Florida Cabinet Responds To Rep. Hill's Anti-Gay Exchange

Jun 4, 2019

Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) is under fire for laughing at a constituent's comment about killing gay people.
Credit Steve Cannon / AP

The Florida Cabinet has joined a growing list of officials weighing in on a Florida lawmaker's controversial anti-gay exchange with a constituent. 

State Rep. Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) came under fire last week after the Pensacola News Journal published his exchange with the Women for Responsible Legislation in which he laughs at a constituent’s comment about killing gay people.

"In 1 Corinthians, it says that a man who has an affair with another man will be put to death,” the constituent said.

"It says that in the Old Testiment, too," Hill responded.

An attendee asked Hill, "Can you introduce legislation?"

After sharing laughs with the group, Hill asked, "I wonder how that would go over?"

That exchange drew bipartisan blowback. House Speaker Jose Oliva called on Hill to apologize.

"Such callous indifference to an outrageous question is unacceptable, runs contrary to our founding principles, and in no way reflects the beliefs of the Florida House," Oliva said in a statement.

Instead, Hill doubled down, taking to Twitter to attack those who denounced him.

At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried took a moment to recognize June as LGBTQ Pride Month while taking a subtle dig at Hill.

"Despite recent, hurtful comments against LGBTQ Floridians, know this: that does not reflect Florida," Fried said. "We are proud to stand against injustice, discrimination and hate, and stand with our LGBTQ community to continue pushing equality.”

In the face of growing calls for censure or even resignation, Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters he trusts Oliva will handle the situation.

“I support Speaker Oliva’s comments, and I trust the speaker to take whatever actions necessary,” DeSantis said.

But Jimmy Patronis, the state's cheif financial officer, took a more measured approach. Patronis said Hill should apologize, but pushed back against Hill’s ill-intent.

“No, look, we were out of the country when all that came down," Patronis said. "I’ve served with Mike Hill and he represents his district, and evidently, he feels like that is something he can take or—."

"But unfortunately," Patronis continued,  "you know what: Mike, look sometimes we misspeak. Maybe you should just go apologize so we can all heal and move forward. Anyway, I think he probably didn’t put enough thought into his words.”

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Orlando), who is openly gay, is among those leading calls for Hill’s resignation.

On Twitter, Smith said: “Too late for an apology anyway. Time to start talking censure. Time to start talking removal.”