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Date still not set for gay-rights vote

Despite pressure from anti-gay groups to schedule a referendum on Tampa's gay-rights ordinance, City Council members voted Thursday to postpone setting a date.

Council members, in a 6-0 vote, decided to wait until a lawsuit filed by Take Back Tampa, which has asked the city to hold a referendum Nov. 3, is resolved. Council member Perry Harvey Jr. was absent.

Take Back Tampa gathered names for a petition to ask the council to place the ordinance on a referendum.

The city must hold a referendum by November 1995. Last summer, Take Back Tampa collected the minimum number of signatures _ at least 12,310 _ on a petition requiring the ballot question.

Take Back Tampa hopes the courts will set a date for the referendum because the City Council has delayed a decision, said Don Conwell, an attorney for the group.

In a preliminary vote Jan. 16, the council decided to put the ordinance on the ballot for the Sept. 1 election. But the final vote, scheduled for Jan. 30, was postponed. Continued absences by council members have delayed a final vote.

Take Back Tampa doesn't want the referendum to be held Sept. 1. The group would rather hold the referendum Nov. 3, the date of the presidential election, when a heavy turnout is expected.

In Thursday's meeting, council member Scott Paine condemned Take Back Tampa's lawsuit. "I think the motion is an insult to the council because it implies the council can't make its own decisions," he said.