Twenty years ago today, on December 1, 1998, the Miami-Dade County Commission approved the addition of sexual orientation to the county’s human rights ordinance. The battle many had fought over the past year culminated in victory. A temporary achievement since the hateful Christian Coalition worked to place the decision on the ballot the following year. They lost.
For over a year, I helped increase awareness, raise money, conduct outreach, lobby politicians, debate homophobes, and granted countless interviews to the media. I was called vile names by those professing their Christianity often enough my dislike for the religion became permanent. To this day, any mention of Christian values makes me frown.
On that fateful morning, my boyfriend and I awoke in darkness and were in front of the Commission chambers by sunrise. With hateful chants as background, I spoke to National Public Radio, The New York Times, the Voice of America, Armed Forces Radio, and who knows how many more outlets in both English and Spanish. My fifteen minutes of fame thanks to the marketing people thinking I spoke well and came across as a level-headed individual. Ha! Seeing my name on the front page of the Times and listening to the NPR report the following morning was a thrill. I still have the newspaper and a cassette of the radio show.
However, the most wonderful part of the experience was working with the men and women who made the day’s events possible. Maybe it was not on par with the promise made by the signers of the Declaration of Independence to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor,” but to me it was close. The time and financial commitment made by many propelled us to victory.
Liebe Gadinsky stands out amongst all. The mother of two and her husband became friends, and although we rarely communicate these days, I will treasure the time I spent with them for as long as I live. Liebe and Seth were proof that the fight for our humanity was not limited to GLBT community members, but encompassed caring individuals who felt discrimination was unjust.
Many of you dislike and dismiss political involvement, I read the comments often enough when I posted a story revolving around a presidential campaign. As an aside, my involvement back then influenced much of what I wrote in that book. I would like you all to remember that without drag queens fighting in front of the Stonewall Inn in 1969 or volunteers canvassing throughout Miami in 1998, most of us would be hiding in the back of a closet too scared to live. Go out, give money, volunteer, make phone calls, write letters; do whatever it takes to elect individuals who will not treat us as second-class citizens.
It was the experience of a lifetime and I am grateful I was part of such a momentous event. My participation also allowed me to keep a promise I made when the Anita Bryant-backed forces led to the overturn of a similar ordinance in 1977. I swore that if the issue arose again, I would not remain quiet. I am glad I did not.
I’ll close with Margaret Mead’s words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”