Standing before his Fort Lauderdale constituency yesterday, famed homophobe Jim Naugle again “encouraged” residents to join him in stemming the so-called scourge of gay public sex:
I am very encouraged at this organized show of public support for myself, but, more importantly, for the cause of protecting Broward public health. I would encourage residents… to join this coalition and call for measures that will make our community a much more livable and healthy place.
The coalition to which the robo-mayor refers goes by the name Healthy Public Places and consists of some of America’s most conservative, Christian-leaning parties.
While the press conference may have seemed like another show of Naugle’s smuggness, there’s more the story. Already an offensive politician, Naugle proved himself to be smarter – and far more dangerous – than we imagined.
As much as we joke that Naugle’s a brainless, backward Neanderthal, the politico proved yesterday that he’s more than just a conservative ideologue. He’s a sinister motherfucker.
Naugle’s coalition consists entirely of right wing Christian groups like Concerned Women for America and Americans For “Truth”. In addition to these old conservative favorites, Naugle added some new friends to his anti-gay roster, including Dr. O’Neal Dozier of Worldwide Christian Center. By enlisting a black preacher, Naugle adds two potentially powerful allies: Christian and black voters.
In a press release, which can be downloaded down below, Dozier channeled the AIDS panic of the early 1980s:
We have an epidemic on our hands. More than 8,000 people have died from AIDS in Broward County since the early 1980s. Everyone, regardless of his place on the political spectrum, should agree that public sex…endangers and fuels the public health crisis we face in Broward.
While we’re with Dozier’s assessment that HIV/AIDS constitutes a “crisis,” the “good” Reverend must have forgotten that people don’t die of AIDS. They die of AIDS-related causes. Facts, of course, simply get in the way of this lot’s unholy mission.
The Healthy Public Places press release reads thus:
The Broward Public Health Department reports that our county leads the nation in the number of new AIDS cases… A staggering one in five men who have sex wit other men in HIV positive. The recent growth of the epidemic is indicated by the fact that HIV has increased within white men who have sex with men by 120 percent since 2000.
It’s difficult to determine the rate of HIV infections in Broward County, but Naugle and company’s words both mislead and confuse. Yes, Florida’s got more than its fair share of HIV-infected folk, but New York and California still top the nation with the most infections and subsequent deaths. Further, by placing the blame on white men, Naugle’s effectively – and quite efficiently – racializing the disease, conveniently excising black people (whose support he’s obviously after) from the larger, universal problem.
As we’ve seen, black churches are keys players in the battle against homophobia and HIV-infection. By denying the role of blacks in the HIV epidemic, Naugle and Dozier placate social fears while splitting the body politics. The “public” for which they fight – and, it seems, claim as their own – becomes not only divided by sexual lines, but by racial lines, as well. These shady social terms give Dozier’s press-ready words even more oomph:
Given this epidemic, the uproar from local politicians and leaders of the homosexual community over Mayor Naugle’s comments appears ludicrous and irresponsible. These leaders – along with the local media – should be joining him in calling for an end to irresponsible, illegal sexual behavior that leads, often, to death from AIDS. Instead, these leaders have more to say about the possible loss of tourism dollars than the actual loss of human life.
Besides Dozier’s reprehensible, disgusting dismissal of gay activists as greedy fucks, the Bible-thumper strikes fear into the hearts of Fort Lauderdale’s citizens. The white, heathen gays are spreading a plague of Biblical proportions.
In harnessing Dozier and other Christian groups’ power, Naugle’s quite cunningly made the robo-toilet war into a religious, racial and health issue. The middle ground’s caving in and the Culture Wars just got a new, rocky battlefield. What’s more, the super villains are demonizing sex – they fail to point out that unsafe sex spreads HIV. In their eyes, sex and pleasure are mutually exclusive. Pleasure comes from above, while sex sends you below.
Here’s the Healthy Public Places press release PDF.