The Rekers effect: How the choice of anti-gay adoption "expert" Dr. George Rekers backfired on Bill McCollum

That led the Orlando Sentinel to write in an editorial, “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.”


Even some Republican admirers of McCollum, like GOP attorney general candidate Holly Benson, have been unable to defend McCollum in this instance. “Attorney General McCollum trusted his team to identify the best possible expert. They made a mistake. A bad mistake.”


But in fact it’s been reported that McCollum overruled his own staff in selecting Rekers. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Gary Fineout reported that Assistant Attorney General Valerie Martin wrote in a July 2007 e-mail that, after talking to Arkansas officials and reviewing the background of the former University of South Carolina professor, she would recommend not using Rekers.


Democrat Alex Sink, who says she is against the gay adoption ban, calls McCollum’s personal intervention “another example of Bill McCollum using his office and the taxpayers’ money to advance his own political agenda.”


Nadine Smith of Equality Florida says the recent Rekers scandal has been good news for foes of the gay adoption ban in that it’s caused a lot of people to ask, ”This is the best you can find to defend this law?” and has prompted people to reconsider why Florida stands virtually alone in banning gay adoption.


Perhaps momentum is now on the side of those who want to rid the state of the ban. In April an Arkansas circuit court judge declared that state’s unmarried couples adoption and foster law unconstitutional. Judge Chris Piazza’s ruling read in part that “it is especially troubling that one politically unpopular group has been specifically targeted for exclusion by the Act.”

If Attorney General Bill McCollum is able to escape the Rick Scott onslaught and face Alex Sink in the fall, he’ll have to answer to Sink on a number of issues. But one he probably never expected to have to defend was his decision to pay $120,000 to an “expert,” Dr. George Rekers, to testify against gay adoption during the 2008 trial in Miami-Dade County.

Activists in the gay community were outraged by Rekers’ testimony and his excessive payday. But most of Florida only learned about it in May after Miami New Times broke the story about his European vacation with an openly gay male escort whom Rekers reportedly found through the website rentboy.com.

The fallout from that revelation led Rekers, the co-founder of the Family Research Council, to resign from the board of NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), an organization that offers conversion therapy to change homosexuals into heterosexuals. On his website, professorgeorge.com, he writes, “Dr. Rekers found his recent travel assistant by interviewing different people who might be able to help, and did not even find out about his travel assistant’s Internet advertisements offering prostitution activity until after the trip was in progress.” Rekers denies that any “inappropriate activity” took place, and also declares on the site that he is not gay.

Bill McCollum’s only comment since the Rekers/rentboy story broke was to say that there was a lack of available expert witnesses who would testify to the dangers of gay parents adopting children.

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