Gulfport's Taxpayer Dollars Support Discrimination
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For some months now there has been discussion about the local Boy Scout Association (BSA) Troop and whether or not they should be supported with taxpayer money by being given free rent in a City owned facility. It is a sensitive topic because children are involved and because Scout Hall is an historic building that any number of residents in years past convinced the City to re-furbish. I personally have been torn on the issue as have many people in the community. Some members of the City Council decided that there was no issue because there was no violation of the HRO at the local level of the BSA. Essentially, the local organization and it's sponsor the Gulfport Lion's Club said that they would not follow the BSA rules if a gay boy wished to join the troop or if a gay or lesbian adult wished to volunteer. Rather than identifying and correcting a glaring gap in the City's rental policies, the Council, City Staff, the local Boy Scouts and the Gulfport Lions Club turned the issue inside out and upside down in avoidance. Essentially, they tried to defend the indefensible a hundred ways to Sunday by besmirching a resident, forcing her hand to file a violation (which she didn't want to do and didn't do) not following through on a previously established plan pending the BSA'a vote and most recently slipping the topic into a Workshop under the vague agenda item of "other business" so that no one would be aware of the impending discussion. Seems in fact only two people - Mayor Henderson and Lions Club Secretary Art Padula knew this was going to take place. Despite all of those tactics the fact remains - local violation or not - the National BSA unfortunately discriminates based on sexual orientation and the City of Gulfport, by giving the local BSA group free rent, endorses that discrimination. Interestingly I learned recently that the City of Gulfport does not require non- profit organizations to uphold the spirit of Gulfport's HRO, in their rules of operation, by-laws, etc., in order to get financial support from the City. For all intents and purposes the Ku Klux Klan could establish a branch in Gulfport and utilize the Neighborhood Center for free. Based on our Council and City Staff's current philosophies they could "hood up", walk across 49th Street and march through the Childs Park's streets in protest and then return to Gulfport. As long as the local branch doesn't engage in a violation of the HRO in Gulfport, despite their national organization's discriminatory policies, we the taxpayers of Gulfport will support their activities. Granted, my example may seem extreme, but based on my conversation with City Staff it indeed is what does and can take place. Related Articles
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