The sixth annual GaYBOR Days, the biggest and most popular yearly event for the 200-member Tampa business coalition, were held this past weekend. For the first time, the group’s good work in revitalizing the economy of Ybor City was recognized by the Hillsborough County Commission, a group that in past years made silence sound like the best case scenario in dealing with anything…
The sixth annual GaYBOR Days, the biggest and most popular yearly event for the 200-member Tampa business coalition, were held this past weekend. For the first time, the group’s good work in revitalizing the economy of Ybor City was recognized by the Hillsborough County Commission, a group that in past years made silence sound like the best case scenario in dealing with anything gay-related. Even though it has been seven years since she was a part of the commission herself, the waves of distrust and animosity can be tracked back to one woman, a person most in the Tampa LGBT community can agree is no lady.
That would be former Commissioner and State Senator Ronda Storms, a lawyer who, despite living in Germany and Turkey, made Ben Matlock look downright worldly. A preacher’s wife whose quest for family values earned her comparisons to a Christian “values” campaigner of yore, Anita Bryant. Unlike Bryant, who at least got publicly humiliated with a strategically-thrown fruit pie, Storms seemed untouchable, even after her Commission tenure ended.
Storms earned herself no friends amongst progressives with her modern-day crusadist attitude, meeting instead with her like-minded Valrico constituency in her sensible pumps and makeup that screamed “chorus girl” instead of “preacher’s wife” (despite not getting help in that realm from Friends of Dorothy, whom she clearly needed, she eventually learned how to tone down the various shades of red). She successfully lobbied her peers on the Commission dais to refrain from recognizing gay pride in any form at all back in 2005, and then also succeeded in making it more difficult to repeal in the future. That gay pride ban is still on the books in 2013.
We know the rest of Storms’ story: Emboldened by her stand against those sinful ho-mo-sex-u-als, she ran for the Florida Senate, again representing her farmland constituency, winning six years in Tallahassee. She would have won another term there had she not unexpectedly jumped ship last year and went after Hillsborough County property appraiser Rob Turner, who made righteous Sen. Storms salivate after she heard he was involved in a sexting scandal. Pledging to make property appraisals free of filth for the children, or whatever, she unseated Turner in the primary but easily lost the general election in November.
That leaves the Commission, staid in attitude if not in composition, unable to turn over a new leaf. Only two of the seven commissioners who passed the gay pride ban in 2005 are still on the dais, yet the cold, old attitudes and airs remain, with a domestic partnership registry failing this year despite the City of Tampa passing one. It begs the question: How do we topple the legacy of Ronda Storms, seemingly untouchable even though she’s out of the commission and out of politics? When do we get to shove the pie in her face, figuratively or literally? Not that we would ever endorse that, but I think everyone’s wanted to!
Time, changing societal views, and holding accountable our elected representatives are the key factors in the future resolution. For now, we wait until the doors and windows of change can finally be pushed open in that elected body, because the stale smell of Ms. Storms’ perfume and conservatism are, still, depressingly occupying my nasal cavity.