Gay-Display Vote Still Mystifies

Here’s the part I don’t get about that vote. You know the one.

It wasn’t just Ronda Storms. Media-seducing, yahoo-pandering, red-meat rhetoric still only gets you one vote.

Hers was one of five Hillsborough County Commission votes in favor of adopting a policy that prohibits the county from “acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride recognition and events, little g, little p.” Only Kathy Castor, who has to answer to her constituents, her conscience and her mother, voted the other way.

For the record, Brian Blair, Jim Norman, Tom Scott and Mark Sharpe supported Storms the way the Jordanaires used to back up Elvis. Ken Hagan wasn’t there. On a subsequent vote – stipulating that the policy can only be repealed by a (5-2) super majority — Hagan joined the majority in a 6-1 vote with Castor again the lone dissenter.

The obvious legal and public relations ramifications should have been foreseen – if not the sense – and perception — of right and wrong. Mayor Pam Iorio, who wasted no time distancing the city from the ham-handed policy and its Storms trooper rhetoric, probably preferred another fire house photo-op to “Take Back Tampa: The Sequel.”

Actually, there’s another part I don’t get either. It is equating acknowledgement with promotion.

In a society with constitutional qualms about displaying the Ten Commandments in public venues, “promotion” will always lend itself to contextual and legal parsing. As it should.

But “acknowledgement?”

Gays and lesbians – and their lifestyle and attendant pride – don’t exist in a vacuum or a closet. Or only in incorporated Hillsborough. They are an integral part of every community’s fabric. This one is no exception. An acknowledgement is little more than a nod to reality. What they don’t deserve is an official, demeaning cheap shot that deigns to speak for more than a half-dozen small-minded commissioners.

One final point. Topical Storms Ronda is, in a perverse way, good at what she does. She’s smart; she’s calculated; she’s never sound-bite challenged; and she knows which visceral hot buttons to push. She can pervert populism with the best.

On the county’s new gay pride policy, she got what she wanted. It will play well to the usual “us vs. them” (Big U, little t) suspects that she patently panders to.

But that still doesn’t explain – much less justify — those other votes. The other commissioners, at least, should have known better. Shame on them. Big S, little t.

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