Brevard Zoo may ban political campaigns after fine fundraiser outrage

The executive director of the Brevard Zoo said he is recommending the zoo stop renting out its event space to political campaigns after backlash over Rep. Randy Fine’s fundraiser.

A fundraiser event planned for Fine’s state Senate campaign, held at the zoo on Monday, has been used in recent weeks to highlight Fine’s position on transgender issues and the state’s restrictions on certain treatments for transgender children. garnered heat from critics who were outraged by the recent push for legislation to codify the

About 30 protesters lined up at the zoo’s entrance on Monday night, waving signs and shouting at cars carrying fundraiser participants. said he was perplexed and upset by the zoo’s decision to continue the fundraiser.

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“We are huge zoo fans and have a moral mismatch,” McPherson said. “Zoos are everything Brevard County is great for, and Randy Fine is the exact opposite.”

Brevard Zoo Executive Director Keith Winsten said the zoo is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization under federal law, making no judgments about who rents its facilities and making space available to everyone. . Fine’s campaign paid the same rate as other clients, he added.

“I think a lot of people assumed we were comping or supporting something. It’s just a rental,” Winsten told FLORIDA TODAY. It is not a candidacy statement for , it is a service we provide to the community as a whole.”

Nonetheless, the zoo will reconsider its policy of lending to political campaigns in the future, he said. It does not take effect until the cycle.

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“We want to see this election cycle through to the end and make sure everyone has equitable access to the zoo,” Winsten said. is the current recommendation of

“It’s important for us to be open with everyone, but we also understand that many people have been hurt by this.” Whoever you are, I apologize.”

A rally was held Monday night outside the Brevard Zoo by people who opposed the policies of Rep. Randy Fine, and a political event was held on the zoo grounds hours later for him.

Fine called the protesters “clowns” and “deviants” and said he didn’t blame the zoo for considering a policy change. At least one potentially threatening comment left in a Facebook thread prompted the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide additional security for the event.

“It said, ‘Let’s force him out. Show up and send him into the shadow realm,'” Fine said, paraphrasing a post he shared with FLORIDA TODAY.

“Of course I can understand why Keith Winsten wouldn’t want to be associated with a violent thug,” Fine said.

Reporters noted police cars from the sheriff’s office regularly drove past protesters and observed the rally from a distance, but apart from a handful of rally participants shouting obscenities in passing cars, violence and No destructive behavior was observed.

At one point, words were briefly exchanged between some protesters and a small group of pro-Fine supporters, but the situation quickly cleared up without incident.

Fine said the fundraiser was a success. He said about 300 people attended the event and estimated that he raised more than $250,000 for his campaign or Randy his Fine friend’s Political Action Committee.

Sherry Rodden, former director of Space Coast Pride, who attended the protest, said the Brevard Zoo was a strong ally of the county’s LGBTQ community. But it wasn’t enough for some people.

Rodden said of the fundraiser, “Many people are still upset that it wasn’t canceled. She cited Fine’s proposal for a law banning certain treatments for transgender minors. This reflects recent restrictions by the Florida Medical Commission.

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The state medical board approved new rules late last year banning hormone replacement therapy, surgery and other treatments for children under the age of 18. All 15 of his members on the board were appointed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

This ruling contradicts guidance from most major medical associations. Critics say the lack of gender-affirming care could exacerbate the already alarming suicide rate among transgender children.

Winsten said the zoo is committed to promoting fairness and inclusion.

“We are committed to embracing diversity in our community, welcoming all and always promoting equality,” he said. “It doesn’t change who rents the facility.”

Eric Rogers is a watchdog reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or Follow him on Twitter: @EricRogersFT. Brevard Zoo may ban political campaigns after fine fundraiser outrage

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