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Iorio decries county's anti-gay vote

The Tampa mayor reacted to the Hillsborough County Commission's vote to ban county government from supporting gay pride events.

By JANET ZINK, Times Staff Writer
Published June 16, 2005

TAMPA - Tampa is a city that embraces diversity, including people who are gay, Mayor Pam Iorio said Thursday.

"Gays and lesbians are part of our diversity and deserve our respect. That is a value that I hold dear," Iorio said at a breakfast organized to promote public art in Tampa. "We should build on tolerance, not intolerance."

Iorio made her remarks the day after the Hillsborough County Commission voted 5-1 in favor of a policy that bans county government from acknowledging, promoting or participating in gay pride recognition and events. Commissioner Kathy Castor cast the lone dissenting vote, and Commissioner Ken Hagan was out of the room.

The mayor was invited to speak about public art and made a few remarks on the topic Thursday. But she said after reading in the newspaper about the County Commission's actions she felt the need to respond.

"Speaking out is important," Iorio said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

In 2004, Iorio extended benefits to domestic partners of city government employees, including those of the same sex.

Since the early 1990s the city has had a human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. The county had a similar ordinance, but repealed it in the mid 1990s.

Iorio also denounced the commission's criticism of a public library display that promoted Gay Pride and Lesbian Pride Month. It was that display that prompted the commission to approve the policy banning support of gay pride events.

Libriarians, she said, should be the ones making decisions about book purchases and displays.

"They are professionals and should be treated with respect," she said. "Books are intended to promote discusssion, new thoughts, new ideas. That's what books are all about."

-- Janet Zink can be reached at 226-3401 or jzink@sptimes.com

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