At the Jan. 4 mayoral forum, Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts rejected the idea that a series of anti-Dean Trantalis mailers were “homophobic.”

The mailers depict Trantalis, who is openly gay and the current Dist. 2 commissioner, as a puppet and in flamboyant makeup and clothing. They were created by the Florida Community Alliance PC, a Political Action Committee with a Tallahassee mailing address. Roberts did not deny he was associated with the PAC and defended the mailers. He said they were not meant to be homophobic.

“Other people may interpret it that way . . . If you look at my record [which includes a vote in 2014 to support gay marriage in a city resolution and protections for LGBT individuals in the city’s procurement process] you will see that I am completely the opposite [of homophobic],” said Roberts at the forum.

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Sun Sentinel reporter Brittany Wallman said she was told by “quite a few voters” that they viewed it as homophobic.

Interviews with some LGBT activists and Fort Lauderdale residents found mixed opinions on whether or not the ads were homophobic.

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Activist Michael Rajner said he does not view the mailers as homophobic.

“But given the issue of homophobia is now being raised, I challenge Commissioners Bruce Roberts and Dean Trantalis to team up at the Jan. 23rd commission meeting and finally request for the city commission to codify in city ordinance, the mayor and commission’s commitment to non-discrimination that explicitly list sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classifications. Back in October, the commission amended their procurement process to mandate vendors doing business with the city to demonstrate such, but the city itself only has a manager’s policy on non-discrimination and hasn’t gone the full mile to enact the protections citywide by a vote of the mayor and commission like many other cities around the nation,” wrote Rajner. He called upon the city commission to push for “non-discrimination in everything it does.”

Ed Leuchs, a Fort Lauderdale resident and director with the Dolphin Democrats, said it’s hard to believe anyone who puts out these mailers professionally would not know how depicting a gay man in makeup would be perceived.

“If your running against a black candidate, you don’t do certain stereotypes. He could have just been a puppet like Pinocchio, I suppose. But the makeup was the over the top part. It’s a stereotype associated with gay men. Most of us don’t wear makeup,” Leuchs said.

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Fort Lauderdale resident Bill Henning wrote that he was shocked to see the mailers. “When I saw the anti-Trantalis mailer sent out by the PAC backing Bruce Roberts, frankly, I was shocked to see such blatantly homophobic imagery poisoning an election campaign here in a city that boasts such a large and vocal LGBT community, a city that is frequently praised for its LGBT-friendliness. I was appalled. This kind of crap would never fly back in New York City. I hope it's not acceptable in Fort Lauderdale either.”

Roberts, Trantalis, and former city commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom will face off in the mayoral primary on Tuesday, Jan. 16. If no candidate gets 50 percent plus one of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote getters will be held Tuesday, March 13.