St. Petersburg City Council made history Thursday, swearing in two more openly gay members, giving the council the highest percentage in Florida.
Darden Rice and Amy Foster join sitting councilman Steve Kornell, who won his campaign in 2009; they pushed the total number of gays or lesbians on the eight-member council to 37 percent.
"I think it means we're a little cutting edge and forward-thinking," said Rice, who won the election for the district 8 seat. "I think it means that the citizens of St. Pete look past labels and will always elect the best people based on their background."
"It's historic because this was the moment when the city said, 'we really don't care who you are, if you're the best person we're going to elect you," Kornell said.
Equality Florida, a gay-rights advocacy group, said the percentage is among the largest in the country and praised St. Petersburg voters for looking beyond candidates' private lives.
"We're ecstatic about it," said Ed Lally, a spokesperson for the group. "We know it speaks well for St. Petersburg. It shows that St. Petersburg is a welcoming community that values diversity."
Rice and Kornell said biggest challenges for gay rights are largely at the state level; they'd like see lawmakers repeal the gay marriage ban and give more housing and employment rights to gays and lesbians.
There are currently 31 openly gay elected officials throughout Florida.