States Defy Pentagon Order Requiring Equal Treatment for Guard Members
November 4th, 2013
Several GOP-led states have vowed to resist Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s order requiring National Guard to issue ID cards to spouses of Guard members who are in same-sex marriages. Those ID cards are critical for accessing spousal benefits. According to Reuters:
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to “stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda,” her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.
“The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions,” Weintz said.
Josh Havens, a spokesman for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said, “Texas Military Forces is a state agency, and as such is obligated to adhere to the Texas Constitution and the laws of this state which clearly define marriage as between one man and one woman.”
Nine states were initially identified as refusing to issue identity cards to same-sex spouses: Indiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Reuters reports, “Indiana notified the Pentagon on Friday it had begun issuing the cards after a month-long review, a move defense officials said they welcomed.”
Louisiana has also confirmed that they will also defy Sec. Hagel’s order, while Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she is exploring her legal options. Georgia’s National Guard has said it will ignore Hagel’s order.
Defense Secretary Orders State National Guards To Treat Gay Couples Equally
November 1st, 2013
Since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June, the Defense Department has been rushing to implement policies designed to treat legally wedded same-sex couples equally with married couples generally. But several states have refused to issue Defense Department ID cards to same-sex spouses of National Guard members. Those states include Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a speech to the Anti-Defamation League, has announced that he is putting a stop to such discriminatory practices:
“Today, I directed the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank Grass, to take immediate action to remedy this situation. At my direction, he will meet with the Adjutants General from the states where these ID cards are being denied. The Adjutants General will be expected to comply with both lawful direction and DoD policy, in line with the practices of 45 other states and jurisdictions.”
A senior defense official told the Washington Blade that the Pentagon has some critical leverage to deploy against recalcitrant states:
“These are federal ID cards paid for with federal funding to provide federally mandated benefits,” the official said. “I’m not going to speculate on our legal options.”
The opposition goes silent
June 20th, 2013
However, I think that a shift has occurred that is not well measured by polls. I believe that the nation has changed its views on who bears the burden of proof. This is, in many ways, a more important shift than merely those who favor or oppose same-sex marriage; it’s a shift in how the debate is conducted.
Until recently, there has been an understanding that many Americans opposed same-sex marriage, and that their objections would be voiced with conviction. Whether one agreed or disagreed, it was not considered to be outside of reasonable debate that a politician would hold their head high and declare that they “support traditional marriage” with more than a hint of “and you should too”.
And those who championed equality didn’t get off so lightly. We were expected to defend our position, to explain just why it is that our demands were justified or our ‘change in the rules’ is needed. We had the burden of proof. We started from a defensive position.
But now it is those who oppose equality that must explain themselves. Where once “I support the traditional definition of marriage” was sufficient, now even those who also fear including same-sex couples are not content with such a limited explanation. Now the trite phrase is issued – if at all – with more of an air of defensiveness than with a presumption that surely all reasonable people agree.
Other issues which divide the nation are strongly debated. And the public doesn’t think any less about those who strongly support or oppose positions on immigration, gun legislation, tax policy, or even Obamacare. You may disagree, but while your opponent is “wrong”, they are not “vile”.
But it seems to me that we have entered a phase in which one can be “not ready” or “not convinced” or “not yet evolved” on the issue of marriage equality. That’s simply opinion. But to be actively opposed suggests a character flaw, something with a whiff of nastiness and maybe even vile. The public – right and left – seem to have decided that you can support gay marriage or you can not support gay marriage, but you can’t oppose gay marriage any longer.
So more and more, those who can safely be assumed to favor heterosexual superiority simply choose to say nothing. Instead of defending their God-given moral view, they announce their support for states’ rights, defer to the wisdom of the courts, or just change the subject.
Politician after politician, those most skilled at detecting the currents of the populace, have suddenly found that they just aren’t all that worked up about the issue. Even George W. Bush, the man most tied to the campaign against equality, decided that he just doesn’t have an opinion anymore.
And today we have another good example.
The Palm Beach Post has an article about activists in Florida beginning a campaign to change minds in that state towards an eventual referendum to reverse their constitutional ban on marriage equality. It’s a nice article, but the most interesting paragraph is this:
Republican Gov. Rick Scott is staying out of the argument, however. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz noted that voters put the ban in the constitution before he was governor and that he is focused on other issues.
Translated out of politician speak, Scott said, “My view on marriage is… ummm… look a squirrel.”
Hillsborough County (Tampa) Repeals Gay Pride Ban
June 5th, 2013
In a unanimous 7-0 vote, County Commissioners of Hillsborough County, Florida, repealed an eight-year-old ban on recognizing gay pride events:
Earlier Wednesday, the speakers included Terry Kemple, head of the Hillsborough-based Community Issues Council. Prior to the vote, he spent time rallying opposition to what he called Commissioner Kevin Beckner’s “crusade to push for county government recognition of homosexual behavior.
Before Wednesday’s vote, no other group of residents had its activities similarly deemed unrecognizable by county government.
Tampa’s pride celebration appears to be defunct, near as I can tell. But neighboring St. Petersburg will hold theirs at the end of June. BTB Daily Agenda readers may recall our post about a month-long campaign of “morals raids” that were staged in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County in 1961. Those raids resulted in hundreds of arrests and the destruction of a number of careers.
Marriage in the non-battle states
October 17th, 2012
Back in September, the Washington Post polled swing states Ohio, Florida, and Virginia about the upcoming presidential election. A number of other issues were polled, including this question:
31. (AMONG REGISTERED VOTERS) Do you think it should be LEGAL or ILLEGAL for gay and lesbian couples to get married?
Legal (strongly) 35%
Legal (somewhat) 19%
Illegal (somewhat) 7%
Illegal (strongly) 26%
No Opinion 13%
Legal (strongly) 36%
Legal (somewhat) 17%
Illegal (somewhat) 7%
Illegal (strongly) 30%
No Opinion 10%
Legal (strongly) 33%
Legal (somewhat) 16%
Illegal (somewhat) 8%
Illegal (strongly) 32%
No Opinion 12%
Because these (and other) states already have anti-gay marriage bans in their constitution, they can shift away from the center of our attention. But with numbers like these, it will not be long before we will again be looking at Florida and Ohio and even Virginia. But (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t beat us to it) the next time will be our own efforts to have those constitutional blights removed.
[NOTE: revised to correct for formatting restrictions]
Florida quietly begins protecting gay couples
July 9th, 2012
Florida is not known for its support and recognition of same-sex couples. On June 7, 1977, Anita Bryant led a campaign to repeal an anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, beginning a culture war that still is raging today. In 2008, it joined the wave of anti-gay ballot measures prohibiting both marriage and civil unions by a 62% vote.
But, without a lot of media or fanfare, cities and counties within the state have been rapidly stepping up to offer such protections as can be granted at a local level. And while some of the progress has been over the past couple of years, there are six cities and two counties that begin offering domestic partner registration during the first half of this year alone.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this change is that it is entirely unexciting altogether. In today’s rapidly accepting world, where the question is whether Great Britain or Australia* will be the next nation to enact marriage equality (or if US courts will beat them to it), it hardly seems worth noticing that Gulfport or Volusia County now offer registries. But to the citizens of those cities and counties it is very very important.
And as a cultural marker, it is astounding. Today, Anita Bryant is a symbol of discrimination and bigotry, and 44% of Florida residents live in a city or county that recognizes the relationships of their gay citizens.
* – Yes Australia is a long shot and the Brits are the odds on favorites, but there is a lot of buzz going on down under and my instinct has me hedging my bet.
Gingrich Defeats Romney!
February 1st, 2012
That’s Gingrich’s takeaway anyway, vowing to keep on campaigning in the 46 remaining states (even though he failed to make Virginia’s ballot). And he did trounce Romney among those who identified as Tea Party supporters, Evangelicals, and the “very conservative.” Gingrich’s geographical strength also was revealing. Romney carried central and southern Florida, home to a lot of people who moved there from the north, while Gingrich carried northern Florida and the panhandle, which is more representative of the type of voters found in the rest of the South.
But after trouncing Romney in South Carolina, Gingrich couldn’t hold up against Romney’s improved debate performance and overwhelming financial advantages.Romney won with 46%, taking all 50 delegates up for grabs, while Gingrich came in a very second with 32%. The real story in the next few weeks will be how that affects Gingrish’s ability to raise money between now and Super Tuesday. As for the rest of the lineup, Santorum trailed the Box of Rocks with 13% of the vote, and Paul pulled up the rear with 7%. It should be noted however that Paul wasn’t really contesting Florida. While the other three are campaigning for votes and momentum, Paul is in it for the delegates. With Florida’s winner-take-all contest and the impossibility that Paul could come in first, the ability to rack up any delegates in this contest was nill. So he wisely decided not to spend much time and money campaigning there. And if there’s one thing we know about Paul, it’s that he may not be rich, but he certainly knows how to deal with money.
Students of Florida’s Barfing Teacher Come Forward
August 31st, 2011
Equality Florida has published comments from students of Jerry Buell, a Lake County teacher and adviser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Mount Dora High School, who was suspended two weeks ago over anti-gay remarks posted on his Facebook page. Buell returned to the classroom last week, but the controversy hasn’t died down.
A growing number of students have come forward to describe Mr. Buell’s homophobic behavior in the classroom. Brian Blaise, an honors student who graduated in 2003, described the day Mr. Buell offered his disturbing take on the issue of gays serving in the military:
“I looked up when he said he supported gays in the military, stunned by the answer. He immediately followed that comment with the statement that we should then put them on the front lines, and pull back,” Blaise said.
Another of his students recounted Mr. Buell invoking the quote “A pig in a tuxedo is still a pig” to declare his disdain for recognizing gay relationships.
Equality Florida is asking supporters to email the Lake County School Board to demand they expand the district’s anti-bullying and non-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Two weeks ago, Buell was suspended for a week after reportedly posting on Facebook, “’I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.” Since then, it was revealed that on Buell’s web page hosted on the high school’s web site, he wrote, “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” And on his syllabus, he wrote:
I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!
Buell’s statement on his school-hosted web page was removed and he was ordered to remove the references comparing himself to Jesus from his syllabus.
Barfing Florida Teacher Is Just Like Jesus
August 26th, 2011
Jerry Buell, the Florida history and American government teacher who was suspended two weeks ago for anti-gay comments posted on his Facebook page, has been reinstated at Mount Dora High School. Buell’s lawyer said that the school district suspended him over concerns that his actions violated the separation of church and state at the taxpayer-supported public high school. Buell was suspended after writing on his Facebook page, “I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.”
Jerry Buell returned to the classroom yesterday. School officials refused to comment on whether Buell’s actions violated the separation of church and state, saying only that it had placed a “written directive” in his personnel file. The district removed Buell’s school-hosted web page on which he had written “I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself.” The district also directed him to change his syllabus, which included this statement:
I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!
Last night, Buell spoke at a rally staged by the Liberty Counsel, where he remained defiant:
Fighting back tears, he said: “I’m a social studies teacher, and I knew I what the heck I was doing. “There’s a thing in this country called the First Amendment,” he told the crowd of a few hundred. “I firmly believe in the right to express my opinions passionately.”
Anti-Gay Christian Athlete Teacher Of The Year
August 17th, 2011
Jerry Buell, a longtime Lake County, Florida American History and Government teacher, has been suspended from classroom teaching after posting on his Facebook account:
I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.
Buell, who was voted Jerry Buell, voted Teacher of the Year last year at Mount Dora High School and serves as advisor to that school’s Fellowhip of Christian Athletes (PDF), also called same-sex marriages a “cesspool” and a sin. But don’t hold that against him because, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, he loves gay people.
It wasn’t out of hatred,” he said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “It was about the way I interpret things.”
…I’ve had kids that I’ve known that have been homosexuals,” he said. “They know that I don’t hate them. I love them.”
Okay then. Say you’re a gay kid, your “sin” makes your teacher puke and he’s tight with the jocks and some sort of God. How confident would you be walking into his classroom?
Update: Just to get a flavor of Buell’s influence among the high school jocks, this cached web page says he had to move his morning meetings of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes from his classroom because it couldn’t accommodate everyone. “We have had to move to the cafeteria because our numbers are growing like crazy!” Feel any better?
Democratic Operative Deploys Gay-Baiting Campaign
March 14th, 2011
Unconscionable. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what “unmarried” is code for. From Think Progress:
Less Government Now appears to be tied to Scott Maddox, a Democratic operative who unsuccessfully ran for Agricultural Commissioner last year, and has been used to bolster tea party candidates in an attempt to split the GOP vote. Tampa has non-partisan mayoral elections, but Ferlita, a current county commissioner, is a Republican.
Incoming FL Gov. Scott limits non-discrimination
January 5th, 2011
Incoming Governor Scott of Florida has issued an executive order limiting those whom will be free from discrimination.
It shall be the policy of my administration to prohibit discrimination in employment based on race, gender, creed, color, or national origin, and to ensure equal opportunity for all individuals currently employed in, and individuals seeking employment in, my administration.
These sort of orders are not truly necessary. State and Federal law prohibit employment discrimination on these bases, and executive orders only have any purpose to the extent that discrimination will be prohibited to those not overtly protected by law.
Scott’s executive order is symbolic. His administration wishes to make it perfectly clear that they do not consider sexual orientation or gender identity to be worthy of protection from discrimination.
Gov. Crist Orders Halt To Enforcement of Gay Adoption Ban
September 22nd, 2010
Following the state Appeals Court ruling that declared Florida’s ban on adoptions by gay parents unconstitutional, Governor Charlie Crist and George Sheldon, the Department of Children & Families Secretary, confirm that they will no longer enforce the ban:
“Children deserve a loving home to be in, and the opportunity for judges to make this call on a case-by-case basis for every adoption,” said Crist, who once supported the ban. The U.S. Senate candidate reversed himself after he left the Republican Party and began courting liberal and moderate voters.
George Sheldon, the Department of Children & Families secretary who voted against the ban while representing the Tampa area in the 1977 Legislature, called the three-judge panel “the first court in the history of Florida ever to have struck down this law.”
“Obviously, the District Court of Appeal’s decision has statewide application, so, as of today, the statute is unconstitutional. The department will no longer enforce the ban,” he told The Miami Herald. Though Sheldon has long opposed the adoption ban, he said he had no choice but to defend the statute in court as the head of Florida’s child-welfare agency.
As to whether the state would file an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court:
On Wednesday, Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office represented the state in the case, declined to say what action he will take.
Sheldon said he, too, had yet to chart a course, which would seek to balance the state’s desire for finality in the law against the Gill family’s need for some reassurance that the children would remain with the couple until adulthood.
So we’re not quite at the final act just yet. But it seems we’re very, very close.
Florida Appeals Court: State Adoption Ban Unconstitutional
September 22nd, 2010
A Florida appeals court in Miami unanimously ruled that the state’s ban on gays adopting children is unconstitutional.
In the court’s 3-0 decision (PDF: 107KB/42 pages), the judges examined Florida’s adoption law which calls for a case-by-case examination of the prospective adoptive parents in order to determine their individual suitability to become a parent. Single adults are allowed to adopt, HIV-positive are allowed to adopt, and the court noted that even those with a history of child neglect are able to adopt after following a laborious process. There was only one lone exception to Florida’s case-by-case consideration for adoption: “Except for homosexual persons, there is no automatic, categorical exclusion of anyone from consideration for adoption.”
The Court also noted that gay people are not excluded under Florida law from becoming parents by other means. They are allowed to become foster parents, and Florida law also allows guardianship and custody of gay parents over children. The court concluded that “It is difficult to see any rational basis in utilizing homosexual persons as foster parents or guardians on a temporary or permanent basis, while imposing a blanket prohibition on adoption by those same persons.”
The court took particular note of the state’s “expert witnesses” in support of the adoption ban. The court noted that Dr. Walter Schumm, who has defended the research of discredited anti-gay extremist Paul Cameron, was not a psychologist and was “of no assistance to the Department’s argument.” As for George Rekers, who was later revealed to have hired a rentboy to accompany him on a European vacation, the court took special note that Rekers research relied heavily on Cameron’s discredited work. And in particular, the appeals court took special efforts to dissect the Florida Dept. of Children and Families’ extremely selective citing and outright distortions of other social science research, noting that some of the research actually reached conclusions that were the opposite of the Department’s assertions.
The court concluded by declaring that the state’s ban on gays adopting children was a violation of the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution.
So far, we have not heard whether the State intends to appeal the decision to the Florida Supreme Court.
Charlie Crist To Consider Dropping Gay Adoption Lawsuit
September 14th, 2010
The Palm Beach Post reports that Florida Governor and Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate Charlie Crist is considering dropping a lawsuit challenging a gay couple’s adoption of two foster children that is now on appeal:
“I think we need to review that. My comments really reflect that it’s better to have more of the judicial branch involved in this process. I think that most who follow the judiciary recognize that what’s in the ‘best interest of the child’ is what should be paramount in these kinds of decisions. That’s what I believe and I think that’s what will be the best for them,” Crist, the independent candidate in the three-way race for U.S. Senate, told reporters.
This comes on the heals of last weekend’s revelation that Gov. Crist will back a large number of LGBT equality measures, excluding marriage.
The lawsuit, re the Adoption of John and James Doe, is now before a state appeals court, which is expected to issue a decision at any time. That lawsuit has already caused no end of grief to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who losthis bid for the GOP’s nomination for U.S. Senate. That loss that is partly attributable to controversy surrounding his hiring of George Rekers to serve as an “expert witness” to defend the state’s ban on gay couples adopting children. Rekers was later exposed as a customer of a rentboy while on vacation in Europe. McCullum authorised payment of $120,000 for Rekers’ testimony, which was ultimately dismissed by the trial judge as “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.”
“Burn Qur’ans” Pastor booted from German church for ex-gay efforts
September 9th, 2010
It is no surprise that Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who has been getting a lot of press for his stated intent to burn copies of the Qur’an this weekend, has a history of troubled relationships with the gay community. In May his church, Dove World Outreach Center, opposed a gay candidate for mayor of Gainesville, FL, with a “No Homo Mayor” campaign.
But it turns out that Jones’ anti-gay animus is international. From Spiegel:
In the United States, Jones has already attracted attention on several occasions as an Islamophobic provocateur. What is less well known is that the pastor led a charismatic evangelical church, the Christian Community of Cologne, in the western German city up until 2009. Last year, however, the members of the congregation kicked founder Jones out, because of his radicalism.
Jones became increasingly radical as the years went by, former associates say. At one point he wanted to help a homosexual member to “pray away his sins.”
It seems that ex-gay ministries are seen as bizarre and radical in Germany, even among evangelicals.
Rekers Failed To Lift McCollum’s Luggage
August 25th, 2010
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the GOP establishment’s favorite in the race for governor, lost to former insurance executive Rick Scott in Florida’s GOP primary. He conceded the race at almost 1 a.m. via a press release.
“No one could have anticipated the entrance of a multimillionaire with a questionable past who shattered campaign spending records and spent more in four months than has ever been spent in a primary race here in Florida,” McCollum said.
“While I was disappointed with the negative tone of the race, I couldn’t be more proud of our campaign and our supporters for fighting back against false and misleading advertising when we were down by double-digits,” he added.
Among the more contentious issues in the race was McCollum’s hiring of anti-gay extremist George Rekers to the tune of more than $120,000 to serve as a star witness in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s adoption ban for gay couples. That fee was almost double the amount that had been agreed to in a Purchase Requisition between McCollum’s office and Rekers. The court found that Rekers testimony was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science,” and “the court cannot consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.” Following the trial, Rekers was discovered returning from a European vacation in the company of a male escort. Rekers insisted that he didn’t hire the escort for sex, but needed someone to help him “lift his luggage” during their extended vacation.
McCollum defended his decision to hire Rekers, saying that he performed a “thorough search” for witnesses but “there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.”
McCollum lost the race 46%-43%, in a primary race that badly split the state Republican Party. Democrats were happy with Scott’s victory, seeing him as their preferred opponent going into November’s general election.
McCollum Overruled His Own Staff to Hire Rekers for Florida Case
June 4th, 2010
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is now a GOP candidate running for Florida’s governorship, overruled his own main attorney defending the state’s gay adoption ban, and hired the now disgraced anti-gay activists George Rekers for $120,693, according to new information published in today’s Miami Herald Tribune.
The e-mails released Thursday show that an attorney in McCollum’s own office warned against hiring Rekers, whose testimony had been deemed suspect in an earlier Arkansas lawsuit that challenged a ban on placing foster children in homes with gay parents. Assistant Attorney General Valerie Martin wrote in a July 2007 e-mail that after talking to Arkansas officials and reviewing the background of the former University of South Carolina professor that she would “recommend NOT using him.”
E-mails also show that during a conference call Martin — who said the state considered more than 30 possible expert witnesses — was ordered to hire Rekers “against my strong cautions.”
Records show that the Department of Children and Families, which brought in the Attorney General’s office to defend the lawsuit, didn’t want to hire Rekers as an expert witness in the lawsuit because he wanted to charge $300 an hour. DCF only agreed to his hiring based on McCollum’s strong recommendations.
The noted anti-gay activist and “expert” witness was later discovered returning from a European vacation with a male escort hired from Rentboy.com. Rekers claims he hired Jo-Vanni Roman to help him “lift his luggage.”
St. Petersburg Times Slams McCollom’s “Sleezy Deal” in Hiring Rekers
May 14th, 2010
It’s rare to see an editorial filled with so much righteous anger, but this one really takes the prize:
Attorney General Bill McCollum and George Rekers have this in common: They were both happy to hire sleazy services, and they knew what they were getting for the money. Now both are having trouble explaining themselves.
That’s the opening gambit. The editorial board slams McCollum, who is now the GOP candidate for Florida governor, over his hiring Rekers as an “expert” witness” for the state’s defense of the gay adoption ban. McCollum ended up paying Rekers more than $120,000 for Rekers’ “expertise.” McCollum protested that he performed a thorough search for expert witnesses who would testify in support of the ban and that Rekers was the best he could find because “there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.” The paper retorted, “There was not a whole lot of choice because legitimate mental health professionals don’t share Rekers’ homophobic views, and Florida is the only state that bans adoptions by gay residents.”
Also, the paper points out that McCollumn’s search wasn’t all that thorough. Three years earlier, Rekers was blasted by an Arkansas court as “extremely suspect” and that he “was there to primarily to promote his own personal ideology.” Rekers tried to bilk Arkansas $200,000 for his services, but Arkansas paid “only” $60,000. As the Times concluded, Florida deserves a refund. “This is not the sort of sloppy staff work a Republican candidate for governor can easily defend,” they said.
McCollum Doubled Rekers’ Fee For Incompetent Witness Testimony
May 12th, 2010
Steve Rothous at the Miami Times Herald explains how Florida Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum came to pay disgraced “luggagegate” activist George Rekers more than $120,000:
Anti-gay psychologist George Rekers charged Florida $300 an hour to testify as an expert witness in a trial defending Florida’s ban on gay people adopting. The state planned to cap Rekers’ fee at $60,900 — but paid him $120,693 after he exceeded his contracted hours.
“It is not unusual for estimated costs to require adjustment during the course of trial preparation,” said Sandi Copes, communications director for the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
Copes said the extra hours were not agreed to in writing, but “merely by discussion.”
…A 2008 Florida purchase requisition states that no payment to Rekers should exceed $60,900.Florida paid Rekers $60,900 in 2007 and $59,793 in 2009 for his testimony in the case of Frank Gill, a gay foster parent seeking to adopt two young brothers. Florida is the only state that bans all gay people from adopting.
Among Rekers’ charges to the state of Florida:
• $27,000 (90 hours) to “evaluate and critique” new research.
• $5,400 (18 hours) to meet with staff at the Attorney General’s Office to prepare for deposition.
• $6,000 (20 hours) to standby at trial and deliver expert academic opinions.
The 2008 purchase requisition is available here (PDF: 1.5MB/2 pages). And what did they get for all that money? Testimony that the judge found Rekers’ testimony was “motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.” The judge concluded: “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.”
McCollum personally selected Rekers to be the state’s star expert witness, claiming that “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.” A PDF of McCollum’s recommendation and his original suggestion that Rekers be capped at $100,000 is available here (164KB/2 pages). Given the judge’s evaluation of Rekers’ testimony, the sad fact is that McCollum may well have been right: Rekers probably was the best they could find, which speaks volumes about the so-called “expertise” of these anti-gay activists.