State Rep. issues non-apology for disparaging statement about gay parents

By : Staff Report
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Rep. Dennis Baxley

Ocala – Weeks after he made a disparaging statement about same-sex parents in Florida, Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) met with Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith and issued a public apology – that wasn’t really an apology – for his remarks.

The comments were made on Oct. 8 when Baxley addressed a meeting of the House K-12 subcommittee. Baxley was describing a conversation he had with a teacher about the challenges of the classroom.

While he spoke about the challenges children face today at home, he listed several examples of how parents aren’t “functional.”

“I sat an hour and a half with a teacher telling me, well this child has got serial men coming through the house, this one has two mommies, this one has an abusive father who’s home, this one has alcoholism, this one has drug abuse. How many dysfunctional, atypical, to me, structures are in the way of a kid having a chance to learn.””

The statement about the two-female household caught the attention of Equality Florida.

“We hope Baxley has the decency to apologize for his comments disparaging gay parents and our children,” Smith said in a statement. “More than that we invite Representative Baxley to educate himself, talk with us and actually meet our families.”

Baxley took the equality organization up on its offer and responded with a public statement regarding his attack on same-gender parents.

“Let me thank Equality Florida leadership for coming to visit with me concerning the remarks in the K-12 Education Committee discussion,” he wrote. “I am very sorry anyone was offended. It certainly is not my desire to disparage anyone.”

He went on to explain the context of his statement.

“The context on the open discussion which turned to ‘parental involvement’ was to recount a teacher’s challenges expressed to me and to express my encouragement to teachers who often provide the stabilizing place for many students who come to school with many life challenges.”

He closed by saying that Florida is showing children can learn no matter their home situation and encouraged constituents to “thank a teacher.”

Equality Florida posted Baxley’s statement on its website and appears to be satisfied with his response.

“We are a diverse state and no elected official can fulfill their oath of office if they only respect and care about the people and families that look just like their own,” Smith told the Tampa Bay Times. “The entire child welfare community, every credible agency and all research, is unanimous in recognizing that gay parents are equally capable of raising children and that our kids do just as well as their classmates.”

Smith and her partner, Andrea, have a young son together.

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