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Biblical politician offends with anti-gay sign

William_smatt_banner

BY TANIA VALDEMORO, tvaldemoro@MiamiHerald.com

William_smattA retiree who says he plans to run for mayor of Miami Beach clashed with city workers last weekend over an anti-gay campaign banner hanging outside his front porch.

It reads: "Vote Soon to be Mayor Bill Smatt. GOD created Adam + Eve, NOT Adam + Steve."

Records show William Smatt, 76, received five citations on June 29 for banner-related code violations, including one for displaying an election banner and eight American flags at his residence, a violation of city code. His home is in the 4700 block of Alton Road.

Smatt said he would appeal the citations at a July 12 hearing before a special master who resolves code enforcement disputes between property owners and the city of Miami Beach. Virginia Schweikert, a friend who also serves as his spokeswoman, also said she asked the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office to investigate how Miami Beach's public works and code compliance departments treated the couple during several visits by city employees on Friday.

"I want to find out who gave those public works employees the order to come trespass on our property and take our sign down. I'm sorry, that's not done here. People don't come to trespass on others' property," she said.

Ed Griffith, a spokesman for Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday.

As of Monday, the banner was still hanging outside, although Smatt moved it from a tree that city officials said was part of the public right-of-way.

Originally from Port Antonio, Jamaica, Smatt has revealed a messianic streak, starting with his long flowing white hair and his own comparisons to Biblical figure Moses in his press releases. He told The Miami Herald, "I am a messenger of God. And his message is, ‘Out of many, one people!' ''

Smatt, however, denied he is homophobic.

"People can be gay in their house but not in public," he said, adding, "Do you feel happy with nude men running on the beach and grabbing each other's crotches? As mayor, I'm not going to allow that."

The banner and slogan offended gays and lesbians in Miami Beach, who have called on both Smatt and city officials to remove it.

City Commissioner Michael Góngora, who is gay, said "I find the banner to be blatantly homophobic and offensive."

Góngora is working with City Attorney Jose Smith to see what legal options city officials have (other than code enforcement violations) to remove the sign.

In 1998, Smatt infuriated residents of the Belle Meade neighborhood in Miami when he hung a sign on his front-yard fence that read, "Belle Meade Now City of Sodom and Gomorrah ‘Vengeance is Mine' Sayeth the Lord."

Gay residents complained to Miami officials to no avail, said David Treece, a Belle Meade resident and activist.

"City officials said all they could do was to fine him," he said.

Smatt said he intends to file as a mayoral candidate this week, even though he objects to signing the city's mandatory ethics declaration, which states, "I shall not make my opponents' race, religion, national origin, gender, physical disability or sexual orientation an issue in my campaign."

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