The conservative Christian Family Coalition turned up the heat Tuesday on a long-simmering feud against Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss.
Anthony Verdugo, the Coalition's executive director, took the microphone in a "citizen's presentation" at a county commission meeting to demand a retraction and an apology from Moss. In December, Moss spoke against the group's successful efforts to reinstate prayer at the beginning of commission meetings.
Moss recalled how the Christian Coalition attacked him during the bitter 1998s campaign for Miami-Dade's human rights bill, which gave gays equal rights. He linked the Christian Family Coalition to the Christian Coalition, which fought the human-rights ordinance and, according to Moss, openly discriminated against blacks and immigrants.
"Conduct of this kind is simply unbecoming of an elected official," Verdugo said Tuesday. "Commissioner Moss, we have earned your respect."
As soon as he uttered "Commissioner Moss," Verdugo was cut off by Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa -- as Moss retorted, "Don't address me."
"We ask that the hateful and slanderous statements be retracted," Verdugo continued.
"I said what I meant and I meant what I said," Moss said. He cited the Christian Family Coalition's website, which calls U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, "an arrogant, anti-family, homosexualist extremist." Moss, who represents a portion of South Miami-Dade, is a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.
Chairwoman Sosa tried to keep the peace.
"This is a democracy, so everyone spoke," she said. To Verdugo, who was surrounded by his children, she added: "I am glad that you came. That's a beautiful family."
Verdugo and Moss exchanged words one more time before Sosa flagged the commission chambers' sergeant-at-arms. And she again pointed to Verdugo's children.
"We have to set examples in life for them," she said. "Forget about us. Sometimes emotions carry us very far away. They deserve better."
Verdugo and a crowd of supporters, several wearing lapel stickers that read "Commissioner Moss: Respect Us" filed out of the room.