I just left the Hillsborough County commission chambers. Absolute pandemonium broke out as the commission voted 7-0 to repeal the eight year anti-gay pride ban in Hillsborough County.
Commissioner Les Miller earned a standing ovation with his passionate rebuttal of the idea that this was anything but discrimination. He described himself as an African-American who has been eyeball to eyeball with bigotry. Someone who has lost jobs and endured the separate and unequal humiliation of Jim Crow laws. He told of the day he had the ugliest racial slur hurled at him as he wore his Air Force uniform and walked along the street with his daughter.
Commissioner Mark Sharp tearfully told the crowd that he was late to the event because he was at the school with his son who was being given the American Legion award. His voice broke as he described telling his son "When you make a mistake it's up to you to fix it." After a long pause to gather himself he expressed His deep regret for having voted for the policy in the first place. I'm just glad that I'm still here to fix it.
Finally, Commissioner Beckner was an absolute hero. At the end, amendments were tossed forward that were equally insulting. But Kevin Beckner stood strong and backed them down so that a simple up-and-down vote could occur. It is impossible to overstate how skillfully Kevin Beckner handled that delicate moment where consensus could either be forged or lost.
It is an amazing day. It is a turning point. And have so much more work to do.
- Nadine Smith, Executive Director Equality Florida