Hillsborough County Commission rejects Gay Pride Month proposal

- A proposal by Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner to designate June as Gay Pride and  History Month failed following a lot of debate from community members, but without any discussion  from the board.

Beckner, the county's first openly gay commissioner, asked gave an impassioned speech asking  commissioners to consider his proposal.

"What's before you today is not about special rights. It's not about special recognition. It's about  valuing important members of our community," he said.

Beckner also wanted to recognize June 12 as a day to remember the 49 people killed in Orlando at the  Pulse nightclub, a business often frequented by members of the gay community.

"It was not only an act of terrorism, but it was an act of a hate crime committed against a specific  group, namely the LGBT community," Beckner continued. "The simple resolution in front of you is only a  reflection and suggestion that we join other communities and we recognize the month of June as LGBT  Pride and History month."

No other commissioner gave Beckner's proposal a "second," so it failed without any discussion.

Earlier in the meeting, several religious leaders condemned the proposal, saying the GLBT agenda goes  against "god's plan" for humanity and procreation.

Former school board candidate and conservative activist Terry Kemple told commissioners this was  nothing more than a recognition of a group of people for their sexual behavior.

"I oppose government promotion of homosexual behavior and that's what you'll be doing," Kemple said.  "If you're going to make the first month-long observation of a group to be based on sex, then I make  a recommendation that you make it for traditional married couples who have traditional sex who don't  commit adultery."

"The overwhelming majority of the voting public might tolerate the intolerable, but few have any desire to celebrate it," added Travis Smith, pastor of Hillsdale Baptist Church in Citrus Park.

Other speakers blasted commissioners for even discussing the idea and suggested alternatives such as  a month to honor law enforcement officers or veterans.

"You're trying to give that community a whole month, when even the veterans don't even have a whole  month. I'm a veteran. I don't even have a whole month!" said James Cervantes of Riverview.

But Beckner also received support from community members. A gay county employee complained of the  "loud thunder of hate" ringing in his year.

"Right-wing churches are not the only voices in the Hillsborough County," added Nancy Desmond, a  gay-rights activist.

"This is not a religious issue. There are people with strongly held beliefs on both sides of the issue, but again you are the government.  You are not church and I urge all of you to vote in favor," said Terence Wolfe, another gay-rights activist.

Had the proposal passed, it would have marked a continuation of a big shift for the County Commission which, in 2005, banned the recognition of LGBT events.

The ban was eventually lifted and, last month, commissioners passed Beckner's proposal to raise the LGBT Pride flag for the rest of June, following the Orlando shooting.

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