It was a showdown at the OC Corral last week when the Orange County commission blustered into a dustbowl at its Sept. 21 meeting of the rather large heads. Normally, county commission meetings carry with them about as much excitement as earthworms dying in the heat on the sidewalk – in no small part because lame-duck Mayor Rich Crotty speaks in sarcastic crypt-keeper tones designed to call forth flesh-eating worms. But sprinkle a little bit of the political season rainbow gay dust on the proceedings, and you get a dancing party snake! At issue was the much ballyhooed human rights ordinance (already a subject of debate in the early mayoral stakes) aimed at ensuring domestic partner benefits and fair housing for the gay at heart. You know, like most forward-thinking municipalities offer.
In 2004 the county changed its charter to include some protections for gay employees, but since then the City of Orlando has one-upped it with a progressive benefits package (that basically excludes straight co-habitators). Anyway, the activists were at the ready for this meeting, sending out e-mail blasts and urging LGBT noise – this was, after all, the same week that Don't Ask Don't Tell flipped then flopped and Florida's gay adoption ban was ruled unconstitutional. Weeks don't get much gayer than that.
So it was that Commissioner Bill Segal entered a "memo" into record on Sept. 13 requesting that Crotty consider a commissioner's report regarding the big gay issue, a memo that Crotty misunderstood as a call for a workshop on human rights. Uh-oh. Commissioner Linda Stewart reportedly got hot and bothered, as she does, and county attorney Tom Drage informed the world that a "supermajority" of five commissioners would be required to override the mayor on the issue. Basically, nobody knew what they were talking about, and Commissioners Fred Old-Man Brummer and newly governor-appointed ass-kiss Lui Damiani sided with the mayor and shut the whole thing down.
The memos and misunderstandings continued the next day: first with a limp-wristed mea culpa from Crotty, and then with an e-mail directly from "disappointed" State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, to newbie Damiani deriding his claim that the ordinance has a "whiff of politics." What a mess.
But unlike most messes, this one might have a clean ending. Both Segal and Stewart have pressed Crotty to allow the commissioner's report, which would set up the actual workshop, to get a simple majority vote on Oct. 5. Oh, hey! That's just before Come Out With Pride weekend! Timing is everything.
And tact is nothing – at leastnot if you're Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rick Scott. According to a Sept. 22 report in the St. Petersburg Times, Scott may have overstepped political (and educational) lines with an e-mail his campaign sent out to several Florida school districts suggesting that kids could learn a lot while working on his campaign. The man who defrauded Medicare is not coming after your children in a manner that does not at all resemble certain propaganda from WWII. Hope your kids are blond!
"It is great learning experience and will give students of any grade a chance to see if that might be an avenue they might want to pursue in the future," read the e-mail crafted by Scott organizer Alex Melendez. Sure, "it is great learning experience," Mr. Hulk, especially considering the joys of unpaid hours canvassing neighborhoods and working phone banks for a man who would likely choose to have your free education privatized. Scott's camp went so far as to suggest that the kids be compensated with community-service hours. Of course nobody fell for it, right?
"Pasco eSchool principal JoAnne Glenn viewed this as an opportunity for her students and did what seemed natural in the schools online environment," reports the Times. "She sent an e-mail to all students letting them know about it."
Turns out the school district – OK, all school districts – strictly forbid their staffs from engaging in such politically leading behavior (go tell your Mom to vote Scott, while you're at it), and the other superintendents in receipt of the Scott spam summarily deleted it. Naturally, Glenn was forced into the cold corner of an ePology. Poor thing. Glenn contended that she would probably have made the same mistake if Democrat Alex Sink had pierced her vast Internet shield, though that seems a little disingenuous. The Pasco County School Board already refused to allow Sink to even film on a school campus earlier this year. Hello, Florida. It's not just your kids who are becoming dumb at the hands of a failing public school system.
Continuing on with kids. Remember Rifqa Bary, the Ohio cheerleader who claimed her Muslim parents wanted to kill her for converting to Christianity, so she hopped on a Greyhound and followed the North Star the opposite way to Orlando where she found comfort in the warm, embracing arms of the Christian right? You may recall that everything came up roses for Rifqa, who was granted full legal citizenship to the U.S. shortly after Florida courts found absolutely no basis for her claims. Well, her lawyer at the time, fundamentalist fuckwit "attorney" John Stemberger, who also does something or other for gay-hating Florida Family Policy Council, didn't act quite so lawyerly during that fight.
We know, it's totally unthinkable that an Orlando lawyer who once sued Dollar Rent-A-Car for renting a car to an Irish man who got drunk and crashed, killing his Irish girlfriend … because Dollar should've known "about the unique cultural and ethnic customs existing in Ireland which involve the regular consumption of alcohol at ‘Pubs' as a major component to Irish social life," would ever step outside the bounds of his profession – especially someone who tweeted this month that he loves a "fierce thunderstorm [because] it reminds me of the power of the Creator." How bad could he be?
Really bad, it turns out. During the Bary investigation, the Florida Bar found, Stemberger went on Fox News and cold straight made up a bunch of shit about Bary's parents, claiming they were "being paid by an organization with ties to terrorists," reports the Orlando Sentinel, and lying on TV that he was still Bary's attorney when he totally wasn't by that time.
The bar is currently filing a complaint with the Florida Supreme Court, and Bary's father has filed a $10 million defamation suit against Stemberger. How do you like that thunderstorm, John?
Here's a fun conversation starter for your Gay Adoption in Florida party, our invitation for which must surely be on the way: Did you know straight parents are fully capable of fucking up their kids just as much as gay parents (actually more so)? It's true! Case in point: United Press International reports that a 4th District Court of Appeal just upheld a tremendous 30-year prison sentence given to current Orlando resident Denise Harvey for sleeping with her son's 16-year-old baseball buddy. The 43-year-old woman's husband claimed she was "counseling" a troubled youth, and her lawyer claimed the kid was stalking her, and tried to enter evidence that he previously made a false accusation against another adult woman, but it wasn't allowed. Wonder if she got that move from George Rekers' parenting handbook?; firstname.lastname@example.org