ACLU Hails Victory as Florida Voters Reject Effort To Overturn Local Gay Rights Law: Statement of Howard Simon, Executive Director, ACLU of Florida

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
September 10, 2002 12:00 am

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MIAMI-Today the people of Miami-Dade County overwhelmingly repudiated an effort by the Christian Coalition and others to overturn a human rights ordinance that bans discrimination against gays and lesbians based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, lending and public accommodations.

This vote was really a referendum on the future of this community: if we are going to move ahead together as a community then the human rights of all those who make up this diverse community must be protected.

The religious extremists who urged a vote for repeal failed to sell their message that this election was about sin, Biblical morality and so-called special rights.

Contrary to misleading propaganda, the ordinance gives no special rights to anyone. It protects everyone from discrimination based on his or her sexual orientation or his or her perceived sexual orientation. It is no secret that gays and lesbians are the most obvious targets of such discrimination, but this ordinance was created for everyone to insure equal protection under the laws in Miami-Dade County.

In an effort to ensure this outcome, the ACLU of Florida and the National ACLU’s Lesbian & Gay Rights Project hired special staff, and our campaign in the media and in the community involved over 100 paid and volunteer pollworkers. In the weeks before the vote, national ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero made a special visit to Miami to speak to make a special appeal to Hispanic voters through interviews and appearances in Spanish-language media.

Community leaders also rallied in support of the sexual orientation amendment by announcing the creation of a “No To Discrimination” Committee led by Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas and co-chairs Marleine Bastien, of Haitian Women of Miami, Inc., Cristina Saralegui, a Spanish-language TV personality, Norman Braman, Chairman of Braman Motors and local civil rights attorney H.T. Smith.

Protecting our county’s human rights ordinance is a big achievement and I congratulate everyone who worked so hard to help bring about today’s wonderful result. But let us also remember that this is but one step toward dismantling the barriers to complete legal equality. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and when the march for voting rights finally resulted in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we didn’t celebrate the achievement of civil rights; we celebrated the dismantling of one more barrier to legal equality in America.

Today, we removed yet another barrier. Tonight, we celebrate. And tomorrow, we must go back to work dismantling the many remaining barriers to justice and full equality for all in America.

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