BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
A nationally known antigay psychologist who testified for the state in its defense of Florida's gay adoption ban recently took a trip to Europe with a gay male prostitute from Miami who advertised himself online.
George A. Rekers – an officer of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and a retired University of South Carolina professor -- hired the young escort known as Geo on Rentboy.com, a gay-sex website.
Miami New Times reported the story Tuesday on its website and it quickly went viral on the Internet. By Wednesday, Rekers had taken down his Facebook page and Geo had removed his Rentboy profile.
Both Rekers and Geo, who declined to give his real name, deny they had a sexual relationship during their 10-day journey to Spain and England.
"In all honesty, I did go on the trip with him," Geo, 20, told The Miami Herald on Wednesday. "He was setting me up as a companion. In all honesty, he's a very kind family-values man."
Rekers, 61, said via e-mail that he hired Geo as "an assistant to lift his luggage in his travels because of an ongoing condition following surgery."
He added: "Dr. Rekers found his recent travel assistant by interviewing acquaintances. There was nothing inappropriate with this relationship. Professor Rekers was not involved in any illegal or sexual behavior with his travel assistant."
Rekers said he had no idea Geo worked as an escort until they were already in Europe.
“Dr. Rekers found his recent travel assistant by interviewing different people who might be able to help, and did not even find out about his travel assistant’s Internet advertisements offering prostitution activity until after the trip was in progress,’’ Rekers told The Miami Herald late Wednesday night.
Geo says Rekers -- the father of three grown sons -- hired him to carry luggage, be a companion and to translate Spanish to English during their time in Spain.
"Nor did he pay me enough'' for sex, Geo said.
"I was getting about $75 a day," Geo said, adding that he and his friends usually charge $300 to $500 a day for sex.
Geo said he is a Miami Dade College student who became a prostitute to pay his bills.
"I was just trying to get through school," he said. "I think I'm going to have drop my classes."
Geo's parents know he's gay, but not that he's an escort.
"Who the hell wants to tell them I was doing this stuff?" he said. "I come from a very conservative Spanish family."
Rekers, a founder of conservative Family Research Council who believes homosexuality is a sin, is well-known for his antigay stance. In 1989, he and Jerry Regier (later appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush as secretary of Florida's Department of Children and Families) co-wrote an essay entitled The Christian World View of the Family, which railed against abortion and gay couples forming families, and emphasized that husbands have "final say in any family dispute."
The state of Florida recently paid him about $60,000 to be an expert witness against gay adoption, in the case of Frank Gill, a gay foster parent seeking to adopt two young brothers.
Florida is the only state that bans all gay people from adopting.
In Nov. 2008, Miami-Dade Judge Cindy Lederman awarded custody of the two boys to Gill. In her final judgment, Lederman wrote:
"Dr. Rekers' testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers' beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy."
The state Attorney General's Office has appealed Lederman's ruling and a decision is expected anytime.
On Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill McCollum wouldn't comment about Reker. A NARTH office worker also declined to speak.
Gay activists seized the opportunity, though.
"He's not a credible witness," said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, the state's leading gay-rights group. "The hateful rhetoric he spews in court is very damaging to the children being denied permanent and loving homes because of this adoption ban."
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, a national group that opposes the ex-gay movement, said it doesn't matter whether or not Reckers and Geo had a sexual relationship.
"Who cares? It's even creepier if they didn't have sex," said Besen, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale. "If you go to Rentboy.com to have the company of a sex worker and not have sex, I think that shows a pattern of repression and delusion. That's just not normal behavior.
"Rekers is driving the story right now with his comical denial. He could have just as easily given someone a big tip to carry his bags, like everyone else does."