Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Once upon a time in Hillsborough: A tale of intolerance

One day down the road, the silver-haired grandmas and grandpas of Hillsborough County may gather the children close to tell the tale of Ronda Storms and all she once wrought.

They will hear how the Queen of East County once held sway over the land as a powerful county commissioner. How she had a heart of fire and brimstone and also the hearts of not a few like-minded voters. And how one day in 2005, in less than two minutes at a Hillsborough County Commission meeting, she used her powers to sway, or maybe in some cases to cow, the board into voting to send a message across the land:

That gay people should not feel particularly welcome here.

Wait, the children gathered 'round might say. Why were elected officials even considering some mean-spirited vote to discriminate? Who cares about their personal views on same-sex marriage or their religious beliefs — didn't these guys have enough to do running a county, dealing with growth, transportation and budgets, and mapping a thoughtful vision for the future?

(Okay, so I have high hopes for the intellect of the children of the future. Work with me here.)

This story, of course, is actually a very real and sad chapter in Hillsborough history: how then-Commissoner Storms used a kerfuffle over a public library display during Gay Pride Month to get the board to ban county government from having anything to do with gay pride.

How the board decreed there would be no participating in, promoting or even acknowledging gay pride — "little g, little p," Storms said.

This was a classic Stormsian twist: It didn't have to be an official Gay Pride event, just anything to do with someone being gay, or being supportive of fellow citizens who are gay, and daring to have any kind of pride about it.

And she locked it up by getting the commission to require a vote of five of seven of them to ever undo her handiwork instead of just a majority.

She did not give a catlike smile of satisfaction from the dais that day at successfully using her position to push her religious and conservative causes, but we can embellish in the retelling if we wish.

When we tell the story of this week's Great Undoing eight years later, of a new board and a new day, mandatory should be the part where Commissioner Les Miller described being called the n-word even as he wore an Air Force uniform and had his little girl beside him. And how he said, "Hatred is hatred, bigotry is bigotry" at the meeting and got applauded.

Every story needs comic relief, so we should also tell the part about how Commissioner Victor Crist suggested another policy against sponsoring events with obscene or offensively sexual content (Hey, dude, lay off Gasparilla!) Seriously, you need a policy for this?

We need to tell the part about how Mark Sharpe, who voted for the big bad ban back then, choked up when he talked about teaching his own kids that when you make a mistake, you fix it. "Yourself," he said.

And how Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who is gay, held up the Bible he says guides him daily, and no one smote him.

When we tell the story of The County That Would Not Move Forward, now we have the happy ending about how finally one day it did.

Once upon a time in Hillsborough: A tale of intolerance 06/07/13 [Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

]

  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say

    Crime

    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.