The Christian and Bridget Ziegler sex scandal has repercussions beyond the obvious issues of personal and political hypocrisy. The power couple — Christian chairs the Florida GOP and Bridget is the Sarasota School Board member who helped launch Moms of Liberty — made a name for themselves by throwing their political weight into a calibrated campaign to dehumanize, damage and humiliate the state’s gay community.
Now, the microscope has turned on them and the detailed allegations about their not-so-conservative lifestyle — contained in a search warrant affidavit filed in Manatee County court that leaves little to the imagination — should reopen the debate over the elimination of LGBTQ+ issues from education.
Their hypocrisy adds quite a spin to the Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as the Don’t Say Gay law, pushed and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022 — and still turning school board meetings into spectacles of ignorance and anti-gay hate.
It cannot be said enough: Parents and gay children have suffered immeasurably from the fires the Zieglers and their followers stoked pushing the lie that children were being groomed in Florida schools to be gay and trans. There hasn’t been evidence that they were, but conservative-talking Moms for Liberty pushed — and are still pushing nationwide — that talking point to justify homophobia-driven state education policy.
“The obvious is the hypocrisy and the sexual violence that is alleged. But what isn’t obvious is that these folks and their policies should not be around children at all,” Sarasota School Board member Tom Edwards told me Tuesday. “Not only were LGBTQ+ people hurt, but children heard ‘don’t say gay’ and had their footing rocked for two years and Black children had their heritage and their history whitewashed so that white children would not be offended.”
Erasing a safe space at school for Black and gay youths or those who are also Caribbean or Latino is especially hideous, because disclosing a gay or trans identity to parents in some of those cases can get you thrown out of the house.
And all of this is for what?
“It was completely driven by politics, from the party, from the governor’s office, and having little or no regard for gay children,” said Edwards, a moderate put on a “target list” by DeSantis and Christian Ziegler, who dubbed him “perhaps the most ‘woke’ school board member in America.”
Bridget Ziegler had a three-way sexual relationship with a woman she shared with her husband, according to the unnamed woman who is accusing Christian Ziegler of rape and sexual battery.
Christian Ziegler — whose resignation DeSantis has called for while other Republicans have stayed mum — denies the rape allegation. The 40-year-old hasn’t been charged with a crime and is refusing to leave the leadership post. “We have a country to save and I am not going to let false allegations of a crime put that mission on the bench as I wait for this process to wrap up,” he wrote in an email to GOP members.
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He said his wife is with him “150%.” Bridget Ziegler, 41, hasn’t stepped down from the school board, which meets Tuesday.
“I don’t see how she can survive this,” said Edwards, the school board member.
Conservatives on social media keep harping that their beef is with gayness being put in front of children, not with the bedroom behavior of adults. But that’s just cover for the Zieglers’ homophobic agenda.
If children’s well-being were the issue, the Zieglers and their enablers in Tallahassee would’ve left high school juniors and seniors out of the anti-gay measures.
If children’s well-being were the issue, they would have paid attention to the warnings of respected medical professionals whose studies, published on The National Institutes of Health website, prove that concealment of gender and sexual identity takes a toll on mental health.
I’ll leave it to psychiatrists to decipher the Zieglers and answer a question that Floridians with gay family members are asking: Why do people hide who they are by being horribly anti-gay?
The Zieglers could’ve used their considerable organizing skills for the betterment of humankind instead of using gay children as political pawns. But they chose, instead, to hide behind conservatism in order to push their political anti-gay agenda.
And now, they and their family are suffering, too.
©2023 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.