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Gay Florida School Board Member Targeted with Homophobic Slurs

Gay Florida School Board Member Targeted with Homophobic Slurs

Tom Edwards, Bridget Ziegler

Edwards left a Sarasota County School Board meeting during public comment when a woman suggested he posed a danger to students.

Homophobic comments directed at Tom Edwards, a gay Florida School Board member, prompted him to walk out of a meeting. Now the leader of the Republican Party of Florida has labeled him ‘Tommy Drama.’

Edwards left a Sarasota County School Board meeting during public comment on Tuesday when a woman suggested he posed a danger to students. “What Tom stands for and what he wants to do to our children isn’t what a majority of Sarasota parents, voters and the community support,” said Sally Nista, a local School Board critic with ties to the Proud Boys.

Edwards voiced anger at the School Board Chair, Bridget Ziegler, for not shutting the comments down, especially two weeks after another commenter called Edwards an “LGBTQ groomer” at a separate meeting. Ziegler issued a public apology after that incident, according to theSarasota Herald-Tribune. But after Edwards asked her to stop the recent personal attack, Ziegler said there had been comments about multiple people and it was best to get through the public comment period.

Edwards told The Advocate he’s concerned for the mental health of LGBTQ+ students in his community as the rhetoric continues.

“I mean our LGBTQ+ students, when they hear that they could be a groomer or a pedophile, ... they are too young to understand what that all means — and that it’s all political theater,” he said.

But the walkout prompted a public attack from Republican Party of Florida Chair Christian Ziegler, who is married to the School Board chair.

Christian Ziegler said Edwards’ liberal politics pose a threat to children. He also noted personal grievances with Edwards.

“In addition to mocking my young daughter on video at a local Democrat Party meeting, Tom Edwards is a phony, radical, and self-admitted WOKE Liberal Activist School Board who brags that he is operating from (and I quote) ‘the most strategic spot, from the inside,’” Christian Ziegler said.

“As a father, it’s scary to know that he has access to our schools and students, let alone has input on policy. Additionally, I have very clearly and publicly stated that as Chairman of the Florida GOP, my focus is rooting out every Democrat at every level of government, especially on our School Boards.”

The Zieglers have close ties to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Bridget Ziegler was recently appointed to a new board replacing the self-governing district for Walt Disney World, an entity formed when Disney dares criticize Florida’s notorious ‘don’t say gay’ law. She also stood beside DeSantis when he signed the bill into law. While the initial law prohibited teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity up until the 3rd grade, a new proposal by DeSantis's administration would ban teaching the topics in all grade levels in Florida.

Christian Ziegler also helped DeSantis craft a list of School Board incumbents for the state party to target in 2024, including Edwards.

“With Tom Edwards being one of the most dangerous School Board Members in Florida, he would be 100% correct to state that I am focused on making sure voters in Sarasota County know who he really is and then fire him on School Board Election Day,” the state GOP chair said. “He may not like the public being informed and being held accountable, but both are on the way.”

Ziegler told The Advocate that Edwards was disingenuous and said he's called people names from the dais himself.

"We have had people call people racists, Nazis, groomers," she said. "I think they are all awful, counterproductive, intended to fuel emotion, and we don’t get anywhere. What's frustrating is those calling for civility participate in the same type of name-calling."

After Edwards left the meeting, public comments continued to criticize him. Melissa Bakondy, the woman who previously called him a groomer, attacked him for wearing a “Say Gay” pin to a graduation at Pine View School, the same night out valedictorian Zander Moricz was told to censor a speech because of the recently passed “don’t say gay” law.

“By wearing that sticker it is apparent indeed he (Edwards) is anti-parent, and supports indoctrinating kindergarteners through third graders with leftist ideologies,” Bakondy said.

“Bridget Ziegler’s inability to prevent slander and arguably support these slurs through her silence is astonishing,” Daniel Kuether, Chair of the Sarasota Democratic Party, said. “When the husband of the Chairwoman is championing the Governor’s attacks, and Republican Precinct Captains are given free rein to make homophobic attacks, it’s clear to me where the Republican Party stands.” Christian Ziegler, Bridget’s husband, is chairman of the Florida GOP.

Edwards said he’s discouraged by the increasing intolerant tone in the state’s politics.

“I’m not fearful for me,” he said. “I’m fearful we’re going to be the county in the news that we don’t want to be, because there could be somebody sitting at home, hearing all of this, and wanting to react. We see it all the time.”

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