Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican candidate for governor, paid George Rekers at least $60,900 to be an expert witness in 2008 while defending Florida’s ban against gay couple adopting children. When a judge called Rekers’ testimony neither “credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy,” McCollum explicitly defended him in following briefs.
Rekers is currently embroiled in a scandal for hiring a male escort to accompany him on a trip to Europe. But he’s also a leader in the ex-gay movement. He co-founded the Family Research Council and sits on the board of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. He has, by all accounts, dedicated his life to protecting children from the “harmful” influence of gay people.
In his testimony for the state of Florida, Rekers testified that homosexual people have a higher incidence of depression, substance abuse and break-ups than heterosexual people. This, he testified, made homosexual partners incapable of “providing a safe and secure and emotionally stable environment for the child.”
Rekers also testified that he once adopted a child.
Court records show that Rekers was paid a $60,900 retainer by the state. They indicate that Rekers said he would also bill the state for his time.
The judge, who decided the ban is unconstitutional, said Rekers’ testimony was “far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science.”
When McCollum filed for appeal, he stood by Rekers’ testimony and said the court’s “wholesale disregard is arbitrary.”
The trial court totally disregarded Dr. Rekers’s testimony, citing his religious background and writing as the central reasons for concluding that the gave “far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence.” For example the court noted twice that Dr. Rekers … is a minister; it provided long excerpts from some old religious book that he authored … but no longer endorses. […]
Instead of dispassionately considering evidence and the merits of these experts’ research-backed opinions (or circumscribing those portions purportedly based purely on unsubstantiated religious tenets), the trial court repudiated their [Rekers’ and another witness’] entire testimony. The court’s wholesale disregard is arbitrary …
In a statement, McCollum’s office said the attorney general, in defending the Department of Children and Families, “is committed to providing our client with the best possible legal representation in this matter.”
A spokeswoman said the office had found Rekers “by recommendation from another academic after an exhaustive search for potential expert witnesses who were willing to testify.” She made sure to distance McCollum from Rekers: “He has completed his testimony and is no longer involved in this case.”
Asked to confirm how much Rekers was paid, the spokeswoman directed TPM to the Florida DCF, which did not immediately return a call.
McCollum’s spokeswoman would not comment on the escort scandal.