Supporting gay pride events has been banned by the Hillsborough County government for several years, but that is about to change.
On Wednesday, the Hillsborough County Commission voted 7-0 to eliminate the ban.
For eight years, the local gay community has been blocked out of official recognition by the commission. Some say the county's policy on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) events has cost the county conventions and new business.
In a 2005 meeting, commissioners, led by Ronda Storms, voted 5-to-1 to not support, promote or participate in gay pride events. Since then, Commissioner Kevin Beckner says the county has had a black eye with the LGBT community and those who support it.
Now, as the county aims to rebrand itself, Beckner said it is time to repeal the ban.
"(It's) blatantly a discriminatory policy that discriminates against the LGBT community and our citizens," Beckner said.
Overturning the ban will require a supermajority, meaning Beckner will need yes votes from a majority of the commissioners - plus one.
Meanwhile, there are opponents to a repeal.
"It is not about equal rights, it is about special rights for one specific group of people based on who they choose as sexual partners," said Terry Kemple of the Community Issues Council. "I don't think the county should be in the business of supporting special interests of that type."
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn supports the repeal, telling commissioners in a letter the issue is partly about business.
"Rightly or wrongly, symbols matter and if we are perceived as community that is not welcoming or a city where the value of some is not the same as others, we will be far less competitive," Buckhorn said in the letter.
Hundreds of people on both sides of the issue attended the hearing today.