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.
March 10th, 2010
Last night the City Commission in Kissimmee, FL, became the latest US municipality to recognize domestic partnerships. (Watermark)
In a 4-1 vote, the Kissimmee City Commission approved health and dental benefits for domestic partners of city employees, whether they’re the same sex or opposite sex.
This adds another 60,894 people (2007 estimate) to the total 27,269,114 estimated Americans who live in a community which – though in an unfriendly state – has offered some measure of recognition to same-sex relationships.
The new rules let employees purchase the benefits for their partners.
“It will also give domestic partners the same benefits as spouses as it relates to sick leave and one of the other items is that we have a policy that [city employees] cannot supervise [their] spouse and this will apply to domestic partners as well,” says Grieb.
Employees can also take advantage of sick leave if the children of their domestic partners become ill.
The measure cannot provide full compensation equality because of federal and state law. The State of Florida will not allow the children of partners to be covered by insurance unless they are formally adopted – which the state also bans (so much for “protecting the children”). And due to the Federal Government considering coverage of non-heterosexual spouses to be taxable income, Kissimmee will not offer the $10 per paycheck spousal coverage stipend they offer married employees.
There was a protest in late February led by a local pastor, but it did not appear to be well attended. (oscnewsgazette)
Initially, [Iglesia Christiana Renuevo assistant pastor Modesto] Vega’s group was against any domestic partner benefits, as he stated in his request for a permit to hold the protest, dated Feb. 9. However, the signs protesters held Tuesday stated that the group was only against such benefits to a same-sex partner.
The dozen and a half or so protesters, who were organized by an association of 35 to 40 local pastors, said they were motivated by religious beliefs. Vega told Grieb that domestic partnership benefits could be the beginning of tolerance that could lead to Florida allowing gay marriage.
No one spoke against the proposal at the meeting, and more than 300 business owners in Kissimmee had signed a petition to back the decision.
Miami Beach Police harrass gay witness to their brutality
February 3rd, 2010
Miami Beach Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi were going about their business of kicking an unarmed man in the head when they realized that they were being observed. By a gay man, of all people.
So they approached Harold Strickland, pushed him to the ground, tied his hands behind his back and screamed homophobic slurs at him. They said they were sick of the f**ing f**gots in the neighborhood so they decided to arrest him for “attempting to break into cars”.
Unfortunately for Forte and Hazzi, Strickland was on the phone with a 911 operator reporting the beating he was witnessing when they decided that he would be target number two. And the tape of the call corroborates Strickland’s call up until the point where the officers demanded to know who he was and what he was doing there. At the time they “observed him” breaking the law, he was face down in their custody being subjected to police brutality.
The officers are still on duty.
Let me repeat, the officers are still on duty. And I can’t help but wonder why the 911 call did not immediately generate a top level investigation. Were I on a jury, the lack of concern on the part of the city would weigh heavily on my determining of just how much to award Mr. Strickland.
Publisher Says He Won Bid to Buy Washington Blade Before Shutdown
November 17th, 2009
A Washington, D.C.-area LGBT publisher has confirmed that his company had been in the process of purchasing the Washington Blade and working toward a seamless transfer when the current owner, Window Media, abruptly ceased operations.
Window Media had been in receivership with the Small Business Administration. Nicholas Benton, owner of the weekly Falls Church News-Press confirmed in a press release that his company, Benton Communications, had won a bid in September to purchase The Blade “for purposes of a seamless perpetuation of the nation’s oldest gay community newspaper.” Benton says that he was contacted by agents representing Window Media and the SBA in late September and informed that his bid was accepted. He said that the process to complete the sale continued until Nov. 6.
“Everything was in place, although moving slowly, to make the seamless transition we hoped for. But I remain unaware of what happened, and as a result of Monday’s events, The Blade is gone after 40 years of publication, its employees are out of work, and the nation’s and region’s LGBT community has been stripped of an invaluable institution.” Benton said.
So far, there has been no word yet on why Window Media and the SBA suddenly shut down The Washington Blade and other newspapers, including Southern Voice, The Houston Voice and The South Florida Blade. Miami-based Multimiedia Platforms had been negotiating the purchase of The South Florida Blade, but has announced that they will now launch a new newspaper after hiring the former employees at the defunct paper and 411, a companion magazine.
Former Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff has said that he and other staffers plan to investigate starting a new paper. The Blade ran a profit as a standalone publication within Window Media, but not a large enough profit to keep the parent company out of bankruptcy.
Orlando LGBT Center Vandalized
November 17th, 2009
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Community Center of Central Florida — more commonly known as The Center — and a second nearby gay-owned business were targeted by vandals who spray painted with a swastika and the words “Gay Pawer,” “Die Fags,” “Go To Hell” and other homophobic slurs. Damage to the two buildings is estimated to be over $1,000.
…Fund raising efforts to install security cameras have been ramped up in the wake of the incident.
Washington Blade, SOVO Shut Down
November 16th, 2009
Word is spreading around the Internet that Windows Media, publisher of the Washington Blade, Houston Voice, Southern Voice, South Florida Blade and other LGBT news outlets, has gone out of business over the weekend in Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation. SOVO editor Laura Douglas-Brown posted a note on Southern VoiceFacebook page confirming the shutdown:
With deepest regret, as editor of SoVo, I have to tell you that we arrived at the office to learn that our parent company, Window Media, has shut down. While the 20 years of SoVo have come to an end, our civil rights movement is only beginning. I am personally grateful to all of the staff, and to all of you who have had the courage to share your stories. It has been the honor of my life to help you tell them.
Project Q Atlanta reports that Southern Voiceemployees showed up to find that the locks had been changed and a note taped to the door, asking employees to return on Wednesday to collect their personal belongings.
This is a horrendous loss to the LGBT community. The Washington Blade began just forty years ago as The Gay Blade, a free one-paged mimeograph newspaper. It grew to become one of the most powerful voices for LGBT issues in the nation, having broken many important stories over the year covering the political beat in the nation’s capital. The editorial and reporting talent at the Blade is one of the best in the industry, and not just the specialty niche LGBT news industry. Few reporters have a Rolodex like veteran reporter Lou Chibarro. (Even fewer are still using a genuine Rolodex as Lou reportedly does.) The talent at that small paper would be the envy of any other publication, LGBT or mainstream. It would be very difficult to overstate the magnitude of this loss.
Sometimes Freud Was Right
November 11th, 2009
On Monday, Marine reservist Jasen Bruce attacked a visiting Greek Orthodox priest with a tire iron after the priest asked him for directions. Bruce originally claimed that he attacked Rev. Alexois Marakis, whose English is poor, because he thought the man was an Islamic terrorist. Now Bruce, who’s also a beefcake model, is changing his story. He’s switching to the gay panic defense, claiming the priest tried to grab his genitals.
How many issues can you count in that paragraph?
Time’s Running Out For Early Registration for 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference
October 2nd, 2009
Time is running out to save on early registration for the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism conference scheduled for Nov 20-22 in West Palm Beach, Florida. You can save $50 by registering by Monday, October 5th. On October 6th, conference fees go up from $145 to $195. This conference is sponsored by Soulforce, Beyond Ex-Gay, Truth Wins Out, Equality Florida, the National Black Justice Coalition, and Box Turtle Bulletin.
So what is this “heterosexism” we’ll be talking about? Jeff Lutes, Executive Director for Soulforce, describes the conference this way:
First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual. Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.
One way we see heterosexism come into play is in the attitudes which lead LGBT people to try to change their sexual orientation.These efforts are nearly always futile. The American Psychological Association recently issued a rigorous review of 83 studies on efforts to change sexual orientation conducted between 1960 and 2007, and they now advise psychologists to avoid telling their clients that therapy or other treatments can change them from gay to straight. With great effort, they may be able to modify their behavior, and they can always change their identity (“I’m not ‘gay’ anymore, even though I still like guys.”) But practitioners who offer ironclad promises to change sexual attractions are not only hiding the truth, but they are violating APA recommendations as well.
“For me, in my own practice, I would not focus on change of orientation,” said Yarhouse, a psychologist and counselor who teaches at Regent, an evangelical Christian school.
…Yarhouse’sstudy focused on those who said their same-sex attractions collided with their religious beliefs. He said his research found that there was “modest” movement away from homosexuality among some Exodus participants, but categorical conversions to heterosexuality were rare.
Yarhouse recommended that counselors avoid uniformly steering struggling gays toward heterosexuality and focus instead on the best outcome for the individual.
That could include celibacy or exploring different faith groups with various attitudes toward gays and lesbians, he said.
NARTH completely rejects that finding, and are instead holding a conference in West Palm Beach to push their unscientific worldview. They are very skilled at getting media attention and putting on a professional face. And you can bet that they won’t exercise the kind of candor exhibited by Mark Yarhouse.
That’s why it’s extremely important for us to be there to present the facts behind efforts to change sexual orientation. Many of those in attendance will include those who tried to change but failed, including some who were former patients of NARTH co-founder, Joseph Nicolosi.
I hope you will join me and BTB contributors Gabriel Arana and Daniel Gonzales for three days of inspiring and informative workshops on the issues surrounding attempts to change sexual orientation and the heterosexist attitudes which underlie many of those attempts. Featured speakers are Dr. Sylvia Rhue, interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries. Through the weekend, the conference will equip attendees from all across the country on ways in which they can challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, understand the harms of conversion therapy efforts and the unscientific principles which propel them, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.