Rep. Clay Yarborough responded to controversial comments that resurfaced this week regarding gay people and Muslims in politics, saying his quotes lacked context and he believes all citizens have the right to seek or hold public office.
Yarborough, who represents HD 12 on Jacksonville’s Southside, is one of three Republicans running in Senate District 4, which will be open after the 2022 Session. The revived comments suggest the race is starting early.
The Get Outspoken website, in an article entitled “Florida state Rep. under fire for past comments about gays holding office,” blasted Yarborough for a 2010 comment in which he said he wasn’t sure if Muslims should hold political office and that he’d “prefer” that “homosexuals” did not. Regarding a potential board nominee’s position on same-sex marriage, Yarborough contended “it would concern me if someone of that belief was on that board if they could address that issue.”
The reporting leans heavily on a Think Progress piece from 2010, focusing on the reported comments about gay people, and citing unnamed Republicans in saying they wondered if Yarborough’s position in 2010 ran counter to the “big tent” approach to Republicanism promulgated by former President Donald Trump.
Yarborough’s position is that the recycled reporting is decontextualized.
“The article quoting me from 11 years ago did not provide the full context of the interview discussing an appointment to the local Human Rights Commission. I fully supported then, as I do now, the constitutional right of any citizen of our country to seek, or hold, public office, while at the same time, I support my right to choose who I support based on their positions on issues.”
The legislator and current Senate candidate has addressed related issues before.
Yarborough defended back in 2016 his decision to raise concerns about Muslim Parvez Ahmed‘s nomination to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, which was the jumping off point for the reporter asking him about whether Muslims or gays should hold office.
Yarborough stood by his position on that, even half a decade later.
The confirmation of Ahmed was “on the heels of a very big investigation” into the Committee on American Islamic Relations, and the “scrutiny from the federal government” on CAIR was “foremost on (his) mind” and so he wanted “details,” Yarborough said.
As this old issue comes back up, the SD 4 race is beginning to heat up, and June fundraising totals are pending for candidates.
Yarborough had roughly $68,000 in his campaign account as of the end of May. Floridians for Conservative Values, the political committee supporting Yarborough’s bid, has nearly $330,000 on hand.
Yarborough’s nearly $400,000 on hand, however, didn’t compare to Fischer, who was nearing the $1 million mark at the end of May. Both men are well ahead of Byrd, who had roughly $80,000 between his committee and campaign accounts.
A political veteran, Yarborough’s time in local Jacksonville politics was characterized by cultural conservative plays, including threatening to pull funding from a local museum for showing a topless portrait in an exhibit of Angela Strassheim’s photographs in the atrium of Jacksonville’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The image he objected to — “Janine (Eight Month Pregnant)” — depicted a nude woman reclining on her couch in front of an open window.
Yarborough’s email described a “large picture” of a “woman with bare breasts exposed and laying in a questionable position” as an “inappropriate, pornographic display.”