Editorial: Local race proves just as historical as national

By now, you’ve heard about the historical value of Tuesday’s presidential election many times. You’ve heard how important it is that Barack Obama is now America’s president-elect.

But here in Hillsborough County, there was a historical moment that had nothing to do with picking America’s first black commander in chief — Democrat Kevin Beckner knocked out Republican Brian Blair, who had served one term as a Hillsborough County commissioner.

What’s so important about this win? Beckner is the first openly gay person to be elected into any Hillsborough County office.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Beckner succeeded at wooing his constituents by knocking on doors and participating at any political gathering regardless of the number of people who attended.

Through his ubiquitous campaigning, Beckner was able to gather a notable following of supporters that helped him rally for a win.

Not only did Blair not do enough campaigning, he approached his campaign as if Beckner didn’t stand a chance. Blair also accused Beckner of dirty campaigning.

Though Beckner may not be welcomed by everyone — environmentalists call him an enemy of wetlands, according to the Times — his win shows how far the community has come in looking beyond gender and simply choosing the right candidate for the job.

Yes, a black president is a milestone. But a gay county commissioner is a step toward equality in the local area, particularly considering that in 2005 commissioner Ronda Storms and chairman Jim Norman fought to have gay pride displays banned from Hillsborough County public libraries.

It’s a bittersweet and ironic win, however.

The county that progressed is also the county that disappointed. Voters in the state passed Amendment 2, and the majority of Hillsborough County voters helped contribute to its acceptance by voting yes. The amendment streghthens the ban on gay marriage in Florida by preventing the courts from legalizing homosexual unions. California and Arkansas have similar laws in place.

Though the amendment may not directly affect Beckner and his job, it shows how much further voters have to go when it comes to seeing beyond sexual orientation.

However, Beckner’s win shows that, step-by-step, old standards can change.

Maybe someday the county and the state will accept that a person’s gender shouldn’t affect his or her capacity to love and be loved. If a marriage is built on love, it shouldn’t matter what genders the partners are.