Political fallout from Rekers’ rentboy exposure
May 11th, 2010
When Dr. George Rekers was discovered returning from a 10 day European trip with a young man identified as a gay rentboy, the subsequent scandal ended his career as a advocate for anti-gay causes. Further, it added to the growing shared social understanding that ex-gay efforts are futile and based on pretense.
But although the damage to ex-gay and anti-gay efforts cannot be understated, the liabilities of this scandal are wider than could be expected. It appears that the fallout may extend to conservative politicians and may well derail the presumptive Republican nominee for Florida Governor.
In 2007, Frank Gill sued the state of Florida for the right to adopt the two small boys for whom he had become a foster father. Bill McCollum was attorney general at that time and it was his office which defended the state law that banned gay people from adopting.
The case was ideal for challenging the law. The two boys were non-responsive, suffering from untreated medical conditions, distrustful of everyone else and not bonded to any adults. Gill and his partner were ideal parents, and the turn-around in the boys’ socialization was nearly miraculous.
It was virtually impossible for McCollum’s office to convince any judge that it was in the best interest of these two boys that they be taken from the men with whom they had bonded and finally found a family. But McCollum’s office defended the law to the best of their ability. And the best of their ability included hiring Rekers to argue that gay men, on the whole, are less stable and are unfit parents.
Since the Rekers scandal broke, McCollum has sought to distance himself from Dr. Rekers, insisting that the selection and hiring of George Rekers was the decision of the Department of Children and Families, and that his office simply used the witness they selected.
But the Florida Tribune has now discovered that quite the opposite is true. The DCF didn’t want Rekers, and McCollum insisted that he be hired.
McCollum wrote a July 2007 letter to then DCF Secretary Bob Butterworth where he said his legal team “strongly” recommended the hiring of Rekers, a psychologist once on the faculty of the University of South Carolina and who helped found the Family Research Council back in the ‘80s.
“They believe that this expert and his testimony are necessary to ensure a successful result in this case,’’ wrote McCollum in the letter obtained by the Florida Tribune.
McCollum in his letter noted that initially DCF refused to hire Rekers, due primarily to the potential cost of his fees. Instead the child welfare agency wanted to only hire Walter Schumm, a professor of family studies at Kansas State University.
“Dr. Schumm is a good expert, but his areas of expertise are different from Dr. Rekers,’’ wrote McCollum. “Our attorneys handling this case have searched long and hard for other expert witnesses with comparable expertise to Dr. Rekers and have been unable to identify any who would be available for this case.”
As it turned out, Rekers did a miserable job. His bias was so obvious that the judge wrote in her judgment:
Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.
It probably didn’t help that Rekers, in his testimony, suggested it would be consistent to also ban Native Americans from adopting children in the state. The ban on gay adoptions was overturned, and the state is currently appealing the decision. For which it seems they have employed Dr. George Rekers.
Now Bill McCollum is running for Governor. And the decision to employ Rekers – and pay him in excess of $120,000 – has now become a campaign issue. And it may grow in importance, potentially threatening McCollum’s coronation as Republican candidate for Governor.
Although early finagling resulted in McCollum running without credible primary competition, the Tea Partiers have fielded a candidate with a substantial fortune and a business background. In an attitude of anti-politician anger, McCollum is considered “too establishment.” (TMP)
Scott, a millionaire several hundred times over, jumped into GOP primary on April 13, after months of a campaign that already moved onto the general, with likely GOP nominee McCollum facing off against likely Democratic nominee and state CFO Alex Sink. But a new poll released over the weekend shows Scott has succeeded in forcing McCollum into an unexpected and costly primary fight.
It remains to be seen if Rick Scott will launch attacks on McCollum over his decision to hire Rekers. And, if so, we do not know the tone such ads may take. But there is no doubt that the fallout from the scandal has tainted the Attorney General.
And I think that one of the unexpected results of exposing Dr. George Rekers’ double-life – and revealing the hypocrisy in his testimony – may well be that politicians in the future are more hesitant to present or rely on the testimony of anti-gay activists. The repercussions of the Rekers testimony may encourage politicians who are conscious of their future to steer as far from anti-gays as possible.