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Florida county commission unanimously repeals gay pride ban

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By Jacob CombsScreen Shot 2013-06-06 at 10.22.19 AM

By a 7-0 vote, the Hillsborough County Commission voted yesterday to repeal a policy that prohibited the county from recognizing gay pride, the Tampa Bay Times reported:

For years, Hillsborough County stood firm, refusing to protect gays from discrimination as other governments approved domestic partnerships and even gay marriage.

But Hillsborough County commissioners reversed course Wednesday, overturning a local policy many gay rights activists saw as the ultimate insult. They voted 7-0 to repeal a ban on county government recognition of gay pride, a movement the ban’s instigator once dismissed with a “little g, little p.”

“And repealed should be capitalized,” said Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who led the reversal. “Capital ‘R.'”

During the commission’s meeting regarding the bill, one pastor said that the county risked losing the “favor of God” if it repealed the gay pride ban.  Another clergyman, Tony Smart, said that government “should not endorse or promote any sexual preference.”

The ban, passed in 2005, was the brainchild of conservative then-Commissioner Ronda Storms, who proposed the measure in response to what she believed was an inappropriate flier for gay pride she saw in a county library.  The commission voted 5-1 in favor of her proposal and added an extra requirement saying it could only be appealed by a supermajority vote after a public hearing.

One of the commissioners, Republican Mark Sharpe, teared up as he expressed regret for voting in favor of the ban in 2005.  “I teach my kids that when you make a mistake, you correct it yourself,” he said, “to not be afraid when you make a mistake and to fight like hell to stick up for the weak and the people who are different than you and people looking for help.”

Early this year, the Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 against a proposal to establish a domestic partner registry that would have provided same-sex couples with modest protections in terms of healthcare and child rearing.  Several other Florida jurisdictions, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas County, currently have such registries.

After the jump, you can watch two videos from the commission’s meeting: one of Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith, and another of out Democratic County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.  (h/t Towleroad for these videos)Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 10.22.19 AM

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