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A Republican lawmaker laughed callously while joking about gay men being executed. He was just unseated

Emma Powys Maurice August 20, 2020
Republican

Former Republican state representative Mike Hill (Screenshot: WFLA News)

A Florida Republican who refused to apologise for joking about executing gay people has just been defeated in his primary.

Mike Hill, an insurance agent and Air Force veteran, lost Florida’s first district to Michelle Salzman, who earned 53 per cent of the votes compared to Hill’s 47 per cent.

He had already battled calls to resign for his “callous indifference” in response to a suggestion that LGBT+ people should face the death penalty.

“Someone’s sexual orientation, their proclivity to want to do something, that is your business,” Hill said at a May 2019 meeting in Pensacola City Hall.

“It’s a behaviour, and it’s a choice. You can say I was born that way. OK, well fine, but nobody is forcing you to engage in that relationship even if you were born that way. It doesn’t meet the qualifications of being a protected status.”

A constituent then asked Hill about a passage in the New Testament which states that men who have affairs with men should be “put to death”.

Hill replied: “It says that in the Old Testament too.” When asked if he could introduce such legislation, Hill joined in with the laughter from the audience and said: “I wonder how that would go over!”

Gay senator demanded Mike Hill’s resignation.

A recording of the exchange was published by the Pensacola News Journal and Hill quickly attracted condemnation from across the state.

The openly gay Democratic state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith said at the time: “I’m shocked and disgusted to discover a colleague who I’ve worked closely with would joke about punishing me by death for being gay.

“As a survivor of anti-gay hate violence, I know the consequences of homophobia are real. Mike Hill should apologise to LGBT+ Floridians or resign.”

Republican house speaker Jose Oliva and rules chairman Chris Sprowls both distanced themselves from Hill in a joint statement.

“Such callous indifference to an outrageous question is unacceptable, runs contrary to our founding principles, and in no way reflects the beliefs of the Florida House,” they said.

“Representative Hill would do well to remember that the only story in the New Testament involving stoning involved Jesus putting a stop to it and saying: ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ I believe he owes his colleagues an apology and he owes the Republican caucus a better example of political courage.”

Yet Hill stubbornly refused to apologise or to resign, instead blaming the media for misrepresentation and claiming that he was a victim of a “social media lynching”.

Fortunately Floridians had the final say on the matter, and the votes speak for themselves.

 

More: Florida, Michelle Salzman, Mike Hill, Republican

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