A Florida domestic partnership bill that failed in committee yesterday solicited at least one anti-gay hoaxer — or worse — who seems to be fraudulently using the email addresses of leaders of the popular LGBT civil rights group, GetEQUAL, and apparently others to further their anti-gay mission of denying same-sex couples the right to have their relationships recognized and protected under state law.
The “Families First” bill, aka SB 196, which (had Florida Republicans not been living in the stone age yesterday) would have created a domestic registry for couples who wished to enter into domestic partnerships was heard by Florida’s Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs — which quickly “tabled” the bill when it became apparent that anti-gay lawmakers weren’t going to let it pass.
This is, just as a reminder, a domestic registry bill. Not a same-sex marriage bill, or even a civil unions bill, but a mere domestic registry bill which opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples could have used to enter into legal, civil, domestic partnerships, a legal concept that was created in California in 1979 and today is used around the world. Not marriage, not civil unions, but a very basic legal method of giving some basic protections to those who truly need them most.
Unfortunately, someone has fraudulently been using the email addresses of two of GetEQUAL’s leaders to send Florida lawmakers emails opposing the domestic partnership bill, which was temporarily postponed yesterday.
Cheap, tacky, and one would have to wonder just how legal it is.
Now, imagine for a moment how you would feel if someone falsified a letter to a lawmaker, using your name, and claiming you “are strongly opposed to legislation which seeks to use Florida law to normalize homosexual, bisexual and transgender relationships.”
Wonder how you might feel, especially if you were in a same-sex relationship and wanted to marry.
Worse, wonder how you might feel, if you were in a same-sex relationship and wanted to marry, and DOMA is preventing the federal government from recognizing your relationship. And then wonder how you would feel were you in a bi-national relationship, knowing that you or your spouse could be deported, separating your lives together.
That’s exactly what someone is doing.
There’s no evidence currently available to know who did it, but someone used the email addresses belonging to Heather Cronk, GetEQUAL’s managing director, and Felipe Matos, GetEQUAL’s National Field Director, and sent emails opposing the legislation.
Nasty, ugly, bigoted, anti-gay emails.
We know, because we have them.
Now imagine getting a response from a state lawmaker who is deciding whether or not couples should be afforded the very basic, minimal protections a domestic partnership would bring, thanking you for sending him an email opposing the domestic partnership legislation.
Below are copies of emails that supposedly came from GetEQUAL’s Cronk and Matos.
The wording of the emails Cronk and Matos supposedly sent (via email and telephone The New Civil Rights Movement was told they did not, and was told their phones, laptops, and email accounts were not compromised) is the same or similar to that of a web form the Florida Family Association is using, which The New Civil Rights Movement discovered via a simple Google search.
To be clear — The New Civil Rights Movement is not accusing the Florida Family Association of any wrongdoing or of using the GetEQUAL email addresses.
But it’s safe to state that someone used the same verbiage that they are using on the web form.
And it’s also safe to state that enabling an unverified third party to use your website to send emails to lawmakers certainly seems somewhat irresponsible, at least to us, especially since there are readily-available methods that many groups and companies use to verify email addresses first, similar to what many websites do when you lose your password, or even sign up for a newsletter.
David Caton, the founder, head, and reportedly only employee of the Florida Family Association — a group closely aligned with the certified anti-gay hate group, American Family Association — repeatedly told The New Civil Rights Movement yesterday via a telephone conversation that he was “laughing” when we described the situation.
Caton also admitted a similar situation happened last year.
Caton, who threatened he would contact his lawyers if we “make this out to be a big deal,” also claimed he personally reviews the “thousands” of these webform emails that are supposedly sent via his servers monthly.
Caton also offered that the Florida Family Association uses no software to verify email addresses, so anyone can do exactly what someone did with the GetEQUAL email addresses.
To test this, even before contacting the Florida Family Association, The New Civil Rights Movement used the web form, but changed the language to support the domestic registry bill. We received no confirmation email or any other response.
Caton, we should acknowledge, offered to block GetEQUAL’s email addresses if they wanted him to.
Matos, via an email exchange, told The New Civil Rights Movement that he’s “appalled” that his email address was used to perpetrate an anti-gay act, and noted that whomever did this is “not only infringing my right to my identity but also using my name against the interest of my family.”
Lest anyone think this situation with the GetEQUAL email addresses is a one-off (or two-off) situation, coincidentally our research led us to another instance that’s even more closely related to the Florida Family Association.
We received an email from someone who asked their name not be used, but who told us that they do not live in Florida and yet received an email yesterday thanking them for their support. They were unsure why their name and email address had been used.
“I received a message from the FAA saying my email ‘made a difference’ in today’s vote,” they told us, adding, “Picture of Nancy Detert on it.”
Nancy Detert is a Republican lawmaker who did not support the domestic partnership bill in committee.
In a statement unrelated to the Florida Family Association, Sue Hoffman, New Media Director for Equality Florida, posted, ”Dirty tricks like this reek of desperation. Domestic partnership laws enjoy broad support in Florida and nationally, especially among business communities who recognize the importance of supporting diversity to create a vibrant workforce.”
Below, the text of the Florida Family Association’s web form, and copies of the emails described above.
Please vote against Domestic Partnership bill SB 196.
My family and I are strongly opposed to legislation which seeks to use Florida law to normalize homosexual, bisexual and transgender relationships.
Every alleged benefit of this legislation can be accomplished through private contract or authorization forms. In all cases Health Care Surrogate, Power of Attorney and other lawful designations of authority by one party to another must be performed on a separate private party agreement form. This negates the need for this legislation.
SB 196 does nothing but add government bureaucracy while advancing legal recognition of same sex relationships.
Heterosexual couples are not demanding this legislation. They can marry if they want their relationship legally recognized.
SB 196 is being pushed by homosexual activists who demand that the State of Florida legally recognize same-sex relationships.
I urge you to vote AGAINST this legislation.
Here’s the email that bears the email address of Felipe Matos, a portion of which we’ve removed:
And the response, from Florida Republican state senator Don Gaetz, which says he would oppose the legislation:
GetEQUAL’s Heather Cronk was also a victim of this anti-gay “hoax.”
Upon receiving an email from Florida state senator Don Gaetz, thanking her for her comments and stating, “I, like you, support the institution of marriage as the union of one women and one man and would not be inclined to support legislation that would change this,” Cronk responded:
Cronk also responded to Florida state senator Charlie Dean, who wrote her to thank her for “writing me and expressing your opposition to Senator Sobel’s Senate Bill 196.” Senator Dean added, “I will keep your opposition in mind.”
Senator Dean,This is ABSOLUTELY not my view on the Florida Senate Bill 196. I don’t know who submitted my email address representing this viewpoint, but I would never ever support discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation. I think that viewpoint is abhorrent, and I’m disappointed that you would consider opposing the bill.
Please register that I support domestic partnerships in Florida, and I would be ashamed to see the state turn its back on equality.-Heather
The obvious questions now are, who is perpetrating this fraud, what were their motivations for using the email addresses of GetEQUAL leaders and others, and why haven’t the Florida lawmakers who received the fraudulent emails and were told they were fraudulent acted?
And when will they?
Also, how widespread is this problem?
Lawmakers often base their voting decisions on the volume of emails and phone calls they receive, and often say, as they have above, they choose to vote a certain way because their “constituents” told them to.
How can these lawmakers make valid decisions if the emails they’re receiving are frauds?
And how desperate can someone be to perpetrate a fraud like this?
Editor’s note: Portions of all email addresses have been blocked out to protect their owners.
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