Gay activists in Florida remain
optimistic that Governor Charlie Crist has turned a corner on gay
rights, despite recent stumbles.
The former Republican now running for
the U.S. Senate as an independent released
a document last month endorsing a number of gay rights initiatives,
but stopped short of backing gay marriage.
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.
Pointing to a videotaped interview with
the Palm Beach Post where Crist appears to backtrack on the
issue, Congressman Kendrick Meek, Crist's Democratic rival, suggested
the governor's gay rights endorsement is not sincere.
When asked in the interview if his
position that “children do best in a home with a mother and a
father” has changed, Crist, after a long pause, answers: “No.
What's changed is we have a court ruling that says that the law is
unconstitutional. That's what has changed. And I respect the law.”
(Video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)
While some gay activists say Crist's
rhetoric on gay rights remains precarious, others are willing to
accept his sincerity.
Rand Hoch, president and founder of the
Palm Beach County
Human Rights Council, said that while he was initially dubious
about Crist's new-found gay support, continued dialogue with the
Crist campaign is encouraging.
“His campaign has been keeping the
lines of communication open,” Hoch told On Top Magazine in
an email. “The more I hear from them, the more I am being
convinced that perhaps, freed of the constraints of the Republican
party, Charlie Crist truly is coming into his own on LGBT issues.”
“Whenever we have an opportunity
where an elected official, like Governor Crist, previously opposed an
LGBT issue we need to appreciate the fact that there is movement in
the right direction,” C.J. Ortuno, executive director of the
gay rights group SAVE Dade, said.
But veteran gay activist R. Zeke Fread,
founder and executive director of Pride
Tampa Bay, remained unmoved.
“He's burned the GLBT equality bridge
too many times for us to take him at this word,” Fread told On
Top Magazine. “Crist is attempting to court the gay vote,
plain and simple.”
While Ortuno and Hoch are keeping an
open mind, both of the groups they helm have endorsed Meek to
represent Florida in the U.S. Senate.