Friday, December 15, 2017
Editorials

Feckless four in Hillsborough set back rights

They all papered their support for their bigoted position with patriotic rhetoric. But voting against a registry to give unmarried adults in committed relationships the right to visit each other in the hospital and other protections had nothing to do with smaller government, or legal loopholes, or personal responsibility, or any of the other phony excuses from the four Republican Hillsborough County commissioners. They simply couldn't summon the courage to do the right thing, and the county again looks narrow-minded and unenlightened as a result.

Commissioners Ken Hagan, Victor Crist, Sandra Murman and Al Higginbotham continued the commission's sorry legacy on civil rights Thursday by killing the creation of a domestic partner registry on a 4-3 vote. The measure would have allowed unmarried couples — straight or gay — to enjoy some protections that married people have, such as the right to visit each other in the hospital, be notified by the police in an emergency or take part in a child's education. It is a simple step that communities across the country are taking to recognize equal treatment in the modern family. In the bay area, the cities of Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg, and Pinellas County, have adopted a registry. It should have been an easy decision for Hillsborough to follow suit.

But the feckless four would rather burnish Hillsborough's reputation for backwardness than face social conservatives in their party who are intent on denying rights to gays. This is a county, after all, that has a policy against recognizing gay events. This is a county that has blocked efforts to reinstate antidiscrimination protections that commissioners stripped in the 1990s. Crist didn't even have the decency to act civil during the debate. And none of the four bothered faking that they came in with an open mind.

Republican commissioner Mark Sharpe and his Democratic colleagues, Les Miller and Kevin Beckner, promoted the registry as a simple administrative move that leaves it to adults and not the county to decide what's best for their families. It is remarkable that privacy and equal treatment still come second in 2013 to crass gamesmanship in the fourth-largest county in the fourth-largest state. Hillsborough voters should hold Hagan, Crist, Murman and Higginbotham accountable at the next election for embarrassing the county and failing to support fair treatment of all of their constituents.

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