In the fall of 2009, the Tampa City Council voted to add Gender Identity to their Human Rights Ordinance, and nobody was more powerful in speaking up for the transgendered during the debate on that vote than City Council Chairman Thomas Scott, a candidate for Mayor of Tampa this year. At the time Scott, who is the Senior Pastor of the 34th Street Church of God in Tampa and who has been a man of the cloth for over 30 years, announced that though he had never voted for any gay rights issue in the past, he was now compelled to, because he did not believe in discrimination of any kind. These were some of the powerful words he said back on November 12, 2009:
"I believe love covers multitudes.I believe that Jesus loved every person in this room. I want to ask those here: If a person has a sex change, will you accept him at their church? Or will you turn them away? Or would you require them to go back to their original gender? Those are the questions we must ask from the religious community ... this ordinance does not address transvestites, this does not allow men to go into women's restrooms ... this is not about the molestation of children ... this is about those who have made a decision and changed their gender and that they should not be discriminated against."
In conversation with CL on Wednesday, the Council Chair, Thomas said he thinks he might have lost some votes in the community for his stance, but he says he'd do it again.
The big difference this time was the issue of discrimination. . Every person has the right to be able to have a decent job, to have work, housing, be able to enjoy a movie , a restaurant, whatever, enjoy life, enjoy what this country was founded on, the freedom, equality, and that sort of thing. I looked at that. It was a hard vote, but it was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to do, and I did it at the risk of alienating some of my clergy colleagues."
But while Scott may have alienated clergy colleagues in 2009, he definitely alienated members of both the straight and gay community in Tampa and Hillsborough County back in 2005, when he supported a motion by then Commissioner Ronda Storms to declare a ban on gay pride in the county. The measure called for the county to "abstain from acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride recognition and events."
When CL asked him specifically about that 5-1 vote on Wednesday, Scott initially said he didn't recall it. Then he said he did, but essentially glossed over the specifics of that action.