Back in October of 2006, my good friend (at the time) Jamie called an emergency coffee-talk with me. When we met, she confided to me that the New Times would “possibly” run a story about gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist being gay. She knew this because she was, at the time, writing and modeling for cover photos in the New Times and evidently, the place was plagued with nervous hand-wringing over the situation. What she wanted from me was my opinion - not as to Crist’s orientation - but as to whether or not I thought the story should run. Unbeknownst to either of us, I’m sure; this conversation would be the last one we ever had together. She was looking for something from me, which I was ultimately unable to offer: an excuse for Charlie Crist to avoid scrutiny over his personal life... And maybe not just Charlie Crist but perhaps a way for gay men in general to become more... well... not gay? It was one of those defining moments where two friends are sitting on opposite sides of a biscotti and suddenly realize that they have never really seen eye to eye on anything at all.
As it turns out, there are two schools of thought when it comes to outing celebrities and politicians. The old school line of thinking (Jamie’s school) is that people’s personal lives should be kept personal and that it’s not fair to play “crabs in a barrel” and tear apart someone’s life just because you’re unhappy. The modern, more radical approach (my school of thought, generally) is that liars will always be hypocrites and hypocrites will always make life harder on everyone else until they are publicly shamed into realizing that they are no more important than their constituents. I say point at the naked emperor and have a good hearty laugh.
So many people in Florida have an opinion on whether or not Charlie Crist (R-FL) is gay. Another hotly debated subject is whether or not we should be talking about it. Evidently, this latter subject has contributed to many of the nearly 2,500 edits to the now Senate-hopefuls wikipedia page since it was created in 2005 (and not to mention NPR's now infamous censorship of commentary on the subject). The wikipedia talk page alone was averaging 20 views per day after the New York Times mentioned Crist as a possible running mate for John McCain.
The subject of Crist's sexual orientation has been central to a documentary film, has been discussed on radio shows, in newspapers, magazines, numerous blog posts and YouTube videos. Whether or not the accusations (notice that I did not call them "rumors") are true, seems largely irrelevant at this point. Ol' Charlie has become something of a gay icon - albeit, a rather grim one.
Before we go on, I’m sure you’re wondering what my agenda is. Let me be perfectly clear here: I am a gay, liberal democrat who would love nothing more than to add Charlie Crist as the umpteenth “family values” Republican from Florida to be caught with his pants down in an airport restroom… or behind the bushes in a family park, or sending sexy emails to pageboys. That being said, Charlie hasn’t given me much hope. The house of cards has been built masterfully and Charlie has used superglue this time.
The New Times did, in fact, run the article about Crist and they really dotted their i's and crossed their t's on it too. Much of the information in my timeline below was gleaned from Julia Reischel's reporting and checked by myself against other online sources. But of course, the spin that soon followed said that the New Times was just a "trashy tabloid" and not a real newspaper... Meh.
The timeline of events pertaining to our governor's [not-]gay political life as I have discovered, goes something like this:
- 1979 – Charlie Crist has a shotgun marriage to Amanda Morrow which lasts only a few months and is described in the St. Petersburg Times as “the darkest chapter in Crist’s life”.
- 1985 – Crist attends a three month program called Leadership St. Petersburg with a man who would later be one of his opponents in the race for Governor, Max Linn. (remember that name for later).
- 1998 – Charlie Crist runs for the Senate (unsuccessfully) with financial support from Max Linn.
- 2001 – As State Education Commissioner, Crist condemns a theatrical performance at FAU by calling its gay characters “lecherous and profane” in an open letter to newspapers called “Desecration 101”.
- 2003 – Charlie Crist speaks at a convention for the Florida Funeral Home Directors Association after being tapped by the executive director, Bruce Carlton Jordan. (remember that name for later).
- 2005 – A woman approaches Crist while he is campaigning for Governor and asks him “Are you gay, can you open your divorce records, and do you discriminate against gays and lesbians?” Crist replied, “I'm not, the records are open, and we shouldn't discriminate against anyone." (This statement is VERY important to the justification of outing hypocrites as mentioned above.)
- 2005 – The next day, Crist cooked up a radio interview (WQYK Country – Tampa) to do damage control after the home-hitting question where he boasted about his heterosexual prowess with a Republican disc jockey. In this interview, Crist reportedly also expressed support for civil unions (once again, with the hypocrisy – but we’ll get to that later on down the list).
- 2005 – Rightwing organizations (such as the Family Policy Council) gather the 60,000 signatures needed to put Amendment 2 on the ballot. Amendment 2 would target and deny gays and lesbians the rights of marriages, civil unions or any other kind of representation of family. They had already successfully banned adoption by gays and lesbians in the state of Florida.
- 2006 – Family Policy Council and other right-wing organizations begin badgering Crist to be more anti-gay with full page newspaper articles and press conferences. They threaten him with a withdrawal of support if he does not comply.
- 2006 – Crist is now described as the “moderate” Republican in most newspapers and television reports.
- 2006 – A female lawyer from Crist’s hometown claims that Charlie Crist illegitimately fathered her child (but the story vanishes right after the election).
- 2006 – Crist reportedly tells Fox News (on Republican primary election night) that the gay rumors are being orchestrated by his opponent, Gallagher. (However, the best was yet to come – Reform party candidate Max Linn throws a curve ball in the general election, See below).
- 2006 – September 5 – Crist wins Republican primary for Governor with 64% of the vote.
- 2006 – Crist chooses a married, sports-enthusiastic, Christian lawyer from Indiana as his running mate for the election.
- 2006 – October 11 – Reform party candidate Max Linn tells a radio station (WFTL) that he and his opponent Charlie Crist had actually known each other for a very long time. He said that in Leadership St. Petersburg (see 1985 above) he and Crist were two of the 20 students in the 3 month course. During that time, Linn said that Charlie Crist openly discussed his homosexuality and that they even participated in a discussion about what would happen if his sexual orientation should ever become known publicly. Linn went on in later interviews to confirm that he stood by his statements and that he had even been a supporter of Crist (financially and as a volunteer) during Crist’s unsuccessful run for the Senate in 1998. He even went as far as to say that Crist’s sexuality was an “open secret” in Tallahassee amongst all the Republicans and that he’d “swear to it with his hand on a stack of Bibles”.
- 2006 – October 20 – Communications director for a Log Cabin Republican group in Florida tells the Washington Blade that he thinks Crist could be “bisexual” and Tom Dyer (publisher of NW Florida’s gay newspaper “Watermark”) tells the New Times that he endorses Charlie Crist for Governor.
- 2006 – November 7 – Charlie Crist becomes Governor of Florida with 52% of the vote and his mysterious ready-made girlfriend from the campaign trail, the once-divorced Kathryn Pemble, suddenly disappears from the limelight.
- 2007 – Charlie Crist begins dating Kelly Heyniger. (remember that name for later)
- 2007 – New Times writer, Bob Norman (whose blog incidentally is called “The Daily Pulp” and has an uncannily similar masthead to the one I just created for myself) has discussions with a young man named Jason Wetherington who was a legislative aide to Katherine Harris about his rumored sexual relationship with Crist. Wetherington denied that he had boasted of such things and then abruptly moved to Georgia. Subsequently, Norman questioned Bruce Carlton Jordan (see 2003 above) about the love triangle between him, Charlie Crist and mutual girlfriend Jennifer Faga, a Tallahassee snowbird from the Hamptons. According to the writer, both Jordan and Wetherington had discussed their sexual relationships with Crist on a number of occasions with Tallahassee politicos.
- 2007 - Crist and Kelly Heyniger end their dating relationship.
- 2008 – February – The owner of a Tampa gay bar called the Green Iguana joins the list of speculators by saying that he knows Crist to be gay as well. According to Rick Calderoni, Charlie Crist frequented his bar with a feminine demeanor and did everything that gay men do, just short of actually becoming intimate in the establishment.
- 2008 – August – Charlie Crist publicly endorses Amendment 2, much to the horror of many of his supporters who really believed him to be “moderate”.
- 2008 – November – Amendment 2 passes, making Florida the state with most legislation targeting and specifically against the rights of GLBT persons in the United States of America.
- 2008 – December – Just days after the passage of Amendment 2, Charlie Crist marries a previously unknown business woman, Carol Rome in a “fairy tale” wedding that receives sharp criticism from pundits across the board.
- 2009 – April – Kelly Heyniger tells the filmmaker’s of a documentary (Outrage) that if they “come back in 10 years” with their questions about Crist’s sexuality, she will “tell them a story” and laughs. (I’m glad she thinks it’s so funny… meanwhile Crist gets to destroy civil liberties altogether in Florida.)
- 2009 – July – Charlie Crist announces his intentions to run for the United States Senate.
- 2009 – September – The Mormon church (Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announces plans to build a huge Mormon Temple in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
- 2009 – October – Jason Wetherington and his various claims are conveniently discredited by the pastor of First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale as he discusses Wetherington’s alcoholism and theft charges. (These kinds of charges are reflective, if you ask me of the lifestyle that “recovering homosexuals” are cornered into all the time. It’s basically how they shut you up and put you in your place.)
- 2009 – October – Only about 250+ gays and lesbians from Florida marched with the 200,000 member National Equality March on Washington DC for equality. Some of them had signs and banners about Charlie Crist and Amendment 2, shouting “Charlie Crist, Charlie Crist, Come out of the closet – we insist!”
So, I hope that as you look over the timeline that I’ve provided here, you will see that our civil liberties, our marriages, our lives and our children’s happiness hang in the balance of our Governor’s dishonesty, political pandering, and general lack of integrity. Or are 30+ of Charlie’s closest friends and contacts “just making things up” for no other reason than to gossip?
Unfortunately, people like my former friend Jamie (who disappeared as mysteriously as any "moderate" Crist supporter does when the heat wave comes) cannot quite see a connection. But as I stated previously, liars are hypocrites and hypocrites always make life harder on everyone else. In Crist’s case, he almost seems to delight in it. We don't need to worry about protecting them - because they certainly aren't worried about protecting us.
Lastly, I part with you in this final thought (for now): If it is considered an “attack” to entertain the possibility of our Governor being gay then that certainly explains the atmosphere that would allow him and his “new friends” to remove some 1,500 associated rights and benefits from those of us who wish to live our lives with transparency, honesty and love.
Above: Citizens of Fort Lauderdale protest the passage of Amendment 2 - photo: Jarrett Terrill