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race spotlights Randall Terry's estrangement from gay son

Florida senate
race spotlights Randall Terry's estrangement from gay son

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Randall Terry (pictured), a leading conservative Christian, actively promotes "family values issues" in his Florida state senate race, but his gay son, Jamiel, says things are not what they seem.

Randall Terry, a leading conservative Christian, actively promotes "family values issues" in his Florida state senate race, but his gay son, Jamiel, says things are not what they seem. Among the senior Terry's pledges are preserving traditional marriage and opposing adoptions by gays. He has touted efforts to stop abortions. His campaign mailers sum up the value he puts on family: They show a picture of him with his wife, a daughter, and three grinning young sons; the photo was taken before a fourth son was born this summer. But Jamiel said the picture is missing two people: him and his sister, Tila, both of whom are adopted. Both have been estranged from their father since Jamiel came out as a gay man and Tila had a child out of wedlock. Jamiel said the self-image that his father is crafting and the campaign message about strong families ignores part of his own family history. He said voters have a right to know about that. "He is very big on image," Jamiel said. "In a large way Tila and I mess up that image." Jamiel, 26, said in interviews last week and Monday that voters in the northeast Florida district where his father is trying to unseat Sen. Jim King in the Republican primary should know more about the candidate's family. Randall Terry said he's up-front about his whole family and has never tried to hide anything about his children, even those with whom he has deep disagreements. He said voters don't care anyway. "I don't think it would affect one vote, one way or another. Everybody has problems in their family," said Randall Terry, who founded Operation Rescue, an antiabortion protest group. He said voters care more about issues they deal with in their own lives, such as homeowners insurance, medical malpractice, and property taxes. The fact that he has two adopted children isn't news. Jamiel and Randall Terry's relationship has been the subject of a long article in The Washington Post, and the Associated Press wrote a story when Jamiel went public with his homosexuality in Out magazine in 2004. "He was a good dad," Jamiel said, adding, however, that he wouldn't support his candidacy. Randall said he strongly disapproves of his son's homosexuality. "But I'm absolutely not ashamed--I love him," Randall said. He said Jamiel is smart but that by talking to a reporter he was simply trying to get at his father as part of their ongoing disagreement. But he said overall, "I'm very proud of him." Jamiel also said his father left Tila to fend for herself when she was pregnant, a charge Randall vehemently denies. He said he has tried to get his daughter in to a program that helps unwed young mothers. She didn't return phone calls seeking comment. Jamiel said his father's policy ideas don't always fit his own behavior. "He has tried to say abortion should not exist because families and churches should step in," Jamiel said. "When his own daughter is pregnant, he refuses to help her." Randall and his first wife adopted the two when Jamiel was 8 and Tila was 3. Randall has said publicly that some problems stem from the way the children were treated before they were adopted. Randall persuaded a woman not to have an abortion in 1987. When the child, Tila, was born, Randall took care of her and then adopted her older brother, Jamiel. They grew up with Terry, who was famous as a leading religious conservative voice. A spokesperson for King, Randall Terry's opponent, declined to comment on Terry's family. Randall said he tells anyone who asks that he has seven children, including Jamiel and Tila. As for campaign literature that doesn't have them in the picture, he said it's not because he is embarrassed. "The reason we don't have a photo with Jamiel and Tila is that we haven't been in the same room with them in about three years," Randall said. That's the point, Jamiel said. If a candidate is going to talk about strong families, he ought to talk about why his own family isn't. "Both Tila and I have tried to revive or rekindle our relationship with my father, and we've been shut out," Jamiel said. "So maybe if we had been invited for Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc., we would be in a family photo." Randall Terry denied that his son has tried to fix the relationship, accusing Jamiel of only wanting to hurt him. Jamiel occasionally e-mails his father, but Randall said the e-mails are simply "vicious." Jamiel said he's only trying to reconnect. (AP)

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