In a heavily Democratic district that includes Wilton Manors and Deerfield Beach, Mark LaFontaine is hoping to become Florida's first openly gay official elected to the Florida State House. In a recent interview with, the successful business man, veteran, and gay activist revealed he is also HIV positive.

Mark LaFontaine's campaign is endorsed by the Victory Fund, a group dedicated to increasing GLBT visibility at all levels of government, unanimously by union leaders at the AFL-CIO, and several prominent politicians. The LaFontaine campaign says successful fundraising efforts give him an edge in the August primary.

Openly gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank recently endorsed and even campaigned for LaFontaine.

“Mark LaFontaine has been an effective defender and fighter for LGBT equality on a number of fronts,” Representative Frank said in a prepared statement. “He will be an effective state representative, not just for the LGBT community, but for the broader community as well.”

LaFontaine, an accountant by trade, has been championing gay rights for fifteen years. After he was dismissed from the Boy Scouts, he became a leader in the movement to end GLBT discrimination in the organization as the national spokesperson for Scouting for All.

In the interview, LaFontaine talks about his love for scouting and gay discrimination at the organization. “I joined scouting – my brother was in Boy Scouts, and both of my sisters were active in Girl Scouts, so scouting was an integral part of our upbringing. I found scouting later in life to be my outlet, and when I say 'later in life', I'm talking about as a young teenager. I had a pronounced lisp, so I was picked on in school, so that was my sanctuary, basically. I felt that I belong there, it was a camaraderie, a brotherhood; it was somewhere where I felt I could focus my energies and feel a part of [a] group.”

“...the Boy Scout issue reared its head in 2000 with the Supreme Court decision. At the time I was volunteering for my nephew's troop and they went to my sister and told her they didn't want me to volunteer anymore. I had never mentioned my sexual orientation. It was never an issue. But I then started hearing from people in the area whose children had been asked to leave simply because they acted effeminately or because of the perception of being gay or because they came out as a teenager... I didn't like seeing a youth organization discriminating against the youth that they were suppose to be serving.”

And why he became a gay activist. “...the advocacy work started while I was in college... I was trying to find myself and during that time, in '92, I ended up finding out that I was HIV positive. That really, I believe, was the focal turning point in my life because I started seeing what was going on around me with relation to HIV and AIDS within the community, a lot of friends dying – I lost my best friend in 1994. It shook me.”

On the net: Queerty's website