Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough review board kills charter amendment for LGBT protections

TAMPA — Aligned but not allied, LGBT activists and religious conservatives surprisingly came together Tuesday to urge the Hillsborough County charter review board to back away from a charter amendment that would strengthen protections for gays and lesbians.

The review board, a body that meets every five years to recommend changes to the county charter, conceded to the wishes of the vocal crowd and voted 11-1 against a charter amendment that would have barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Had it passed, Hillsborough residents would have decided on whether to ratify the changes in a 2016 ballot referendum.

The amendment would have added to the charter, essentially the county's constitution, the same protections against discrimination for LGBT individuals that already exist in Hillsborough for race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, disability or political affiliation. Commissioners passed a similar ordinance in 2014. But approving a charter amendment would have prevented future commissions from backtracking.

Dozens of people spoke on the matter, but not a single one voiced support for moving the referendum forward.

Opposition to the charter amendment from religious conservatives made up the bulk of public comment. They offered familiar arguments that it would trample on their religious freedom and feared that it would become easier for predators to sexually assault women or children in public bathrooms because they could pretend they are transgender.

Hillsborough County's existing county ordinance, however, specifically exempts bathrooms.

"I promise if you move forward with this, I will fight every step of the way," said Travis Smith, a pastor at Hillsdale Baptist Church.

Similar arguments persuaded Houston voters to defeat an anti-discrimination ordinance there. Many in the audience Tuesday were offended by that argument.

"Tonight, I have been marginalized with a child molester," said Mike Reedy of Equality Florida. "This is exactly what would happen if this becomes a ballot initiative. You will see a majority talk about the rights of a minority using false truths, using scare tactics to make you believe and make the population believe that the LGBT community is one that is out to get your wives and your daughters. And we're not."

It was opposition from gay-rights groups such as Equality Florida and PFLAG Tampa that put the nail in the amendment's coffin. They said that they were content with the 2014 ordinance for now. They also believed it could derail other legislative priorities in 2016.

Charter review board member Jan Platt, who first proposed the amendment this summer, made the motion to kill it.

Gerald White was the lone dissenter and said he was disappointed by activists who backed away from the amendment out of fear or to advance other agendas.

"To me, as a citizen, something is wrong with that," he said.

Contact Steve Contorno at Follow @scontorno.

Hillsborough review board kills charter amendment for LGBT protections 12/01/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut


    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview


    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]