By a unanimous vote, Hillsborough has become the latest county in Florida to expand anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community.
The historic vote to add sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as protected classes to the current Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) took place on October 1st with the leadership of Commissioner Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough’s first openly gay county commissioner.
This decision comes after a history of anti-LGBT policies and actions in Hillsborough, including the 1995 repeal of the HRO to take out sexual orientation from the protected classes, a disappointing vote earlier this year opposing a domestic partnership registry, and a ban on county government recognition of LGBT pride events, which was repealed last year.
The updates to the HRO not only protect people from discrimination in the workplace but also prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations, extension of credit, and Hillsborough County contracting and procurement.
With the support of the Hillsborough Human Relations Board and the Tampa LGBT Support Network, the ACLU of Florida made recommendations regarding a dangerously broad religious exemption and harmful language used to define “sexual orientation,” provisions that were taken from the much older ordinance currently in place for the city of Tampa.
But this is only one out of two potential steps forward for Hillsborough County. Just after the changes to the HRO were proposed, Commissioner Beckner again proposed a Domestic Partnership Registry (DPR), which is now moving forward with no opposition.
A final vote on the DPR is expected at the public hearing scheduled for October 15th.