative asked herself who she would want representing her mother and felt she was the best woman for the job.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has challenged many minority groups over the past year, including the LGBTQ+ community, women and institutions that support diversity, equity and inclusion.

Rayner-Goolsby is a proud Black, queer woman who continues to fight against the very issues the super majority have tried to eradicate.

Precious Robles, a bill coordinator for the Florida House, works closely with Rep. Rayner-Goolsby. Robles has been grateful to learn from someone who represents strength and courage amid turmoil.

“Working with the representative has given me hope for the future of legislation and Florida specifically,” Robles said. “Seeing women like Michele gives me a sense of security, knowing people are fighting for the best interests of those who are often overlooked.”

Though sponsoring legislation, including HB 217, addressing children’s rights and HB 219, which removes prohibitions on same-sex marriage, to name a few, has been a highlight of the representative’s career in politics, she is most proud of the impact she has on minorities, especially young women who look like her.

“My greatest joy is when folks who are younger or even older than me say I’ve inspired them to be their authentic self,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “Whether it’s going into politics, coming out to their families … whatever it looks like, the inspiration to be their full authentic self.”

Raghan Pickett, a political science student at FAMU, has had the pleasure of meeting the representative and appreciates her transparency as a politician when sharing her viewpoints on essential issues.

“She truly inspires me through the confidence she has in herself and allows that to reflect in the types of laws and bills she wants to enact,” Pickett said. “She has an open door policy that she regards as a safe space to come and talk with her about pressing issues.”

When Rayner-Goolsby isn’t in the lower chamber, she enjoys cooking for her wife and designing flower bouquets.

Though she could never see herself impacting the world in the kitchen, she strives to influence change at the Capitol and wants future congressional delegates to be clear in their purpose.

“I hope some of these battles we are fighting, we won’t have to fight anymore,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “Your purpose will keep you centered when things get hard. Don’t get caught up in titles; your power comes from getting your community to make collective change.”