Kemple presses for diversity panel appointment
When Hillsborough County commissioners voted earlier this year to create a diversity advisory panel charged with making their government more responsive to people with varied backgrounds, Terry Kemple asked for an appointment.
Kemple explained why in an email to members of his Christian-based Community Issues Council:
"Since you regularly receive my emails, you know that whenever you hear the word 'diversity' in relationship to our culture," Kemple wrote. "it is code for some effort to forward the homosexual agenda."
He urged recipients to apply for appointments.
"If we don't, then the County Commission will (be) pressed by council members who don't have any concern for the thoughts of God or the Judeo-Christian values upon which this great country was founded," Kemple wrote.
Kemple initially was recommended for appointment to the panel, one of 19 people picked from more than 90 applicants. The panel has slots for people from multiple ethnic backgrounds from Hispanic/Latino to Indian-Asian to far East-Asian. Kemple was recommended by the National Diversity Council, a group selected to vet candidates based on an application and essay, to be one of two northern and southern European representatives. There is indeed a category for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender appointments as well as another for people with disabilities.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner got a copy of Kemple's email and asked County Administrator Mike Merrill to forward it to the National Diversity Council and ask if its author should be included on the panel. Identifying information was left off of the query. A Diversity Council wrote back to say, no, the writer should not participate.
Kemple still wants on and will take his case to county commissioners Wednesday.
Beckner, who is openly gay, agrees with the national group's recommendation. He notes Kemple, a school board candidate, has regularly led opposition efforts to extend discrimination protection for gays and lesbians as well as government support for gay pride events. He has also sought to keep representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations from speaking in public schools.
"We're trying to create and promote an atmosphere of inclusivity," Beckner said. "He's always been about trying to exclude people from our community."
Kemple said in his email that this is not the sort of "important" work the County Commission should be doing. Beckner also takes exception to that and says Kemple shouldn't be participating if he doesn't think it's worthwhile, saying he'll be a disruptive participant.
Kemple noted that he has served on a county human relations board and said, while he doesn't agree with some of his fellow members, they are able to discuss issues and reach conclusions. He said it seems a little odd that someone seeking to promote diversity would actively seek to block someone who sees the world differently from him.
For Mr. Beckner to want to exclude me because I don’t agree with him on a particular issue is in my mind a misuse of authority," Kemple said. "A diversity advisory council to me means all-inclusive. He chose to take extraordinary steps to get me excluded. That's just ludicrous on the face of it."
It all adds up to one of those particularly awkward discussions commissioners sometimes have.