Hypocrites make bad witnesses

Poor George Rekers. The academic, psychologist and ordained Baptist minister who made a name for himself by denouncing gay parents has boy problems of his own. As everyone knows by now, Rekers brought a male prostitute from Rentboy.com, a gay-sex Web site, along on a European trip as a "luggage carrier." Though Rekers insists that he is "not gay" the escort said he gave Rekers "sexual" massages every day.

In the 14th century, hypocrites were condemned by Dante to hell's eighth circle. Today, they are flogged by comedians. Jay Leno, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher all had their swings. Rekers is the incarnation of a funny joke.

But what is not so funny is the harm this man tried to do to gay parents as the result of his own apparent self-loathing. Rekers was Florida's key expert witness in defense of the state's disgraceful ban on gay adoption. The 2008 case involved Frank Martin Gill's attempt to adopt the two foster children he had been raising since 2004. By all accounts the two young boys — who had arrived with scalp ringworm and ratty clothes — had flourished in the care of Gill, a gay man, and his partner.

For the princely sum of $120,000, Rekers' job was to convince the court that homosexuals like Gill are unfit parents and should be categorically denied the ability to adopt children. He failed. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman completely discounted Rekers' testimony as not "credible" and "motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions." In a groundbreaking decision, Lederman threw out the then-31-year ban on gay adoption as unconstitutional. Her ruling is currently on appeal.

So what exactly did Florida buy for all that money? In 250 pages of court transcripts, Rekers essentially made one argument over and over. His thesis was that gays (including lesbians) are disproportionately prone to conditions that would "adversely affect the home environment." The list of woes he cited included depression, suicide attempts, multiple sexual partners, relationship breakups, substance abuse and domestic violence.

From this Rekers concluded that a blanket ban on gay adoption is warranted — even if potential adoptive gay parents are well screened for these conditions — since social workers cannot predict which gay parents might succumb to such problems in the future.

This was a thin reed upon which to build an argument, particularly in light of the American Psychological Association's stance that the sexual orientation of parents has no bearing on the "adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children."

When Rekers was cross-examined, his principles were shown for their bald-faced anti-gay bigotry.

For instance, Rekers readily agreed that studies show that 41 percent of heterosexual women have psychiatric disorders at some time in their life. But he did not think that women's disproportionate rates of depression should affect their right to adopt.

On Native Americans and African-Americans, Rekers agreed that these demographic groups have higher-substance abuse rates than other groups, but he did not think they should be excluded from the adoptive parent pool because of it. And on and on. No group but gays was excludable.

Other gay-bashing tidbits that came out during cross-examination were in books Rekers wrote. In "Shaping Your Child's Sexual Identity," Rekers said "Gay Libertationists" will first press to legalize sex between consenting adults and then to eliminate age discrimination. "This will be their battle to legalize pedophilia!"

And then there was this offering against women working outside the home, from his book "The Christian in an Age of Sexual Eclipse": "I believe that the family will self destruct in direct proportion to its retreat from the Biblically defined male and female roles."

There is one more bit of tragic irony. Rekers has children of his own, one of them a boy he adopted from foster care — just like Gill wanted to do. I wonder whether Rekers thinks people who hire same-sex prostitutes for sexual favors should be allowed to adopt children. Maybe the state of Florida should pay him more taxpayer money to get his answer.

Robyn Blumner is a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times. You can respond to her column at blumner@sptimes.com.

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