Government can not ban personal feelings

In June 2005, Hillsborough commissioners, led by Rhonda Storms, banned the acknowledgement of gay pride or any “official displays” of it in the county government. The issue of gay pride was brought up after a book display representing gay and lesbian pride in the West Gate Regional Library received complaints.

A year later, it is extremely hard to hold any gay pride celebration in the Tampa Bay area. Earlier this month, which is Gay Pride Month, Brandon Pride President Mark Ferguson planned a daylong celebration of gay pride, but canceled it at the last minute because he couldn’t find a place to hold the event.

The Cambridge dictionary’s definition of pride is “your feelings of your worth and respect for yourself.”

Pride is a feeling; how can any form of government ban a feeling?

Although the commissioners only banned gay pride from the county government, it still makes Hillsborough County seem off-limits to those wishing to show their pride.

That is probably why Ferguson couldn’t find a place to host his event. He talked to Lee Stevens of the Showman’s Association, which has a picnic area, but a contract was never finalized – probably because of the club’s “cold feet,” Ferguson told the St. Petersburg Times.

He also had trouble finding vendors for the festival.

“We were needing a lot more support from the community to pull this off,” he said.

However, Brandon Pride is not giving up without a fight. It is still participating in many other smaller events during the month. It is also recreating the same book display that started the controversy at the West Gate Regional Library.

Gay pride dissenters do not see this as an issue of equality. In opposition of the display of books by gay authors, Robert Knight the director of a conservative public policy group for women told the St. Petersburg Times, “They should no more celebrate homosexuality than bring in a display showing the joys of cocaine.”

Comparing homosexuality to drug addiction is about as archaic as an argument can get. It’s obvious that commissioner Storms and the other dissenters find moral qualms with homosexuality. Personal beliefs keep them from accepting a group of Americans who only want to be heard and respected for who they are. Gay people are, in fact, regular human beings. They don’t want to turn everyone gay.

We are in a new era of bigotry. It was nearly 50 years ago that desegregation was put into practice, and it came with quite a fight. The current debate is not about morals or homosexuality, but about equality. Homophobes can continue to try to stifle the gay movement, but in the end, denying privileges and rights to a group of citizens is without a doubt as un-American as can be.