Miami-Dade voters uphold gay rights law

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 11 2002 11:00 PM ET

Residents of Miami-Dade County, Fla., appear to have rejected a bid by the Christian Coalition to overturn an ordinance protecting gay rights. With 87% of precincts reporting, there were 145,971 votes against, or 53%, and 130,100 votes in favor, or 47%.

"All ethnic groups were on the same page today on this issue," Miami-Dade mayor Alex Penelas said Tuesday night. "There's no room for discrimination of any sort. We're a community of inclusion, and we sent a very strong message today."

The proposed repeal would have eliminated an amendment to the county's human rights ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, lending, and public accommodations. The 1998 law had come under attack by a coalition of far-right groups in a repeal effort mirroring a precedent-setting crusade in 1977 led by actress Anita Bryant that overturned a similar gay rights law.

Some gay rights activists said they expected the results to be challenged regardless of the outcome, given the problems with Florida's new touch-screen voting machines.
A spokesman for pro-repeal group Take Back Miami-Dade echoed that possibility.
"If the votes are counted accurately and honestly, the people of Dade County will have a tremendous victory when the controversial and unnecessary amendment is repealed once and for all," Eladio Jose Armesto said.

Meanwhile, gay rights organizations from around the country hailed the results.

“What Anita [Bryant] began 25 years ago, we ended tonight,” said Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which worked with local group No to Discrimination/SAVE Dade to defeat the repeal effort. we are putting right-wing extremists on
notice. Whenever they attack our rights, whenever they try to enshrine discrimination against us in the law, we will respond as we did in this campaign. We will not stand idly by while they pursue campaigns of bigotry and lies. We will educate the voters, we will organize, and we will get fair-minded people to the polls to ensure that freedom, justice and equality are realities for all of us! And we will win!”

Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group The Human Rights Campaign also applauded the victory: "This is yet another example of people rejecting discrimination against gay and lesbian people and supporting equality," said HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch.