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accelerates war with gays, tourism board

accelerates war with gays, tourism board

The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau's tourism board is setting its sights on Jim Naugle, the conservative Fort Lauderdale, Fla., mayor who in recent weeks has launched a bizarre, seemingly antigay crusade.

The tourism bureau is demanding the mayor stop his "hurtful, mean-spirited rhetoric" regarding the gay community and that "damage has been done" by his comments. Travel leaders have been inundated with e-mails saying that potential visitors are considering pulling their business from Fort Lauderdale. According to the travel board, one specific 200-member group has put their South Florida travel plans on hold in addition to $250,000 in payment. Supportive straight travelers have also threatened to boycott Fort Lauderdale, but the mayor's response has been that he will not "back down."

Naugle caused a firestorm when he gave an interview to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper on July 4 where he called for pay toilets to be installed at Sebastian Beach, a popular gay spot. "Homosexuals...they're engaging in sex, anonymous sex, illegal sex," Naugle said in the Sun-Sentinel article. He then added, "I didn't use the word 'gay.' I used the word 'homosexual.' Most of them aren't gay; they are unhappy."

Naugle's words infuriated locals who began a "Flush Naugle" campaign. The mayor called a press conference where it was assumed he would apologize to LGBTs. Instead, he apologized for not taking more seriously the so-called issue of gays and public sex.

On Thursday, Naugle held another press conference, this time with right-wing religious leaders. The conservatives, Naugle included, urged the public to report public sex to the police and for the tourism board to stop promoting gay bathhouses. (The Advocate)

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