Over the last two weeks, the Hillsborough County Commission passed two important policies that will make Hillsborough a more fair place to live, work and visit for LGBT people and our families.
The unanimous passage of the Hillsborough Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) and the countywide domestic partnership registry (DPR) mark a dramatic shift in what was once one of Florida’s most unfriendly counties for LGBT people.
In 1991, Hillsborough County Commissioners passed a human rights ordinance that included protections for gays and lesbians, only to repeal those protections in 1995. And in 2005, the commission led by Ronda Storms voted to ban gay pride in the county.
Our community responded to this adversity by organizing. In 2008, Kevin Beckner was elected the first openly gay person to the Hillsborough County Commission, and his presence on the commission has changed its landscape. Commissioner Beckner led the repeal of the ban on gay pride in 2013 and the passage of both HERO and the DPR in the last two weeks.
The passage of HERO means that now 49% of Floridians lives in a place with sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Passage of HERO and the registry mean that one of our state’s largest counties has now gone from having no protections for our families to being a leader in fairness.
Equality Florida is proud to have been there every step of the way, fighting back against the ban on pride, helping to elect Commissioner Beckner, and meeting with commissioners and business leaders to build support for pro-equality policies.
None of this could have happened without the thousands of fair minded Hillsborough County residents who over the years have attended rallies, signed petitions, called or e-mailed commissioners, and shown up to commission meetings to have their voices heard.