Led by born-again Republican Mary Black, the City Commissioners of Largo, Florida voted to fire City Manager Steve Stanton. Stanton had been City Commissioner for 15 years, but once his intention to get a sex-change operation become know the good Republicans and Christians of Largo couldn’t bear to let him be employed a moment longer.
According to local activist Peggy Schaefer of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks:
I don’t want that man in office. I don’t think we should be paying him $150,000 a year when he’s not been truthful. We have to speak up. Of course, we don’t believe in sex changes or lesbianism. They have their rights, but we do, too.
And according to Ron Sanders, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church of Largo:
If Jesus was here tonight, I can guarantee you he’d want [Stanton] terminated. Make no mistake about it.
LARGO — City commissioners ended one of the most tumultuous weeks in Largo history Tuesday night by moving to fire City Manager Steve Stanton following his disclosure that he will have a sex-change operation. [...] Commissioners voted 5-2, with Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods in dissent. [...]
“I’m going to be embarrassed if we throw this man out on the trash heap after he’s worked so hard for the city,” Gerard said before the vote. “We have a choice to make: We can go back to intolerance, or we can be the city of progress.”
Until last week, [Stanton] had served 14 years as the city manager, generally to good reviews. Last fall, commissioners raised his salary nearly 9 percent to $140,234 a year.
But on Feb. 21, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Stanton was undergoing hormone therapy in preparation for gender-reassignment surgery — a plan known only to a small circle of people, including his wife, medical team and a few top officials at City Hall.
Stanton and his friends had written an eight-page plan to help make his decision known in June, when he said his 13-year-old son could be out of town and shielded from the publicity.
Instead, the news came out before he told his son. Outraged residents swarmed commissioners, demanding he be ousted.
“It’s just real painful to know that seven days ago I was a good guy and now I have no integrity, I have no trust and most painful, I have no followers,” Stanton said.
There’s not much to say other than: Disgusting.
* * *
So who is this Mary Black, the commissioner who led the movement to fire Stanton because she hates transsexuals? She is (of course) a born-again Christian Republican with a chip on her shoulder about queers. Here’s what she said about firing Stanton: “I do not feel he has the integrity, nor the trust, nor the respect, nor the confidence to continue as the city manager of the city of Largo.”
A few facts about Mary Black you may not already know:
* Black is anti-abortion even in cases of rape and incest. She has said that abortion could be okay if the mother will die otherwise. (St. Petersburg Times, 10/2/1992).
* “Mary Black ran for city commissioner for one reason. She has been extremely clear about that before the election, during the election and now after the election. Her one and only goal is to stop the ‘gay agenda’ by forcing her biblical beliefs on all of us.” –St. Petersburg Times, letter to the editor, 6/14/2005
* Mary Black has a reputation for being an obstructionist and (frankly) a bit weird. From an editorial in the St. Petersburg Times (also picked up by the Largo Times and the North Pinellas Times) (6/10/2005):
She has refused to meet with the city manager or city attorney, implying there is something unsavory about doing so. She stays away from City Hall. She conducts her city business out of her home, on her own computer. She communicates with the city by e-mail memos. She seems open only to the counsel of unidentified supporters she says asked her to run and represent their concerns.
When she gets to City Commission meetings and discovers that other commissioners know things she doesn’t, she acts like there is some conspiracy to deny her information. When she asks the city manager to put an item on a meeting agenda for her and it isn’t constructed as she had intended, she blames him or the staff rather than her own refusal to communicate openly. She eschews the advice of the city attorney and writes her own legal opinions, though she is not a lawyer.
City Commission meetings have become torturous sessions where other commissioners and staff members try to figure out what Black wants [...] If Black’s intent when she entered office was to keep city government so tangled up that it could not accomplish the people’s business, she is doing that very well.
But as bizarre and hateful a figure as Mary Black is, it’s not just about her. It’s about the mob of locals, like Peggy Schaefer, who hate anyone who isn’t just like themselves, and can’t even bear the idea of a transsexual having a job in government. It’s about the four other commissioners — Andy Guyette, Gigi Arntzen, Harriet K. Crozier, and Gay Gentry — who said “me too” to bigotry. And it’s about the voters who will probably reward the five hatemongers for their prejudice.
I hope that Steve Stanton (who plans to become Susan Stanton) lands on her feet. And I hope that Peggy Schaefer, Mary Black, Andy Guyette, Gigi Arntzen, Harriet K. Crozier, and Gay Gentry all learn to find the shame they are so desperately lacking.