This time, the renegade who may or may not actually live in his district, launched into a comparison of the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy with the hiding and transferring of pedophile priests to an LGBT community who are of many faiths... including none... who just want to be able to work and live in this county without fear that their sexual orientation or gender identity will be used against them.
Proctor started his political vomit by asking why religious institutions would be exempted from the anti-discrimination provisions in the Human Rights Ordinance. He reasoned that they shouldn't be... and then pulled out the New York Times... and cited the child sex abuse scandals in the Roman Catholic Church "because of homosexuals." He kept repeating this line over and over. His intent? To be mean. To be evil. To be Bill Proctor.
The tension in the room broke when my friend, Terry Galloway, finally learned what Proctor was saying (Terry is deaf, and Proctor was too far away for her to read his lips, so her wife did the interpreting). When she learned that she was being compared to pedophile priests in the Roman Catholic Church, she erupted in screams.
"NO! You are comparing me to a pedophile?!?!?! You should be ashamed!!"
Terry made her way from her seat across the chamber, continuing to yell at Proctor as a sheriff's deputy quickly moved in to escort her from the room. The rest of us stood up and cheered. I slapped my hands together in thunderous applause as did many. We had to. We needed to excise the poison that had been poured on our heads by a so-called political leader. I followed after her and the deputy. I knew Terry would be told to leave the building, but I wanted to make sure that the officer knew she was no threat... beyond breaking up the supposed civility of this hearing. When I returned to the room, I shed a few tears of my own.
It had been a very long meeting. Eighty speakers in all. I would say a little more than half were speaking in favor of the Human Rights Ordinance to extend protections from discrimination in employment, housing and accommodation to people based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. In addition, because the proposal will cover businesses with 5 or more employees, it would give the same protection to all the protected classes (including race, gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity, disability, etc.) and cover far more workplaces in Leon County.
Those who were opposed rolled out the arguments that this would be a burden on business. Some made a mockery of the discrimination me and others like me experience when they wondered aloud why we weren't offering protections to smokers or people who are obese.
The opponents kept insisting that they don't hate people, they don't discriminate against people, they "love the sinner, not the sin." The Frightened doth protest too much me thinks.
In the end, the Commission voted 4-3 to send this measure to a public hearing scheduled for May 11th. And we can have a repeat of the same 3-1/2 hours of testimony. But perhaps it will be longer. Perhaps more of us who have experienced discrimination will find the still small inner voice and let that become a roar for change in our community.