Hillsborough County Commissioners to revisit ban on gay pride on Wednesday

"I find it difficult as people are evolving and as we talk about the importance of building inclusive communities," Beckner says. "You can’t do that when your own government is discriminating against you."

When asked why he's proposing the repeal now, and not in his first term in office, Beckner says that he feels that the current board is personally evolving on the issue of gay rights, as is the nation.

"All of my colleagues come from different backgrounds, different generations, different family environments," he says, "so every one of them has had a different level of personal involvement on this issue."

Recent events don't provide a whole lot of clarity about what this board might do. Gay rights advocates like Equality Florida say that "the tide is shifting," referring to the recent unanimous vote to sign a proclamation honoring GaYBOR Days, an event that seeks to promote that district inside of Ybor City.

But those same activists have been disappointed by the commission's failure to pass a domestic partners registry and its support for adding Terry Kemple to a newly formed diversity council, a shock to many considering Kemple's previous comments regarding gays and Muslims.

Not surprisingly, Kemple doesn't support the plan to repeal the ban on gay pride.

“I think it’s a bad move,” Kemple told the Tampa Tribune last week. “It’s just another effort by Commissioner Beckner to engage in government promotion of homosexual behavior. I, and a lot of people who agree with me, are opposed to that.”

The measure is scheduled to be discussed at 10:15 a.m. Public comment to discuss the issue begins at 9 a.m. at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.

  • Kevin Beckner

Two decades ago, Hillsborough County Commissioners removed gays and lesbians from the list of protected groups in their human rights ordinance, a move that alienated the LGBT community. Then in June of 2005 the BOCC went even further, imposing a ban on county recognition of gay pride events.

Ronda Storms, a commissioner at the time, led the call for the 2005 ban. Reacting to complaints about a public library display promoting Gay Pride month, she proposed an ordinance to her board colleagues that would ban any county promotion of gay pride events or displays.

The board supported that motion on a 5-1 vote — not 6-1, as some stories have reported. Commissioner Ken Hagan was out of the room for that vote. However, Hagan did vote with the majority on a follow-up measure stating that the ban could only be overturned by a 5-2 vote.

"I felt then it was a blatantly discriminatory policy," says Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who intends on proposing a repeal of the controversial ordinance this Wednesday morning at the County Commissioner's next regularly scheduled meeting.

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