One commissioner refuses to sign Pride proclamation

Tampa – In a momentous show of support for the LGBT community, Hillsborough County Commissioners signed a proclamation recognizing March 28 as Tampa Pride day in the county. That is, all but one commissioner stood in solidarity with the LGBT community.

Newly elected commissioner Stacy White was the only member of the board who refused to sign the proclamation, celebrating the return of Pride to Tampa the last weekend in March.

He did not immediately respond to an email from Watermark seeking a comment on his refusal, but he told the Tampa Bay Times that he simply doesn’t agree with the proclamation, adding that he has “no interest in promoting hatred towards any person or group.”

He also said his refusal to sign comes “from a place of respect.”

Carrie West, President of Tampa Pride, said White’s refusal to sign is bigotry.

“Bigotry is a disease of choice,” West told Watermark. “Sorry he feels that way but the representation he represents in East Hillsborough covers an estimated 50,000 LGBT people and friendly allies. This is going to be a great event on its own.”

West said that both the vendor festival and Pride parade have sold out—meaning there is no more space for additional floats or vendor tents for the March 28 celebration.

While West is disappointed in White’s refusal to sign, he is thankful for the signatures of the rest of the board. Every other commissioner, including notoriously conservative Republicans Al Higgenbotham and Sandra Murman, showed their support for Tampa Pride by signing.

“There are many positive changes in Hillsborough County, including the many corporations coming to Tampa because of the diversity in the county,” West pointed out. “That charter issuance was passed to undo discrimination last summer because of the many influences of GaYbor members and Commissioner Kevin Beckner.”

West also said Tampa Pride will have a big economic impact.

“The area, business community, non profits and the government employees are elated to have this event happen again back in Hillsborough County and in Tampa,” West said.

White, a Republican, was endorsed by the Tea Party of Florida during his 2014 campaign, and was unchallenged in the race.

The glaring omission of White’s name may be seen as an anti-LGBT statement by some, but the refusal of one commissioner to sign a proclamation is a far cry from where the Commission was just a few short years ago.

In 2006, then-Commissioner Ronda Storms lead an anti-gay revolt in the chambers by passing a decision to ban the recognition of LGBT Pride by Hillsborough employees all together. Since then, Hillsborough has elected its first openly gay commissioner Kevin Beckner to two terms. Last year, Beckner lead the repeal of Storms’ ordinance and also convinced the board to unanimously adopt a domestic partnership registry in the county.

Interestingly, White did not campaign on any anti-LGBT rhetoric. He has only simply stated that he is a social and fiscal conservative.

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