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Hillsborough Commissioners reject naming June as LGBT Pride Month

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Hillsborough County Commission rejected a proposal on Wednesday to recognize June as LGBT Pride Month.

The motion, presented to them by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, would also have recognized June 12th as a day of remembrance for the shooting massacre that occurred at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando. On that day fateful day last month, forty-nine people were slain and dozens more injured, most of them gay. But that proposal failed as well.

“This should not be about politics. This is about people,” Beckner said in making the pitch to his colleagues. “This is about recognizing the value of people in our community.” But he failed to get a second member of the board to support the proposal, which he said wasn’t without precedent, citing the fact that the county annually celebrates Black History month, Women’s History month and Law Enforcement Appreciation month.

Beckner originally made the proposal last month, three days after the shooting stunned the nation, and particularly the LGBT commnity. The board approved Beckner’s proposal at that time to hang the rainbow gay pride flag from the top of County Center for the rest of the month as a tribute to those who were killed, which generated some angst from the community.

They also rejected a motion at that time to submit a letter to Governor Rick Scott to request him to raise the rainbow flag at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, and they opted to wait until Wednesday’s meeting to recognize June as Pride Month and June 12th specifically.

As per usual when an issue of LGBT rights comes up before the board, there were more public speakers – many from the religious community – who spoke against the measure.

“Is this truly an effort to recognize all victims of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, or is this a cold, calculated effort to exploit the deaths of those who were murdered and the pain and suffering of the survivors, for government promotion of the LGBT agenda? ” asked Christian conservative activist Terry Kemple.

Dr. Travis Smith, Senior Pastor with the Hillsdale Baptist Church, said he had noticed the board’s “courtship” of the LGBT community over the recent years (such as including them back into the county’s human rights ordinance and repealing the 2005 ban on gay pride). He said that was tantamount to pushing “the moral sensibilities of the majority of your constituents.”

“Unless you’re deaf, you know there is a growing spirit of anger and concern among voters who are sick of watching elected officials placate the demands of militant groups,” Smith said, adding that the LGBT community wanted “acceptance of the abnormal.”

Plant City resident Nancy Desmond said not every religious organization is conservative and thus anti-LGBT. “Progressive religious families are taking in the children that right-wing religious families are kicking out,” she said, reciting statistics of homeless LGBT youth.

“As a Christian, I absolutely believe that God sent his son here not to judge, but to love,” Beckner said, in responding the to comment from the religious community. But he failed to move a single member of the board to consider the motion, and it died quickly, with no discussion.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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