I Bet John Quinones Loves Eatin' Some Chick-fil-A
Cathy & Quiñones-- why do they always looks like this?
I bet Chick-fil-A is desperate to claim that homophobic sociopath Dan Cathy [could a name like that make someone homophobic or is it a genetic thing?] did not build his business-- and to distance itself from their own founder and president. Chick-fil-A's Facebook page sure is trying to make up for Cathy's assertion this week that the restaurant chain has an anti-gay agenda:
The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-– regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.
As Josh Israel reported at ThinkProgress yesterday, "The Chick-fil-A corporation has long funded anti-gay organizations. According to an Equality Matters analysis of public records, in 2010 the company’s foundation distributed nearly $2 million to anti-LGBT groups including the Marriage & Family Foundation, the Family Research Council, and Exodus International-- and millions more in previous years. But this past March, when Northeastern University rejected a proposed contract to bring a Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus, a Cathy bizarrely claimed that the company had 'no political agenda.' He said in a media statement 'we are not anti-anybody and Chick-fil-A have [sic] no agenda, policy or position against anyone as some reports continue to represent.' Chick-fil-A is one of a very small number of major national companies that refuses to offer any employment protections to LGBT employees. In fact, the company received a 0 rating from the Human Rights Campaign and has a record of firing employees it believes engage in 'sinful' behavior."
I'll bet that unless you're a political junkie in Florida you never heard of John Dowless, founder of Millenium Consulting and the chief consultant right now for John Quiñones, an Osceola County Commissioner and one of several Republicans attempting to run against Alan Grayson in the new blue district in central Florida. Quiñones hired himself an odd bird to run his efforts. Dowless, the former head of the Florida Christian Coalition is hysterically, vehemently anti-gay (obsessed with it many who know him say) and, of course, gay himself. Mubarak Dahir didn't report if Dowless was sucking down any Chick-fil-A thighs but he sure did spill the beans on one Republican hypocrite a few years ago:
On a humid day in Tampa last month, John Dowless could be seen passing out cards at Landry's Seafood House to a group of about 40 of Florida's most conservative religious leaders, including members of Family First of Tampa and the Pinellas Crisis Pregnancy Center, an anti-abortion group.
Dowless arranged the lunch on behalf of Mel Martinez, the former housing secretary who is now one of eight Republican candidates trying to get his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate race this fall.
As Martinez railed against the threat of same-sex marriages to the traditional family, Dowless handed out cards to the religious leaders imploring them to "pray for Mel Martinez" and to get involved in his
Dowless was just doing his job. Formerly the executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, Dowless is now a private political consultant in Orlando.
Because of Dowless' strong connections to the state's conservative religious groups, Martinez hired him several months ago to help the campaign reach out to conservative Christians.
"My role is organizing grassroots stuff for them," particularly among conservative Christians, Dowless said.
In a crowded primary field, many Republican candidates in Florida, including Martinez, are angling to get voter attention by running as far as possible to the right.
Martinez in particular has sought to distinguish himself as the candidate perhaps most vocal against gay rights, including running a statewide radio ad encouraging the Senate to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, and attacking one of his opponents for supporting hate crimes laws that would include protections based on sexual orientation.
Ironically, at least two powerful men working for the Martinez campaign are gay.
One of them is John Dowless, the political consultant. The other is Kirk Fordham, who is employed as Martinez's finance director.
It was about 10 p.m. on the evening of April 2 when a man called "Sam" entered the Lava Lounge, a gay bar in Orlando.
Sam, a gay resident of Washington, D.C., was in Orlando on business, and went out to meet a friend for drinks. After ordering a beer, Sam bumped into a former colleague from Washington, someone he describes as "a well-placed political operative."
When Sam asked the man how he liked working in Florida, the man replied that politics in the state was "weird."
How so?" Sam wanted to know.
"He began telling me about this guy who used to be the head of the Christian Coalition," Sam said. "He said the guy is gay and out, and goes to the gay bars all the time, but is involved in all this anti-gay political campaigning. That struck me as incredibly hypocritical."
Twenty minutes later, John Dowless walked into the Lava Lounge.
"The guy I used to know from D.C. pointed Dowless out to me, and I made it a point to go over and meet him," Sam said. "I was just so intrigued that someone could play both sides of the fence this way."
Dowless identified himself as gay and conflicted about how to reconcile his sexual orientation with his religion and his political beliefs, according to Sam, whose account of Dowless' statements that evening was witnessed by a Washington Blade editor, who was also present.
Sam describes Dowless as handsome and affable, a person who was easy to meet and talk to.
"We talked about his work, but we talked a lot more about religion," Sam said.
"I am a fairly devout Christian myself, and I was interested in why he felt being Christian and gay were so completely incompatible," Sam said. "He was very adamant that it just wasn't possible to be both, in his understanding."
After a few drinks at the Lava Lounge, Sam jumped into his rental car and followed Dowless' silver SUV to Southern Nights, another gay bar in Orlando, where the two men continued their conversation. All together, they spent approximately two hours speaking about religion and homosexuality that night, Sam said.
"When he admitted that he uses homosexuality as a weapon to win campaigns, I got the feeling this guy was not just struggling with the issue of being gay and Christian," Sam said. "I felt maybe he's a
ticking time bomb."
But Dowless didn't let their difference of opinions stop him from making a pass, Sam said.
"John [Dowless] made it very clear he was interested in me, that he found me attractive," Sam said. "I just told him I was out with friends and couldn't get away to spend the evening with him. Then he said he wanted to see me again."
Dowless took out a business card and, with a pen, wrote his cell phone number on it.
"He told me to call him the next time I was in Orlando," Sam said.
But if he happens to go back to Orlando, Sam won't be calling Dowless.
"I could never abide by someone being gay and using homosexuality to be so destructive in a political way," Sam said. "I found John both sad and deplorable."
Reached at his office at Millennium Consulting Inc. in Orlando, Dowless confirmed that he had been working for the Martinez campaign "for two or three months." But he declined to talk about his sexual orientation.
"Oh come on, I'm not going to talk about that," he said. "I'm just not going to address that with you or anyone else. That's about me, not about the Martinez campaign.
"I'm helping Mel Martinez, who I believe in, and who is a good candidate," he said. "My personal life has no regards to his campaign and it's no business of yours or anyone else's."
However, after being confronted with the fact that several sources identified him as a patron of the Lava Lounge in April, Dowless conceded, "Yeah, I go there."
He would not say what he was doing at the bar, and he continued to refuse to answer questions about his sexual orientation or how he reconciles being a gay man working for the political campaign of an
"I told you I am not going to answer that. I don't know why you are doing this, why it matters," Dowless said.
...Bill Stephens, the current executive director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, confirmed that John Dowless had been the organization's head for about five years in the mid to late 90s.
"Wow, that's shocking and that's news to me," said Stephens when asked if he knew Dowless was gay. "I didn't know anything about that."
When asked if it might affect Dowless' work among Christian conservatives, Stephens replied, "Of course it would, of course. But I don't think I want to say anything else about that right now."
Stephens made a point to say that Dowless was no longer affiliated in any way with the Christian Coalition. "He does not do any work for us anymore, and hasn't for some time."
In 1999, Dowless quit the Christian Coalition to work as the Florida director for the presidential campaign of millionaire Steve Forbes. Dowless promoted Forbes as a conservative alternative to Bush.
He told the St. Petersburg Times that social conservatives were upset that Bush was not outspoken enough on abortion. Forbes had pledged to appoint only judges who opposed abortion.
At the time, Dowless also said one reason he resigned from the Christian Coalition was because of his frustration at the group's inability to push its agenda through the Florida Legislature as much as he would have liked.
In 2000, Dowless ran an unsuccessful bid for a Republican House seat in District 40, an area around Orlando. He lost to Rep. Andy Gardiner in a 54 to 46 percent tally.
Throughout his career, both at the Christian Coalition and after, Dowless has had a long history of pushing an anti-gay agenda.
As far back as 1994, Dowless, then the director of the Christian Coalition of Florida, was quoted in the New York Times opposing the popular Gay Days event at Disney World in Orlando because it allegedly was a threat to kids.
"This whole day is focusing on sex," Dowless was quoted as saying, "and when you put these elements together, there is the greater possibility of illegal activities on children or some harassment."
In 1997, Dowless, still in his role as director of the state's Christian Coalition, cheered when the University of Florida rescinded a student spouse ID card that had been given to the partner of a lesbian student. The card gave spouses of students special advantages, such as use of the university's libraries and recreational facilities.
"Marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman," Dowless told the Alligator, the student publication.
In 1998, Dowless successfully blocked a move by the state legislature to write the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into the state Constitution. The move would have prohibited discrimination based on a variety of attributes, including gender.
But, according to the St. Petersburg Times, Dowless opposed the gender provision, saying it would be a possible loophole for allowing same-sex marriages.
And in 2002, Dowless created a misleading phone message for Gov. Jeb Bush. The message, sent to 50,000 social conservatives in the state, claimed that voters should cast their lot with Bush over Democratic rival Bill McBride because Bush was "the only candidate who supports traditional marriage."
But the statement was false. McBride did oppose same-sex marriage, and after a public controversy, the phone message campaign was pulled.
Just last year, Dowless was scheduled as one of 25 guest speakers at a "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference held Oct. 24-25 in Fort Lauderdale. Promotional materials indicate he spoke about grassroots organizing among conservative Christians.
Other speakers included such conservative religious icons as Roy Moore, the ousted chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Interestingly, of the 25 speakers listed, only the Dowless entry did not include a photo with his bio.
So what about Quiñones? Here's his voting record as concerns the LGBT community while he was in the Florida legislature:
Wednesday night I listened to a story on American Public Radio's The Story about a crackpot religious freak, a born again in Odessa, Texas. In the beginning of the piece "God" had persuaded her to be a bigoted jackass and by the end of the story God had persuaded her to be a decent human being. Reading about Dan Cathy and John Quiñones and John Dowless made me think of mindless people who claim some God made them do this or that or the other thing. Should these kinds of people really have the right to vote? I mean, come on, get real. This is 2012, not 2012 BC. The only people who still believe in this Chick-fil-A kind of homophobia are sad and befuddled throwbacks like Joe Pitts.