For the past couple of years, Deerfield Beach activist and blogger Chaz Stevens has made it his annual goal to have a Festivus pole erected in the Florida Capitol rotunda during the holidays. Now, Stevens is gunning for a third straight time. But with a twist.
Stevens has decided that this year’s Festivus pole will be a celebration of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage legal across the country.
“It’s the rainbow gay edition,” Stevens says. “A project we’ve lovingly entitled ‘We’ve Gone Completely Gay!’”
Stevens, who calls himself a “militant atheist,” took advantage of Florida officials allowing religious groups of all kinds to put up a display in the rotunda that represents their beliefs during the holidays. In recent years, folks have seen a Satanic Temple and Spaghetti Monster display placed next to a traditional Christmas Nativity scene.
Stevens chose Festivus, a fake holiday invented by a character in the iconic ’90s sitcom Seinfeld, and put up an eight-foot-tall display made entirely of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans. The pole has graced the rotunda for the past two years during the holidays and has brought Stevens a lot of attention from the national media, including the Colbert Report as well as derision from Fox News morning show Fox & Friends.
"Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for Nativity scenes and be like, 'Oh yeah, kids, look there's the baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole, behind the beer cans," Fox & Friends cohost Gretchen Carlson said at the time. "It's nuts!"
The so-called “rainbow gay edition” Festivus pole will have a few additions to it, including making the pole taller. The new pole will be covered in what Stevens calls a “durable, all-weather condom” made from a nylon LGBT flag. Stevens also has plans to install a small solar-powered disco light at the top of the pole. The idea is to use the solar power generated from the ball to have the song “It’s Raining Men” blast from a speaker at 5 p.m. every day the pole is up.
“My lawyer seems confident we can find a low-current motor, MP3, and timer to make this a reality,” he tells New Times.
Stevens says he’s already filled out the necessary paperwork and is awaiting word from Tallahassee for approval. And while he’s looking for a way to celebrate the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling, the central goal seems to remain a desire to stick it to those who oppose anything but Christian-themed displays in the rotunda during the holidays.
Stevens says he’s interested in hearing what Pam Olsen, president of Florida Prayer Network, has to say about his new pole. It’s Olsen and her group that set up the Nativity scene at the rotunda along with a ceremony that includes a singing of Christmas carols every December.
“We’ll need to reach out to her and see what she, and Jesus H. Christ, think about having another erection in the bowels of the state Capitol rotunda,” Stevens says.
Still, all the rabble-rousing isn’t without a good cause.
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Stevens has been able to turn the 15 minutes of fame and poking fun of the establishment garnered by his Festivus pole into raising money for charity. In 2013, the first year the pole went up, Stevens was able to donate money to Women in Distress from the proceeds he made after selling the original pole to an anonymous buyer on eBay for $455. And, as he did with his previous displays, Stevens is looking for sponsors for the gay-edition Festivus pole as well.
“We’re looking for any gay bar in Florida that is interested in sponsoring this thing,” he says. “I think that we’ve raised our standards when the [same-sex] ruling came down.”
If approved by state officials, the pole is expected to go up on or around December 22, the official day of Festivus, and remain there for a week, though there’s a feeling that this particular display may meet with more resistance than usual.
“I wonder if Rick Scott will be OK with a gay erection in his basement,” Stevens says. “It remains to be seen.”