Gay rights issue highlights Tampa, Hillsborough differences
Anyone who needs more evidence of the deep social divide between the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County need look no further than the County Commission's discussion yesterday of its sexual harassment policies. Commissioners are developing guidelines in the wake of a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought against Commissioner Kevin White by a former aide. When commissioner Kevin Beckner suggested that the internal policy should specify protections for gays, he faced resistance from fellow board members. Commissioner Jim Norman accused Beckner of trying to make an end-run around the countywide human rights ordinance, which at one time did protect gays, but no longer does.
Compare that to what happened earlier this month at Tampa City Council when a member of the city's human rights board suggested adding transgendered individuals to the city's human rights ordinance, which has long protected gays throughout the city. Council members, with no dissent, agreed to explore the matter. Mayor Pam Iorio has said she supports the concept.
Beckner said for him the issue is simply a matter of making sure everyone who works for the county is treated with dignity and respect. He said he has no interest at this time in adding protection of gays to the county's human rights ordinance, understanding that it's a nonstarter with a relatively conservative County Commission. But he did seem frustrated that his suggestion for the internal policy didn't have more support. "It’s really unfortunate that some of my colleagues are really more interested in protecting politics rather than people," he said.
Janet Zink, Times staff writer