Anti-Gay Referendum Defeated in Miami-Dade

Residents of Miami-Dade County in Florida narrowly struck down a referendum in mid-September that would have repealed ordinances that protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the areas of housing, employment, finances, and more. The repeal was spearheaded by the Christian Coalition and an anti-gay group called “Take Back Miami-Dade,” and supported financially in the final hours of the campaign by the Family Research Council, a right-wing think tank, according to Reuters and The Miami Herald.

The repeal of the lesbian and gay rights ordinance was blocked even with numerous complications on the day of the vote in Florida as well as the arrests of several Christian Coalition leaders for electoral fraud in petitioning for the referendum, according to the New York Times. Political consultant Antonio Gutierrez argues that tactics of misinformation led Hispanic voters to support the repeal more than other ethnic groups. Through his conversations with voters, he has concluded that elderly Cuban residents were led to believe that a vote against the repeal was a vote for gay marriage, according to the Herald. The New York Times reported malfunctions with machines on voting day as well as the late opening of several polling locations in Florida, including Miami.

In 1977, Miami-Dade County became one of the first in the country to establish an ordinance against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That ordinance was repealed after a campaign by former Miss America Anita Bryant, who called it an attempt to bolster “a perverse and dangerous way of life,” according to the Times. However, in 1998, in the wake of the brutal killing of gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, the current ordinance was approved by voters, very similar to the one established in 1977.

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Miami Herald 9/12/02; NOW 9/24/02; Reuters 9/11/02; New York Times 9/5/02, 9/11/02

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