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Rekers ’Rent Boy’ Scandal Casts Cloud Over Anti-Gay ’Expert’ Testimony

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday May 19, 2010

There are primary and secondary ramifications to the European trip taken by anti-gay leader George Rekers in the company of a 20-year-old male escort who described the sexual massages he said he gave Rekers on a daily basis.

The most obvious effect of the story has been an outcry of hypocrisy: after all, Rekers--a longtime foe of GLBT equality who co-founded the anti-gay religious group Family Research Council in 1983 and sat on the board of NARTH, a group that claims gays can be "cured" and turned heterosexual--has testified in court on more than one occasion as an "expert witness" on gays, declaring to courts in Arkansas and Florida that gay and lesbian prospective parents should not be allowed to adopt children (tellingly, he said the same about Native Americans).

But a second, potentially wider-reaching effect may resonate long after the sensation and controversy fades from the media: the Rekers scandal may put a pall on so-called "expert testimony" used against gays in courtrooms where cases involving family parity are underway. Indeed, though Rekers did not testify in the court challenge to California's anti-gay voter initiative Proposition 8, his testimony from an earlier case in another state was still cited, the New York Times reported in a May 18 article.

The scandal broke when the Miami New Times published a story on the trip Rekers took with 20-year-old Jo-vanni Roman, a male escort who Rekers hired through RentBoy.com. Despite having found Roman through a Web site that acts as a clearinghouse for escorts who sell sexual services, Rekers claimed that he had no idea until well into the European journey that Roman was an escort. Rekers also claimed that he hired the young man to go along on the trip because he needed a luggage porter, since surgery had left Rekers unable to hoist his own suitcases--a claim that was instantly derided in late-night humor as Rekers needing someone to "lift his sack."

However, Roman told the press that he was not hired to carry luggage, and claimed that one of his daily duties was to administer erotic massage to Rekers, including a "long stroke" that included contact with the genital area.

The immediate reaction from the gay press was to point to Rekers' long a history as an opponent of GLBT equality before the law, based--as Rekers' courtroom testimony showed--on a belief that gays and lesbians are morally unfit for such wholesome things as family life. The press recalled that the judges in two cases in which Rekers had been retained as a paid expert witness to testify that gays and lesbians should not be allowed the right to adopt children both found Rekers' claims to reflect ideology rather than sound science--and in both cases, the judges ruled against the states.

Florida Appeal

One of those court losses resulted in an appeal when Florida's attorney general, Bill McCollum, pursued Florida's ban on gay and lesbian adoption after Judge Cindy Lederman ruled in late 2008 that the ban was unconstitutional, and cited Rekers' testimony specifically in her ruling, calling it "motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science."

McCollum fired back in kind, slamming the decision as "arbitrary" and accusing the court of having "entirely discredited [Rekers] based on his religion." Rekers raked in $120,000 of taxpayer money as a paid "expert witness" for the state of Florida; now McCollum, who is running for governor in that state, is besieged by demands that the money be repaid, and by open criticism in which his judgment has been called into question.

McCollum has responded by backing away from Rekers, whom he had strongly recommended serve as expert witness in the first place, and whose qualifications on the subject of gays McCollum had praised. The New York Times reported that legal scholars now say it's not enough for McCollum to distance himself from Rekers; because the appeal is still before the courts, McCollum is ethically obliged to officially acknowledge to the court the scandal surrounding the "expert witness," and to scrub Rekers' claims from the state's argument against adoption rights for gays.

"Each lawyer must tell the court if he comes to know that one of his witnesses has given 'false' testimony," New York University legal ethics scholar Stephen Gillers told the New York Times. Added Gillers, "It is not enough for the attorney general simply to refrain from relying on the testimony in his brief and argument. He has an affirmative duty to speak up."

Next: Expert Witness, Campaign Fallout



Comments

  • , 2010-05-19 15:20:33

    Rekers Mann Act 20 years. Bill McCollum Honest Services Fraud for paying him $120,000, a man who he knew to be a fraud.


  • buzzbearatl, 2010-05-19 15:38:25

    So basically he is saying that he sharing the gospel with this male prostitute while he was giving him a handjob. Ummmm.......yeah, right. Hypocrisy at it’s finest!!


  • SaintHawthorne, 2010-05-19 16:02:32

    When are these people going to stop using God as an excuse?


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