One of the appointees selected by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to sit on the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board — which is taking over Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District — has called homosexuality “evil” and spread a conspiracy theory that tap water could make people gay.
A CNN KFile review uncovered several homophobic comments by Ron Peri, a former pastor and the CEO of The Gathering, a Christian ministry in Orlando.
Peri shared the baseless conspiracy theory in a Zoom discussion posted on YouTube in January 2022. “So why are there homosexuals today?” Peri said. “There are any number of reasons, you know, that are given. Some would say the increase in estrogen in our societies. You know, there’s estrogen in the water from birth control pills. They can’t get it out. The level of testosterone in men broadly in America has declined by 50 points in the past 10 years. You know, and so, maybe that’s a part of it.”
CNN linked to a USA Today fact check that states testosterone levels are dropping in cisgender men, but the drop is not 50%. There is no evidence that testosterone levels affect sexual orientation. CNN also linked to a study proving there is less estrogen in the water supply than in milk and estrogen levels also do not affect sexual orientation. Another study states that birth control pills account for a statistically insignificant amount of estrogen in water.
“But the big part I would suggest to you,” Peri continued in the video, “based upon what it’s saying here, is the removal of constraint. So our society provided the constraint. And so, which is the responsibility of a society to constrain people from doing evil? Well, you remove the constraints, and then evil occurs.”
Peri also called homosexuality “shameful,” called gay people “deviant,” and said, “There are a lot of unhealthy effects of a homosexual lifestyle. There are diseases, but it goes beyond that.” He also said that, because many LGBTQIA+ people do not have children, they “don’t have a stake in the future,” and claimed homosexuality is connected to the fall of the Roman Empire.
“Homosexuality was praised,” Peri said. “LGBTQ today is being emphasized everywhere, even on children’s shows. And so ultimately the Romans had become weak.”
Peri’s other controversial comments in YouTube discussions include comparing abortion to the Holocaust and stating “not very long ago being a mother was the pinnacle of being a woman.”
Neither Peri nor DeSantis responded to CNN’s requests for comments.
DeSantis signed the bill into law for the Florida government to take over Reedy Creek Improvement District during a live press conference at the Reedy Creek Fire Station on February 27. He doubled down on the law being a response to The Walt Disney Company opposing Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which was virally known as “Don’t Say Gay,” referencing the California-based company’s attempts to “inject sexuality and impose agenda” in Florida. He stated these are not the values the state wants to promote and emphasized the “safety of students and rights of parents” as well as treating Walt Disney World the same as other Florida theme parks.
The first meeting of the new board will be on Wednesday, March 8. The chairman of the board will be attorney Martin Garcia. The other members are Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler, attorney Brian Aungst, Jr., and attorney Michael Sasso.
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