Jacksonville – The debate over an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Jacksonville swerved down a dark and disturbing road when a speaker attempting to fight the proposal confessed to molesting children.
Roy Bay, 56, approached the podium during public comment at a Jacksonville City Council meeting Jan. 12. The topic was adding gender identity and sexual orientation to an existing antidiscrimination ordinance, a measure that has been hotly debated for months. Bay told the council that he had been molested in the past, and in turn, he molested children.
“I entered into the life of homosexuality and did the same thing, because that’s what I thought life was all about,” Bay said. “Going to the bathroom, in places and businesses, and sexually assaulting kids.”
Bay said he never went to jail for his crimes and further claimed that in 1985, he had an epiphany that molesting children is “unacceptable and so I became a born again child of God and God set me free from that lifestyle.”
At this, several people in the audience began to applaud and cheer until they were quickly silenced by a council member. Bay concluded his remarks by stating that if the LGBT-inclusive ordinance passes, his former, unacceptable lifestyle “will become more acceptable than what it is now.”
Jimmy Midyette, with Jacksonville Coalition for Equality, says Bay’s remarks were “shocking and upsetting” for many in attendance.
“We were especially disappointed that he arrived with a church group, a group that is leading the opposition to our civil rights,” Midyette says. “When his fellow church members applauded his statements it was like we were in the twilight zone.”
That church is Evangel Temple Assembly of God, and after his speech, Bay left the meeting in a church van, according to First Coast News out of Jacksonville. First Coast contacted Garry Wiggins, the church’s pastor, who said he was “shocked” to hear Bay’s testimony and that they’re taking actions to keep Bay separate from children at the church.
According to Action News Jax, Bay went to church the evening of Jan. 13, where he sat in the back and left, protected by security, shortly before the service ended. According to First Coast News, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is looking into Bay’s statement.
“Ultimately, I don’t believe [Bay’s] comments were helpful to the City Council,” says Midyette.
Further, conservative watchdog group Media Matters debunked the bathroom myth by asking Florida cities and counties whether expanding protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity has led to increased sexual assault in women’s bathrooms, or men pretending to be transgender to gain access to women’s restrooms. Not a single incident of either was found.
The LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance has been a contentious issue for Jacksonville. In late 2015, Mayor Lenny Curry hosted three “Community Conversations” on the topic. After the first meeting, a man was arrested for a bomb threat and the KKK distributed anti-gay fliers in Jacksonville neighborhoods. In December, following the meetings, Councilman Tommy Hazouri filed the bill that would expand the protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The Jan. 12 city council meeting was their first discussion of the proposal. The council is holding special “committee of the whole” meetings Feb. 4, Feb. 18 and March 3, with a vote expected March 3.