Fla. Editorials Gang Up on Attorney General’s Support of ’Rentboy Rekers’
Three years ago, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum recommended the hiring of George Rekers as an expert witness in a court case that challenged Florida’s ban on gay adoption. Now McCollum--who has become a gubernatorial candidate--faces blowback in the wake of Rekers’ "rent boy" scandal, stemming from Rekers having hired a male escort from RentBoy.com as a travel companion on a European trip.
Among calls for a refund of the $120,000 in taxpayer money that went to Rekers for his "expert testimony" in 2007 and 2008, newspaper editorials are openly questioning McCollum’s judgment for the hiring of Rekers--and accusing the candidate of knowing full well that Rekers’ testimony relied on debunked and discredited junk science. Moreover, Rekers’ testimony contained more than a grain of pure bias--and not just against gays; Rekers’ testimony included a statement that Native Americans would not make suitable adoptive parents, either.
McCollum defended his recommendation by saying that his office had mounted a "thorough search" and that Rekers was the best they could find because, McCollum said, "there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.’’
"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," scoffed Florida newspaper the St. Petersburg Times in a May 14 editorial. "McCollum’s search also was not very thorough."
The editorial drew an unflattering comparison between McCollum and Rekers, noting that, "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."
Rekers had told the press that he had hired 20-year-old Jo-vanni Roman to act as a luggage porter because Rekers was unable to hoist his own luggage following surgery. Rekers also claimed that the European trip was well underway before he learned that his travel companion was a male escort--despite having hired Roman through RentBoy.com, an online clearinghouse for escort services.
Rekers, who co-founded anti-gay group Family Research Council and was until recently a board member of "ex-gay" group NARTH, threatened to sue over media suggestions that he is closeted. But Roman told the press that he was not lifting luggage for Rekers; rather, the young escort said, his daily duties included giving Rekers erotic massage.
The $120,000 tab that Florida paid out to Rekers is even more of an embarrassment given that that the judge in the case, Cindy Lederman, ruled against the state, calling the ban on adoption by gay and lesbian prospective parents unconstitutional. Moreover, Rekers’ testimony came in for specific citation in Lederman’s ruling, noted a May 13 op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel. "In her ruling, Ms. Lederman wrote that Mr. Rekers’ testimony was neither ’credible nor worthy of forming the basis for public policy,’ " the op-ed recollected. The Sentinel also took aim at McCollum’s claim that "There wasn’t a whole lot of choice" when it came to deciding whom to hire as a witness hostile to gay and lesbian families. Declared the Sentinel, "The dearth of credible experts to defend the ban should have told the attorney general something. Reputable studies have shown parents’ quality, not their sexual orientation, is what counts."
Judge Lederman was not the first jurist to dismiss Rekers’ testimony as pseudoscience with no credible bearing on the case, noted the Miami Herald on May 12. Three years before he was recruited to testify in Florida, Rekers testified in a similar case in Arkansas--and his side lost. Judge Timothy Fox called Rekers’ testimony "pointless." Despite Judge Fox’s dismissal of Rekers’ testimony, McCollum wrote to the then-head of the state’s Department of Children and Families, Bob Butterworth, to lobby for Rekers, telling Butterworth 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."
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