Friday, July 22, 2005

County Refuses To Reconsider Ban On Gay Pride Recognition!
Gretchen Parker/Tampa Tribune~July 21, 2005

TAMPA - In their first meeting since they approved a ban on county-sponsored acknowledgment of gay pride, Hillsborough County commissioners had a chance Wednesday to reconsider their new policy and declined.

``I thought I had moved to a tolerant community,'' said Lincoln Calcavecchi, a 41- year-old Army veteran who is gay. He made his home in Tampa in May and says he now feels shunned by the county. ``That shames me greatly,'' he told the board.

Hillsborough County Commission Meeting

Besides subjecting Tampa to ridicule, the board is denying gay residents their civil rights, protesters said.

One homemade sign admonished: ``Shame on Hillsborough County.''

Preaching HATE!

A few gay rights supporters shouted disapproval of an evangelist who used his time at the podium to preach against sodomy, and they applauded their allies.

Ronda Storms

Commissioner Ronda Storms, who proposed the ban and has become a target of protesters' ire, sat silently and smiled at all speakers.

Commissioner Kathy Castor, the only member to vote against the ban, opened the door for the board to ditch the policy. She said the board violated state statutes with the ban. That's because it prompted the director of the county library system to strip displays of gay-authored books, even though it didn't specifically target libraries, Castor said.

She quoted Florida statutes, approved in 1984, that created a volunteer library advisory board and gave it sole authority to select books and make its own policies.

Interruption of that process requires filing a grievance to the panel, the statute states. Commissioners do have leeway to change library rules, but only upon recommendation by the county administrator, the statute states.

Because the county did not follow that procedure, the policy is not valid, Castor told commissioners. County Attorney Renee Lee did not return calls seeking an official interpretation of the 1984 statute.

The Fight Has Just Begun!

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