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Religious conservatism threatens progress

 

Kevin Beckner, Hillsborough County’s first openly gay commissioner, oversaw a commission vote this week that would officially enforce his proposal to overturn a 2005 Hillsborough County censure of the LGBT community and LGBT affiliated events with a super majority vote.

The original homophobic measure was passed by a vehemently conservative comission spearheaded by Ronda Storms, a Florida politician who served an eight-year tenure as Hillsborough County commissioner from 1998 to 2006. Among other controversial measures, she advocated the countywide sterilization of child abusers, ended county funding of Planned Parenthood initiatives for safe sex education and rejected a statute that would prohibit job discrimination against homosexuals in Hillsborough County.

Storms’ controversial views were awarded in 2006, when she was elected to the Florida Senate, where she continued to pursue contentious legislation laced with religious doctrine.

To the detriment of a democratic society, Storms is not, by any means, an anomaly in the political circuit.

In an infamous 2012 interview on a St. Louis television station, Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a champion of the religious right’s pro-life agenda, stated that “legitimate” rapes do not result in pregnancy, inciting a wave backlash against the seemingly misogynistic commentary.

In another case, seven states in the U.S. passed legislation requiring science teachers to teach a curriculum critical of evolution, and 37 do not recognize the civil benefits of marriage between same-sex couples.

Despite the U.S. Constitution’s specific prohibition of allowing church rhetoric to dictate social policy, many of these laws and policies were passed under the premise of religious fundamentalism.

Hillsborough County’s eight-year transition is admirable and in tune with a tide of changing sentiments toward America’s LGBT community. But lurking conservative influence, steeped in religious dogma, continues to propagate its influence in local, state and national arenas.

Religious conservatism, at its core, is the preservation of a second century mentality in a 21st century world. It’s the very force that fueled the 2005 LGBT censure of Hillsborough County and continues to proliferate unscientific, irrational policies that are out of touch with modern advancements and a globalized, democratic society.

Beckner’s stance is a step in the right direction to reverse overly religious and conservative policies and should be applauded as a step forward for Hillsborough County.

Konstantin Ravvin is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.