Meet Florida's Biggest Homophobes
Browse the Facebook page of the Florida Democratic League for a few seconds and you'll come across a disturbing image of an effigy of a black man hanging from a lamp post with a sign attached to his dead body: "This n***** voted."
The image accompanied a rant on Miami-Dade Judge Sarah I. Zabel's decision to rule in favor of gay marriage. The ranter claimed that Zabel had "judicially lynched" Florida voters who had voted in favor of the state's 2008 constitutional ban on gay marriage.
If you find dredging up painful images from racist past to enforce present discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation logically absurd, at best, to deeply offensive, at worst, you're probably not familiar with the thinking of Florida's last bastion of (loosely) organized homophobes.
See also: The Top Ten Outed Right-Wing Homophobes
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The groups -- the Miami-based Christian Family Coalition, Florida Family Policy Council, the Florida Democratic League and the People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality among them -- are a jumbled ball of contradictions.
They claim to be pro family, but only families that do not include LGBT members.
They claim to be concerned with voter's rights, but they themselves aren't democratic organizations. Most are little more than cults of personalities founded and run by a single man that have managed to attract some followers.
They call themselves "human rights organizations" and "social justice groups" despite their main goal being an effort to deny rights and social justice to gay people.
Lately they've been avoiding out-and-out anti-gay rhetoric, and harping on the idea of a judge striking down a law as unconstitutional is somehow "lynching" the rights of the voters who voted for it in the first place.
Never mind that the majority of Floridians now support gay marriage.
Never mind that this is how America's system of checks and balances is supposed to work.
They don't actually care about that anyway. They just really, really don't like gay people.
And yet anytime anything happens in Florida relating to gay rights, the media (dare we say call it the "lame stream media" in their parlance) flocks to them for quotes for some false sense of balance. Sometimes you wonder why these reporters can't find anyone smarter and less extreme to explain why denying the right to marriage to same-sex couples is a good idea, and then you realize you've answered your own question.
So without further ado, here are Florida's biggest homophobes. If you see them quoted in an otherwise objective news story about gay marriage, bear their history in mind.
Executive Director of Christian Family Coalition
Sample quote: "It is a judicial lynching of nearly 8 million Florida voters, " on recent court decisions striking down gay marriage.
Verdugo is the spiritual successor to Anita Bryant, and founded his group in the late '90s in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Miami-Dade's gay inclusive human rights ordinance. Despite that early failure, he's still going strong. His most recent efforts have lead to transgender people being denied protection under that same human rights ordinance.
President of Florida Family Policy Council
Sample Quote: "This is an issue worth dying for. Every domestic partnership, every single civil union, every couple that cohabitants, these arrangements dilute and devalue marriage."
Stemberger is the man who spearheaded the amendment in the first place, and zealously works against any efforts of gay rights groups. Hell, GLAAD has an entire page dedicated to him. He also most recently made national headlines for protesting more inclusive membership policies in the Boy Scouts of America.
Dr. Eladio Jose Armesto
Chairman of Florida Democratic League
Sample Quote: On a judge ruling that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married: "The dignity, the equality, the votes, and the constitutional rights of Florida voters are NOT negotiable! Extremists must not be allowed to return us to the dark days of slavery and segregation when our equality, our rights, and our votes were brazenly denied, violated and nullified behind Courthouse doors."
Armesto is the publisher of a small Miami newspaper called El Nuevo Patria, and has been active in crusading against gay rights since at least 2002 when he tried to have Miami-Dade's Human Rights Ordinance unsuccessfully repealed.
Executive Director of People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality
Sample Quote: "The blood of the martyrs cries out for justice. This lawsuit is hardly about the institution of marriage as much as it is about the constitutional right to vote and having our votes counted and protected."
Wilcox used to be the chair of a group called "Take Back Dade," (he wanted to take it back from gays in case you're wondering), and is now back with his new group PULSE. Though, the group does concentrate on other issues, they've had their hands pretty full with the making sure gays don't get married right now.
It's perhaps not much of a surprise these guys tend to be ridiculous in their rhetoric and steadfast in their views. It gets them quoted in newspapers and interviewed in TV. It keeps them as a leader in their own little, usually self-founded, groups. In some cases, the over-the-top arguments are tied right into their financial income. They literally derive so much of their self worth from their continued stance against gays that it's little wonder why they keep grasping at straws trying to hold back the tides of change.
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