Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Castor and Buckhorn criticize Hillsborough County Commission's rejection of domestic partner registry

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 4:04 PM

Kathy Castor outside her local Congressional office in West Tampa on Wednesday
  • Kathy Castor outside her local Congressional office in West Tampa on Wednesday
In 2005, Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor — who then served on the Board of County Commissioners — was the lone holdout against the somewhat infamous Hillsborough County vote to ban gay pride events.

Seven and a half years later, she said she can't believe the Board (with an almost entirely new cast) remains stuck in the past when it comes to issues affecting the LGBT community — last week the board voted 4-3 to reject a domestic partner registry in Hillsborough County.

"I was very disappointed in the Hillsborough County Commission's decision," she told CL on Wednesday afternoon. "They need to recognize that this is a diverse community. We value diversity. It makes us strong."

Only two board members from that 2005 vote currently remain on the County Commission: Mark Sharpe and Ken Hagen. Both voted to support then-commissioner Ronda Storms' controversial proposal, which occurred after opposition formed when certain county libraries offered public displays observing gay pride month in June.

This time around, however, Commissioner Sharpe actually introduced the proposal for a domestic partner registry.

Castor said that while the business community recognizes and respects same-sex benefits and relationships, it's a shame that the four members of the Board who opposed the domestic registry — Hagan, Sandy Murman, Al Higginbotham and Victor Crist — do not.

"They need to come into the modern era, into this century, and realize that this community largely has moved past those dated battles of discrimination of the past," she added.

When running for mayor back in 2011, Bob Buckhorn was always outspoken in his support for gay rights, and he was an enthusiastic backer of the City Council's approval last year of creating a domestic partner registry for couples — a move that inspired a number of other local governments in the Tampa Bay area to follow suit — before the Board's rejection of the concept last week.

On Tuesday, Buckhorn told CL he thought it was "unfortunate" that the measure went down to defeat.

"I think we've made so much progress as a community," Buckhorn said, just moments after he held a news conference in Sulphur Springs. "I think there are truly economic reasons — even if you don't subscribe to the moral reasons — there are economic reasons why they should have done it. I think it makes us far less competitive as a community, but I can only do what I can do. And I'll continue to push the city in a direction that recognizes diversity as a strength, and celebrates that diversity. And I'm proud to do it."

Hillsborough County remains the biggest county in Florida that excludes the LGBT community in their human rights ordinance. County Commissioners have made news in recent years during gay pride month as well by refusing to sign off on proclamations that honor the GaYBOR business community.

"I'm not sure I understand why," Buckhorn said when asked to try to explain the vote. "I can't speak to their intentions or what their hearts told them. I would have hoped that they would have passed it. I think it reflects unfortunately on the larger and greater Hillsborough County, but hopefully Tampa remains a beacon of opportunity and a beacon of diversity. That's the only part that I can control."

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