LGBTQ South Florida

Governor, Cabinet push Rep. Mike Hill to apologize for laughing at homophobic comment

Florida Rep. Mike Hill under fire for homophobic comments

In this recording Florida Rep. Mike Hill is heard joking about introducing legislation that would execute people for being gay.
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In this recording Florida Rep. Mike Hill is heard joking about introducing legislation that would execute people for being gay.

Update: Hill issued a statement Tuesday night saying he should have corrected the Bible verse that the constituent had based his comment on. “I apologize for not directly responding to the fact that the premise for this question was inaccurate. I deeply regret how the tone of my response to a constituent was received at this event. I believe that no matter one’s race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, economic status or otherwise, that all lives are created equal in the image of God.”

After five days of the state’s top leaders urging him to apologize after chuckling at a constituent’s recommendation to introduce legislation that would allow for executing gay people, Pensacola Republican Rep. Mike Hill has yet to apologize.

The comments came out of a recent meeting of a Pensacola-based group called Women for Responsible Legislation, where an attendee said: “In 1 Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death.” After Hill pointed out that the rule is also in the Old Testament, another attendee asked, “Can you introduce legislation?”

Hill, who was speaking in front of the group at Pensacola City Hall, chuckled and said, “I wonder how that would go over?” He then said, “OK, enough of that stuff.”

Before the comments were made, Hill was discussing his personal theories about how homosexuality is not a choice and why gay citizens don’t deserve the same protections as other groups of people who have been targeted with hate crimes.

On Saturday — the first day of Pride Month — Hill called the criticism a “social media lynching” and tweeted: “Absurd to ask me to apologize for a statement that I did not make and that no one took seriously.”

Early Tuesday afternoon he told a Miami Herald reporter that he would be making an announcement but has yet to send out a statement or apology.

At a Cabinet meeting Tuesday morning, Gov. Ron DeSantis commented on the situation for the first time. He said he supported House Speaker José Oliva, who called on Hill to apologize for his actions in a joint statement with Rules Chair Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.

Their statement called the incident “unacceptable.” They called for Hill to apologize, but not resign.

“We unequivocally condemn both the question asked of Representative Hill and Representative Hill’s laughter and refusal to push back and remind his audience that this is America and we don’t stone people to death we disagree with,” they wrote. “Such callous indifference to an outrageous question is unacceptable, runs contrary to our founding principles, and in no way reflects the beliefs of the Republican caucus in the Florida House.”

“I trust the Speaker to take whatever action is necessary,” DeSantis said.

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Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis served with Hill in the Florida House, and said he thinks Hill misspoke and should apologize so the state can “heal and move forward.”

“I think he didn’t put enough thought into his words,” Patronis said.

Agriculture Commissioner Nicole “Nikki” Fried, the state’s top Democrat, issued a statement as well, condemning both Hill’s behavior and comments by Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who last week argued that legal abortions were cutting into the nation’s birth rate, and that America’s population is being “replaced by folks that come behind them and immigrate.” She said they must “apologize, be reprimanded by their legislative chambers or resign from office.”

At the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Fried recognized June as Pride Month. She did not mention Hill, but said “recent hurtful comments” do not “reflect Florida.”

On Monday, Hill appeared on a radio talk show with Burnie Thompson, a host from Pensacola, and said the exchange with his constituent was taken out of context.

“I never even said the words,” Hill said. “They can’t say that I said, ‘Let’s kill gays.’ I did not.”

Hill told the Miami Herald that he didn’t recall laughing along, and hardly remembered the comment made by that attendee. The meeting was the same gathering where Hill claimed God told him to create new abortion laws.

“The meeting lasted about an hour and a half. There were a lot of things of substance that were discussed at that meeting,” he said Friday. “For that one-, two- or three-second blip to come out was very inconsequential about what the meeting was about. I had forgotten completely about it. I don’t think it had an impact at all on anyone who was in attendance.”

Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.