Ban on LGBT discrimination to go before Hillsborough charter review board
Hillsborough County’s Charter Review Board is expected to decide Tuesday whether to cement LGBT protections in the county charter.
The review board, a 14-member body that meets every five years to recommend changes to the county charter, will hold the second of two public hearings on whether to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the county charter’s anti-discrimination section. From there, the board will likely vote on whether to recommend the change.
The provision must garner a supermajority of votes, or 10 of 14 board members, to pass. If approved, the question will go before voters as a ballot referendum in November 2016.
In 2014, the county commission moved unanimously to ban government discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Adding that language to the county charter, which is essentially the county’s constitution, would prevent future commissions from undoing those protections; it would take another ballot referendum to remove them.
When last discussed in November, the review board’s primary concerns were over how to word the amendment to the charter, definitions of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” and whether to include “former-gays” in the language, too. However, there did not appear to be significant opposition to putting the question on the ballot.
Still, a supermajority is a high threshold to reach and passage is not guaranteed.
Each of the seven county commissioners selects two charter review board members. Of the 14 participants, 12 were selected by commissioners who supported the 2014 anti-discrimination ordinance. The other two were selected by Commissioner Stacy White, a Republican who was elected to office last November.
If approved, it would be the latest example of Hillsborough sharp turn on LGBT issues in the past few years. The commission banned county participation and promotion of pride events until 2013.
"I have always believed the community was a lot more willing to embrace human rights than our leaders have been; they've always been in front of them," said Commissioner Kevin Beckner, the county’s first openly gay commissioners and who championed the 2014 ordinance banning discrimination against gay individuals, last month. "Now they've converged together not only to strengthen our social fabric but to promote economic development and prosperity."