Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Politics

Big news beyond baseball? A quiet vote for inclusion

What with the big baseball news this week — Tampa may not be the boyfriend in the Rays' divorce from St. Pete, but Hillsborough County plans to take the team to dinner and a movie really soon — you might have missed another notable headline.

On the same day as the baseball brouhaha, Hillsborough County commissioners voted unanimously on the makeup of a citizen diversity panel intended to connect them with issues affecting the county's minority communities.

Here's the remarkable part: That panel will specifically include the voices of members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

And, so?

Why is including diverse people on a panel that's supposed to be about, well, diversity, notable?

History, that's why.

You may recall this is a county commission that traditionally has not always embraced its gay citizenry — and a county government in which promoting gay pride remains strictly verboten.

And this is, after all, the board that gave us Ronda Storms, a politician constitutionally unable to keep her conservative Christian beliefs apart from her public duties. Storms is currently running for Hillsborough property appraiser on the At-Least-I-Don't-Send-My-Employees-Porn ticket, conveniently provided by the current occupant.

Back then, she was the architect of that still-standing and nearly unbreakable ban on county government acknowledging or promoting gay pride events or proclamations — much less participating in them.

So she must have dropped her Chick-fil-A nuggets when she heard the news of her former board this week.

Remember, this is also a county commission that once voted to rescind workplace protections for gay employees, something that's pretty much a no-brainer in more progressive corners.

And this week, every single commissioner up there voted to bring gay residents to the table.

Sure, Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said that tax dollars would not be used "to support gay pride events."

(Wait, is he even allowed to say "gay pride" out loud?)

"The goal," Hagan said, "isn't to promote a GLBT agenda."

I always wonder, when people throw out ominous aspersions about the other side's "agenda," what they think is on that particular to-do list. I mean, what comes after the Pledge of Allegiance and the call to order on the "gay agenda," besides getting the same basic considerations as the rest of the population?

But I nitpick. That vote was a notable step forward after many a step back.

Could it mean the commission will soon join other local governments in establishing a domestic partner registry so unmarried couples can make sure their partners are included when one of them is sick, hurt or dying?

That one applies to both gay and straight couples, so no worries about anyone's "agenda."

Yes, it was baseball that made headlines, with Hagan's persistent push to get talks going with the Rays lest they become a distant memory we only see on TV.

That small but unanimous vote for diversity wasn't nearly as big, but we'll take it anyway.

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