Florida Democrats slam OFR pick for ties to anti-LGBTQ group

Florida Democrats slammed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ choice to run the Office of Financial Regulation for ties to anti-LGBTQ groups.

A news release from the Florida Democratic Party criticizes the selection of securities attorney Russell Weigel.

“A review of Weigel’s resume shows his disturbing support of the Christian Family Coalition,” the release says.

The organization bills itself as a “voice in government against discrimination.” It’s a group that in March awarded DeSantis the “Champion of Israel Award.”

But Florida Democrats say the group’s history includes championing controversial practices like conversion therapy. The organization has been slammed in the past for villainizing transgender people by warning against opening “bathrooms and dressing rooms to transsexuals,” as noted by the New Miami Times.

The Coalition also filed a legal brief at the Supreme Court siding in a case with employers who want the right to fire employees for being gay or transgender.

Weigel in his resume identified himself as an “active supporter of the Christian Family Coalition.”

“Governor Ron DeSantis and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis picked Russell Weigel with no discussion, and now we learn that Weigel boasted in his application his support of anti-LGBTQ extremists,” said Juan Peñalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

“Florida has no nondiscrimination law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Weigel could use his position of power to discriminate against our community without any consequences. DeSantis and Patronis’ appointment was reckless and shows they have no desire to be leaders for all Floridians.”

For its part, the Family Christian Coalition casts itself as a pro-religious freedom organization.

“The Christian Family Coalition works to introduce pro-family legislation at the state and local levels of government,” reads the organization’s website. “We inform and educate citizens on where candidates stand on the issues that affect the traditional family unit.”

That includes voicing opinions in policy debates, providing political action and social media training and defending Christian’s rights in court, according to the group’s mission statement.

Weigel’s appointment as the new OFR Commissioner had already been criticized for weak vetting. Approved through a Cabinet vote on Tuesday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried abstained. She criticized the selection process as nontransparent.

“I am glad that the Office of Financial Regulation will finally have leadership, but I wish this had been a more transparent process,” Fried said. “While I appreciate all applicants for the position, I am not confident that the most-qualified applicants were among the final candidates. Because of these concerns, I did not participate in today’s vote to appoint a new commissioner.”