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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kriseman, Heller pull council endorsement over anti-gay remarks



Democratic state Reps. Richard Kriseman and Bill Heller of St. Petersburg have yanked their endorsements of St. Petersburg City Council candidate Gershom FaulknerSp_272506_foun_debate_10 (pictured) following comments Faulkner made to a gay and lesbian political group that were seen as homophobic.

Faulkner, a Democrat running for the nonpartisan council in District 7, told members of the Pinellas Stonewall Democrats at a candidate interview last month that being gay was a "choice,''and that he could "not support the gay lifestyle'' because of his religious beliefs, according to people who attended the meeting.

"We were taken aback by his responses,'' said Rick Boylan, the president of the Pinellas gay and lesbian rights group. "Here’s a Democrat, and we’re getting answers that seem like he’s a right-wing Republican.''

When reached by The Buzz, Faulker did not dispute Boylan's recollection of the meeting (Faulkner also said he supports a proposed ban on gay marriages and opposes adoption rights for same-sex partners). However, he said he did say then, and maintained on Wednesday, that he is willing to learn more about gay rights issues and open to changing his opinions.

"I'm not drawing a line in the sand and saying I can't work with you," said Faulkner, 36, the director of outreach for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa. "A lot of my beliefs are religious beliefs. But I also believe in being fair and hearing both sides. My religious beliefs won’t hamper that."

Faulkner, an ex-Marine who is running against local neighborhood association president Wengay Newton, is running for the City Council seat being vacated by Rene Flowers.

UPDATE From Wednesday's story:

Wengay Newton: "I've been through discrimination. I think that persecution is wrong. If there's something wrong, that's between them and God and not between me as a candidate and them as a person."

Rick Kriseman: "I still believe that Gershom's the best candidate. I think he'll make a good council member. I'm with him on the majority of issues. But his stances on these issues trouble me."

Bill Heller:  "I cannot appreciate any kind of discrimination against any kind of group."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:06pm]


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