(March 2, 2011)
Brian Winfield, Communications Director, (727) 488-7799
(TAMPA) A longtime member of the Hillsborough Human Relations Board has resigned in protest over the appointment of notorious anti-gay activist Terry Kemple to the board that is charged with working to "encourage equality among all people."
Kemple’s appointment has been widely denounced with more than 800 Tampa Bay residents calling on the Hillsborough County Commission to replace him.
Board member Patrick DeMarco announced his resignation earlier this week in a letter sent to the entire Human Relations Board.
"The reason for my resignation is that I cannot, in good conscience, participate on the same Board which now includes another member who has dedicated himself to public campaigns of bigotry and discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens of this community,” DeMarco wrote in his letter addressed to Board Director, Camille Blake. “I can accept the fact that our Board is composed of a wide variety of people who come from different backgrounds and who hold varying points of view. However, it is my belief that it is unacceptable and unconscionable to allow someone who has openly advocated and worked for laws and policies that promote prejudice against a significant portion of our population."
Kemple is a controversial anti-gay activist who has consistently opposed equal protection under the law for gay people and has advocated against the freedoms of those who don't share his particular religious views. For years, he worked to block anti-bullying and non-discrimination protections in local schools. He tried to block students from exercising their right to form Gay Straight Alliances to reduce harassment and bullying in schools. In his unsuccessful 2010 run for the Hillsborough County School Board, Kemple required donors to check a box declaring they do not support equal rights for gay people.
"People are speaking up because they are outraged by the appointment of someone who opposes equality, the very thing this board is supposed to represent," said Nadine Smith, executive director for Equality Florida.
In the closing remarks of his resignation letter, DeMarco asked, “How can we retain the respect and support of our community if we accept as a member someone whose philosophy is directly opposed to these values of basic human equality?"