The same four Hillsborough County commissioners who shot down domestic partner rights teamed up again Wednesday to reinforce the county's reputation for bigotry. It was a cowardly and self-serving move that is wrong for the times and a wrong read of politics.
At issue was whether the board should appoint two-time political loser Terry Kemple to a new diversity council, a group charged with finding ways to make the county more appealing to people from all walks of life. It was ridiculous for Kemple to even be considered: He's made a name for himself bashing gays and Muslims, which he's touted in losing campaigns for office. And he has trashed the advisory council as a gay rights front, said its work was not important and called on like-minded followers to stack the board by flooding the county with applications.
Kemple tried Wednesday to walk back his effort to torpedo the panel by claiming he merely was trying to add diversity to its makeup. Commissioner Victor Crist echoed that same nonsense before joining Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Sandra Murman and Ken Hagan in confirming Kemple's appointment. It took a parliamentary maneuver from Commissioner Les Miller to put the matter aside for a later day.
But Kemple won because the panel's work is on hold — all because commissioners allowed a political activist with no interest in inclusion to exploit the issue as he embarks on his 2014 run for the Hillsborough School Board. This county continues to move backward as the country moves forward.