Wednesday, July 6, 2016

John Stemberger accuses Florida's only openly gay legislator of being offensive

John Stemberger
Florida Family Policy Council, run by John Stemberger is our state's official anti-gay hate group. Sadly, it has some influence on Republican politics in the Sunshine State. An email this morning informs me that Stemberger has written “An Open Letter to Florida’s Only Openly Gay Legislator Rep. David Richardson.” Stemberger, you will recall, is so homophobic that he started a gay free, Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts.

Stemberger's complaint:
… after the tragic and despicable acts of evil which took place right down the street from my offices in Orlando on June 12, I was shocked to learn of your repeated statements accusing your fellow legislators of creating an environment that gives rise to such horrible violence when they speak out against any LGBT bills as bad public policy in the Legislature.

After the local NPR affiliate interviewed you, WFSU issued this report:

“Florida’s only openly gay legislator says Orlando’s mass shooting is an example of a deranged individual taking anti-gay political rhetoric to the, “next level.” Democratic Representative David Richardson of Miami Beach says attempts by religious conservatives to roll back recent gains in gay civil rights encourages extremists… “[P]eople who are prone to committing violent acts are emboldened by speeches that they hear from policy makers that want to roll back our advances.”
I find nothing objectionable in Rep. Richardson's remarks. Florida politics devalues gay lives and dehumanizes gay people making it easier—even acceptable—to do violence to us if, as Richardson states, one is already predisposed to do so.

Stemberger, on the other hand:
While I realize the matter of the Orlando shooting and the topic of creating new LGBT rights are still raw, emotional, and highly personal matters for members of the LGBT community, this in no way justifies these inflammatory remarks which do nothing to foster good will, understanding or collegiality among fellow members of the Legislature, much less the general public. On the contrary, your comments breed divisiveness, sow discord and are an attempt to manipulate and silence robust debate among the other elected leaders of our Legislature on these important policy decisions.
Foster good will? This coming from a guy who said “It is tragic that the BSA is willing to risk the safety and security of its boys because of peer pressure from activists groups.” Portraying gay men as predators and child molesters must be a way to foster good will. As for Florida's fine legislators, while they enact things like the Pastor Protection Act (Equality Florida was able to get it heavily diluted) there is no statewide ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual identity in employment, housing or pubic accommodations.

Last year, those fine fair people in the Florida Legislature attempted to pass a bill requiring transgender people to be restricted to use the restrooms of the sex indicated on their driver's licenses. They attempted to pass legislation that would have allowed adoption agencies to refuse same-sex couples as parents. These bills never reached the governor's desk, not because of fairness, but because of money. These things could take a huge bite out of tourism. Getting back to Mr. Stemberger:
Additionally, you have also stunningly stated:

“It doesn’t help when they go to Tallahassee and spew hatred and rhetoric that is harmful to our community. I really wish we could get to a place where everyone can get along and respect the rights of everybody.”

I personally know many of the members of the Legislature who are known to be the most vocal and the most actively opposed to these bad gay-rights bills.
Stunningly? They are just fine people except they think that we might not be fit parents and they do not think that we should enjoy Equal Protection. And I am certain that Stemberger does know them personally and that is part of the problem. He, and they, are trying to impose conservative Christianity on public policy.
The primary push by gay-rights activists after the Orlando tragedy, as you know, is the so-called “Competitive Workforce Act” (CWA) which seeks to create a new legal protected class for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.  These laws are being used all across the country as weapons to punish Christians who want to live out their constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion in public life without government interference.  Even more egregiously, this CWA bill would also allow fully biological men to freely use women’s locker rooms and showers in any facility declared a public accommodation … The more serious problem created with the CWA has not so much to do with transgendered persons themselves, as it does with actual criminals (voyeurs, sex offenders and pedophiles) who are looking for excuses to go into women’s intimate spaces, which the latest version of this bill would unquestionably allow.
You know I have had just about enough of this bullshit of living out their Christian faith. Denial of service is not free exercise. And who has been punished? Over the last eight years or so we have the cases of people who have flouted perfectly valid nondiscrimination laws including two bakers, a photographer, a florist and a caterer or two. How many others are there? Let's say it is a dozen nationally. They have all had due process through the courts. Should 12 anti-gay Christian extremists influence Florida public policy?

Moreover (you ignorant fuckwit) people do not pretend to be transgender in order to gain access to the bathrooms of the opposite sex. It simply does not happen.

More importantly, this is precisely the kind of hateful and inflammatory rhetoric that is employed to defeat equality bills in the legislature. They are either denying that sexual orientation is immutable (positing that it is a chosen behavior) or they are saying that a minority group of citizens is so disapproved of that they should not enjoy the same nondiscrimination protections that apply to Christians and being a Christian fundamentalist is a chosen behavior. The language might seem civil but the message remains the same: LGBT citizens and taxpayers are less equal than others. There is nothing civil about bigotry.
These are just a few of the many legitimate and compelling public policy and constitutional problems which compel legislators to speak out publicly and strongly oppose the CWA.  For you to argue that when any legislator speaks out in debate against this dangerous bill they are “spewing hatred,” “encouraging extremism” and “make people prone to violent acts” is simply beyond the pale of decency for a member of the legislative branch of government.

Rep. Richardson, this sir-- is not your finest moment.
Why? For speaking the truth? Denying minority rights is not intellectually honest debate. Calling trans accommodations dangerous is not intellectually honest. These are exercises in bigotry.
You have correctly stated that, “it does not help when [people] go to Tallahassee and spew rhetoric that is harmful.”  If you really mean that, please start by reexamining and reconsidering your own harmful words directed to your own colleagues and do not confuse “robust debate” with “hateful rhetoric” just because you disagree. 
Legislators spew the same dishonest and misleading rhetoric that Stemberger exhibits in his open letter. Indeed, they repeat Stemberger's dishonest and misleading rhetoric because they lack the intellectual curiosity, or the intellectual skills required, to form their own opinions. The last time CWA was in committee, I received this very civil message from Mr. Stemberger:
EMERGENCY ALERT: URGENT ACTION NEEDED NOW!
Senate Committee About to Vote AGAIN today (Tues) on Bill to Allow Men to Use Woman's Showers, Locker rooms & Bathrooms:

We need your help! Please contact members of the Judiciary Committee NOW and respectfully tell them to "VOTE NO on SB 120" the so-called Competitive Workforce Act! 

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