Michele Rayner made history in Florida — and she’s just getting started.
Civil rights and social justice attorney Michele Rayner made history in 2020 when she was elected as the first openly queer Black member of the Florida legislature and immediately established herself as one of the strongest advocates for underserved communities. Now, she’s ready to do more for her constituents by bringing their fight to Washington.
Michele was raised by a family of changemakers in Pinellas County. Her parents both integrated the University of South Florida in the early 1960s, with her mother going on to become one of the first Black social workers in St. Petersburg and her father successfully putting himself through engineering school while working in a warehouse. Her parents established themselves as community leaders and set an example for Michele with their dedication to service.
After law school, Michele joined the Hillsborough County Public Defender’s office, a position she was drawn to because she felt it was where she could do the most good for the most vulnerable in her community. While serving as a public defender, she learned the importance of truly listening to and steadfastly advocating for clients who have limited agency.
Michele was called to ensure justice again when she became an attorney for Markeis McGlockton’s family, working alongside civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Markeis was shot and killed in an altercation in a Clearwater parking lot, reigniting the debate over Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law 6 years after the death of Trayvon Martin. During the 2019 trial, the killer was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The experience made it clear to Michele that running for the legislature could help her do more to fight unjust laws like Stand Your Ground and prevent future tragedies from occurring.
Growing up, Michele’s father always told her: “Help others, do the right thing and most of all, always keep your head up high.” To this day, Michele keeps her head up and will continue to do so as a leader for her constituents, ensuring an equitable recovery from COVID, protecting voting rights, and demanding real justice for underserved communities in Congress.
Michele currently lives in St. Petersburg with her wife Bianca and their dogs.