Hillsborough County leaders are considering amending the human rights ordinance to include a ban on discrimination for sexual orientation.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner is pushing for the ordinance, which already exists in other places around Florida including the City of Tampa and all of Pinellas County.
On Wednesday, the commission unanimously agreed to move forward and allow the county attorney to draw up an amended ordinance. But it's still a long way from becoming law.
One by one, supporters of amending the county's human rights ordinance came forward. Some did not want to give out their home address because they say they still face discrimination
"Most people gay or straight, when I tell them that an LGBT person can lose their employment or their shelter in Hillsborough County just for being who they are, they are amazed and they are outraged," said one discrimination ban supporter.
The majority of those who spoke out against the change cited their religious beliefs.
"If you pass this measure, it will result of discrimination against Christians and other people of faith and deeply held moral convictions who believe that homosexual behavior is not normal and violates god's moral plan,” said one opponent.
Kevin Beckner, the county's first openly gay commissioner, is trying adopt the amended ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and providing equal treatment to residents and workers within the county.
"No hard working American trying to earn a living to provide for his or her family, should have to live in fear of being fired for their job, for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance,” Beckner said.
Hillsborough County government has long had a homophobic reputation. Just last year the commission repealed a long standing ban on gay pride recognition.
Activists hope the next step is close -- including sexual orientation in the county's human rights laws.
"This issue is not about religion. This issue is about treating all of our residents fairly and with respect," said another supporter of the ban.
Wednesday's discussion is just the first step It could be several weeks before the discrimination ban is voted on.