Cretul's grand stand

Published: Wednesday, January 11, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 at 10:57 p.m.
Sponsoring a bill to prevent UF from spending state money on domestic partner benefits helps firm up his GOP base.
Like thousands of reputable corporations and institutions of higher learning across the nation, the University of Florida has decided to offer health care benefits to domestic partners of its employees, including those who happen to be gay and lesbian.
Understanding that the mere mention of words like "gay" and "lesbian" is likely to set off tremors in Tallahassee, UF trustees and officials were very candid from the outset about what they intended to do. They said up front that the costs of domestic partner benefits would be covered - not by state dollars - but by private donations and grants.
Which prompted state Rep. Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, to announce that he would file legislation to make it illegal for state universities and community colleges to fund domestic partner benefits with state dollars.
While acknowledging his "personal" objections to domestic benefits, Cretul wanted everyone to know that there was nothing, well, personal about any of this.
"This bill is not intended to denounce or discriminate against anyone," he said. "The bill simply clarifies what already exists in Florida law."
All of which raises several interesting questions.
First. Does Rep. Cretul think UF officials are lying to him? That they intend to pour state dollars into "gay" benefits as soon as his back is turned?
If so, that doesn't say much about his relationship with UF.
Second. If there is no need for this bill - if UF isn't lying - then why is Cretul's bill necessary?
Third, if Rep. Cretul's really has "personal" objections to domestic partner benefits, why does he routinely accept campaign donations from companies that extend them?
Skip that last question. As we're finding out in Washington, in the wake of the latest lobbying scandal, politicians are not nearly as discriminating as they profess to be when it comes to taking campaign cash.
Still, why sponsor a bill that's not needed in order to keep the University of Florida from doing something it's already said it isn't going to do?
The obvious answer is that this is an election year and Rep. Cretul is making campaign hay. Why else call a press conference to alert the world that he's sponsoring a bill that "simply clarifies what already exists in Florida law"?
Let's face it, outside the corporate boardrooms and university administration buildings, the so-called "gay agenda" is still a hot button political issue. UF's candor gives Cretul a golden opportunity to firm up his conservative base.
Call it old fashioned political grandstanding. Cretul's non-discriminatory, anti-gay bill is a fine promotional vehicle this election year.
Still, we're sorry Cretul finds it expedient to play politics with the University of Florida. Florida's leading institution of higher education is in Cretul's district, and he likes to paint himself as the university's champion in the House.
How awkward it must be for Rep. Cretul to have to fight for an institution whose decision - to treat all of its employees fairly - he finds morally so repugnant.
How awkward it must be for him to accept thousands of dollars in donations from reputable companies whose employee practices UF now seeks to emulate.
How unfortunate it is that Cretul now presumes to establish fiscal policy for state universities in utter contempt of a state constitutional amendment which clearly delegates that authority to the Board of Governors.

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