Saturday, March 24, 2007

Largo Fires Steve Stanton

photo via
It's a sad day in Pinellas County, Florida:

LARGO - Steve Stanton couldn't overcome the odds. Largo city commissioners voted 5-2 to fire him early this morning, a month after he revealed he planned to become a woman.

The vote was identical to one taken Feb. 27 and came after a six-hour meeting including four hours of public testimony, most of it urging the commission to save Stanton's job.

"I was optimistic, but realistic that it was going to be very difficult to slow down the train," Stanton, 48, said after the vote. He said he has made no decision about whether he'll take additional legal action.

Stanton - joined by his attorney, specialists and accomplished transgender people - had led the charge for his job Friday night, asking commissioners to look past gender issues and judge him on his accomplishments in 14 years as Largo's top bureaucrat.


"I will tell you it is not about transgenderism," said Commissioner Gay Gentry. "It is about making sure that the 1,000 people who work in the city, work in such a way that they can give superior services for the 75,000 people who live in this city. I tried to vote the right way for the right reasons."

Commissioner Andy Guyette said honesty, integrity and trust were the foundations of their relationship with him and that "without trust, there is no longer a foundation to any relationship."

Gentry and Guyette were among the five commissioners who moved to fire Stanton in an emergency meeting Feb. 27, six days after the St. Petersburg Times disclosed he was undergoing hormone therapy in anticipation of gender re-assignment surgery. Later stories, which have garnered interest around the world, revealed Stanton had told a handful of subordinates and elected officials about his plans, but not every commissioner.

Stanton's 30-minute statement Friday night, his most extensive comments since the Feb. 27 meeting, were nearly eclipsed by the spectacle of the evening. After Stanton and his team spoke for two hours, commissioners began hearing from the roughly 100 people who had signed up to speak. Most were from Tampa Bay and they included several transgendered people, including a Pasco sheriff's deputy. Most spoke in support of Stanton.

I'm honestly surprised--and deeply disappointed--that the clear, peacefully-expressed wishes of so many Pinellas residents were overlooked, and subsequently overruled, by the city commission. Obviously they cannot get past an outdated, ill-informed mindset, one that no doubt swelled to bloated dimensions in recent weeks, feeding as it did on juicy sound bites of bigoted religious dogma.

For shame, Largo. For shame.

Also at Shakes' place and Pushing Rope.

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