Tampa mayoral candidate Tom Scott doesn't take back 2005 BOCC vote against gay pride

"My issue has always been you have the right - I think a person who is gay has a right to live with whomever their partner is, that is a privacy issue to me.....You have to forgive me for not recalling the whole event. "  Then after a slight pause, he said, " I do remember that vote...as mayor, you have to be the mayor for everyone, you can't pick and choose....I don't think you should discriminate."

The LGBT community in the Tampa Bay area rallied in protest after that 2005 vote.  CL asked Nadine Smith, the Executive Director of Equality Florida, about Scott's failure to denounce that vote, in the wake of his strong comments condemning prejudice against transgendered people in 2009.  She replied by e-mail Wednesday night to CL:

"As chair of the Tampa City Council Tom Scott gave a very moving speech before voting to add Gender Identity to the Tampa Human Rights Ordinance.

It was heartfelt and human and a real leadership moment on his part. I wish he could have accessed that part of his humanity in 2005. I think he and others on the County Commission followed Ronda Storms down a rabbit hole and couldn't muster the humility to say they got it wrong. I know enough about Tom Scott to know he understands the humiliation and indignity of being regarded as less than someone else because of prejudice. He could see that pain in 2009 and was blind to it in 2005.

No one would applaud him louder than me, if he stood up now and said: "What we did in 2005 was wrong.  We singled out one class of citizens to be be treated differently, as less than others. That vote does not represent my core values and if I had it to do over again, I would vehemently oppose such a measure."

Meanwhile, CL also spoke with Scott about his position on panhandling.  As we've reported all week, all of the major candidates in the Tampa mayor's race support a ban on panhandling on city right-of-ways - all except Scott, who along with the majority of city council, has spoken out compassionately against such a ban, but has said they are working with City Attorney Chip Fletcher on a way to curtail the activities of those soliciting for money on street medians.

”It’s easy to come out and say, yes, I support the ban just to garner votes, but is it the right thing to do?," he said to CL in an interview conducted at his church on Wednesday afternoon. " See,  I try to live my life based on principal on what ‘s right and fair.  Not based on what's the popular thing to do to get a vote.  That’s how I live my life…I support it based on what the city attorney is saying to make sure it’s legal and defensible, and that we address the issue from a holistic stand point.  You’ve got people sitting on the corner, some of them have legitimate needs.  So how do we address that? That’s part of my issue, also you ban about 500 jobs, the media selling newspapers….you're talking about that in the midst of a downturn in the economy."

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.

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