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Monday, March 21, 2011

In Anita's Wake

In 1977, Anita Bryant began a crusade against the gay community in Miami. Her Baptist church group called Save Our Children used irrational and malicious fear-mongering to fuel a repeal of a human rights ordinance that offered job and housing protections to gay citizens of Dade County. Anita's hysteria bloomed into a national anti-gay movement that prompted the Florida Legislature to pass a law banning all gay people from adopting children. Over three decades later, that law - the only one of its kind in the nation - still stands.

In 2008 and 2010, two circuit court judges ruled the ban unconstitutional and irrational, and awarded adoptions to gay foster parents Martin Gill and Vanessa Alenier. The state chose to appeal those rulings even though it was undisputed that both Gill and Alenier were ideal parents, and that it was in the children's best interests to be adopted by them. Over objections from his own attorneys and the Florida Department of Children and Families, Attorney General Bill McCollum hired Dr. George Rekers, a Baptist preacher, to serve as the state's expert witness to testify why the adoption ban should be preserved. Rekers, the cofounder of the virulently anti-gay group, Family Research Council, had previously been discredited as an expert witness in Arkansas. When reporters for the Miami New Times found Rekers with a male escort in the spring of 2010, the Rekers-McCollum scandal escalated into a national embarrassment for the state.

33 years after Anita, and still in the wake of her hysterical bigotry, over 3,000 children languish in an overburdened Florida foster care system. Those children are deprived of forever families and legal protections because a conservative Legislature and an army of "new Anitas" still embrace and profit from irrational, state-sanctioned, anti-gay bigotry.

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