Hillsborough County Commissioners made a historic move in the fight for equality on Wednesday. They voted unanimously to move forward with an amendment protecting gay and lesbian residents from discrimination.
The push was led by Kevin Beckner, the county's first openly gay commissioner.
It's an exclusion 19 years and counting. But now, county commissioners all agree: Hillsborough County's Human Rights Ordinance has to change to protect all of its constituents, regardless of their sexual orientation.
"In 2014, no hard working American, trying to earn a living, trying to provide for his or her family, should have to live in fear of being fired from their job for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance," Commissioner Kevin Beckner said Wednesday.
Back in 1995, the Hillsborough County Commission voted against including gays and lesbians in its civil rights ordinance. The move left the community in limbo for almost two decades when it came to protections in the workplace and in the housing market.
"Many LGBT residents aren't homeowners. They rely on rental properties. They are often discriminated against simply because of who they love," one woman said during Wednesday's meeting.
Still, critics of the amendment say discrimination goes both ways.
"If you past this measure, it will discriminate against Christians and other people of faith, of deeply held moral conviction, who believe homosexual behavior is not normal and violates God's moral plan," one man said during the meeting's public comment portion.
After hearing from Hillsborough County residents, pastors, and businesses, commissioners made a historic vote to move forward with the amendment.
"It is simply about equality, about fairness, about people, and good public policy. And most of all, it is the right thing to do," Beckner said.
The amendment will be drafted by the county attorney, and then reviewed by the county's Human Relations Advisory Board before it's voted into effect.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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