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George Rekers: An Ex-Expert Witness

James Esseks,
Director, LGBTQ & HIV Project,
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May 18, 2010

By now, many of you have probably seen news reports, and even late-night comedy routines, about Dr. George Rekers, the anti-gay activist who allegedly hired a young man through to “carry his luggage” on a European vacation. What you may not know as much about is Dr. Rekers’ long fight against gay rights.

We’ve known Dr. Rekers since 2000, when the state of Florida hired him as an expert witness to defend against our challenge to the state’s ban on adoptions by gay people. Florida hired him to defend the adoption ban again in 2007, and he also testified for the state of Arkansas in 2004 in our challenge to that state’s ban on foster parenting by gay people.

As a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina, Rekers had the kind of credentials that give good cover for what turn out to be highly unscientific anti-gay views. And, indeed, he’s managed to do incalculable harm to gay people over his lifetime of advocacy in public policy debates and in court. Here’s a sampling of what Dr. Rekers has asserted both in his writings and in the trials in Arkansas and Florida:

  • That gay parents pose a risk of molesting children
  • That gay parents are likely to have AIDS, which will harm children
  • That gay parents will cause problems to children’s psychological and social adjustment
  • That gay parents are so harmful that a child who has been in the care of gay foster parents for 10 years should be torn away from that family to be placed with heterosexuals.

By presenting reputable experts to demolish all of those assertions, and by cross-examining Dr. Rekers at the Arkansas and Florida trials, we convinced the judges in both cases that Dr. Rekers’ opinions were not based on science. The Arkansas judge, ruling our way, explained just what he thought of Dr. Rekers:

Dr. Rekers’ willingness to prioritize his personal beliefs over his function as an expert provider of fact rendered his testimony extremely suspect and of little, if any, assistance to the court in resolving the difficult issues presented by this case.

The Florida judge agreed that “Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence” and, thus, “the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”

The new allegations about Rekers’ personal life probably mark the end of his career as an expert witness. That’s a good thing, but it does not erase the harm he’s already done to so many.

Finally, I encourage you to read this editorial from the Orlando Sentinel that shows how this story has evolved from an initial focus on the salacious details of an alleged affair to the genuine child welfare tragedy of the adoption ban itself.

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