Gay rights groups and politicians are
offering a mixed reaction to Florida Governor Charlie Crist's
endorsement of a package of gay rights bills.
The former Republican now running for
the U.S. Senate as an independent released
a document Monday endorsing a number of gay rights initiatives, but
stopped short of backing gay marriage. Instead, Crist reiterated
his long-standing belief that the government should recognize gay and
lesbian couples with civil unions.
In the document, Crist says he supports
efforts to end Florida's ban on gay adoption – a stance he only
previously hinted at – because the law puts politics before the
best interest of the child.
Immigration Equality, a Washington
D.C.-based group that lobbies for the rights of gay immigrants, said
it was pleased to see the governor supporting passage of the Uniting
American Families Act (UAFA), a controversial bill that Congress has
previously attempted to attach to immigration reform measures with
little luck. The UAFA would allow gay Americans to sponsor a spouse
for citizenship over the objections of the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA), the 1996 law that forbids federal agencies from recognizing
the legal marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
“Florida is home to nearly 3,000 LGBT
bi-national families, and the governor's position is welcome news to
those who struggle every day simply to keep their families together,
and be with the person they love,” Steve Ralls, spokesman for
Immigration Equality, told On Top Magazine in an email.
“Each time an elected leader chooses
to stand with those families, we move one step closer to passing
UAFA. There is, indeed, no more pro-family position than one
supporting the right of all families to be safe, protected and equal
under the law.”
Crist also said he backs repeal of
“Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” the 1993 that forbids gay troops from
serving openly, a federal gay-inclusive anti-bullying measure, and a
federal bill that would allow the spouses of gay government workers
access to benefits.
Other groups, however, appeared
hesitant to take Crist at his word, and at least one politician
suggested Crist is lying.
“Crist is obviously trying to win an
election, which is easier for him with three candidates than with
two,” Rand Hoch, president and founder of the Palm Beach County
Human Rights Council, told us.
Hoch said his group has been lobbying
the governor to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination
in state employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity
(transgender protections) since 2006.
On the group's latest request, Hoch
said: “Basically, the response from the campaign was that if Crist
issued an executive order now, it would look like he was pandering to
the LGBT community. Our response was, we had no objection to his
“Over the years, I have tried to give
Charlie Crist the benefit of the doubt, but I can no longer do that.
There have just been too many times he could have supported our
community and either chose not to do so or actively came out against
our interests,” Hoch added, referring to Crist's support for
placing a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Florida's
Kendrick Meek, Crist's Democratic rival
and a strong supporter of gay rights, suggested the governor was
“Can anyone believe anything Charlie
Crist says anymore?” Meek Spokesman Abe Dyk said in a statement.
“It's obvious Charlie Crist is willing to say anything. The only
thing Charlie Crist says today that you can believe tomorrow is that
he wants to be elected. The only thing we know about Charlie Crist's
track record is that he is a lifelong conservative Republican who has
fought against every Democratic value. The governor's charade trying
to hide his lifelong conservative record just to get elected is an
insult to every Floridian.”
Crist's Republican rival in the
three-man race, Marco Rubio, opposes gay rights.