Politics and Power

Baldwin himself is unequivocal about the subject. "Personally where do I come down on it? Balls to the walls. You want our endorsement, you take it publicly," he says. "I don't want to see us cut off our heads to spite a headache. To turn to a politician and say, `You can accept our endorsement secretly,' is stupid from our point of view. The balancing point is what we want to accomplish in an election as opposed to what we want to accomplish in the long run. How we're going to resolve this, I don't know. But we will."

The Dade Action PAC, Baldwin stresses, is very much focused on the long haul. He completes his term as the organization's chair in December, and says he has no intention of becoming the spokesperson for the gay and lesbian community or of chairing the group for a second term. "For some reason, the lesbian and gay community has always thought in terms of `a leader,'" he observes. "The heterosexual community doesn't have `a leader.' It has `leadership.' There's a hundred people in this county that you could call the `leaders.' Why should the lesbian and gay community have to have a leader? It doesn't make sense. Our problem is we always think of it in terms of one person."

Baldwin's successor, University of Miami associate professor of psychology Robin Buhrke, has already been elected by the board. The Action PAC's primary aim will remain the same: secure gay and lesbian rights -- eventually in the form of a county ordinance. More than likely, such legislation is many years away. For one thing, gays and lesbians must win over the Hispanic community. Although the Action PAC does have Hispanic members, Baldwin has stopped short of bringing the gay-rights issue to Latins. "I think it would be a mistake to try and sell this whole thing to the Hispanic community," he explains. "It's something the Hispanic community has to pick up by itself. It has to see a functioning political group within Dade County society. When Hispanics feel there is that kind of group they can deal with -- and maybe have to deal with -- then they will."

"I think we could pass a gay-rights bill in the county commission right now, it's as simple as that. Do I want [the commissioners] to pass it? No, because we can't win a referendum. We're not organized and we don't have the money. Will we be? Hell, yeah -- in five, six, seven years. What we're looking for is to set up an organization that is strong enough that ultimately we'll not only be able to pass an equal-rights bill, but we'll be able to sustain it in a countywide referendum. Whether it's on the Beach or in the county, we know we're going to hit a referendum.

"What effect are we going to have? I don't know. Look at Miami Beach in November and I'll tell you. Let's say we carry the couple thousand votes that we believe we can in Miami Beach. We all know that a couple thousand votes will carry that election. Let's say that we elect the commission and the mayor. What's the next step? Run in and get a gay-rights vote [from commissioners]? You're nuts. The next step is to go to the politicians and get an anti-discrimination clause for hiring and firing among municipal employees. Get our friends to introduce us to our enemies. Whether it's city, whether it's county, Miami Beach, Miami, Coral Gables, anything, we're a minority by definition. We're never going to win an election or a gay-and-lesbian-rights referendum on our own. Broward County has proved that. Straight people hold the majority of the votes. We have to convince them. It's sort of stupid to go up to Susan Guber or Gary Gerrard or Xavier Suarez and say, `I want a gay-rights bill and I want it today and I want you to introduce it, and if you don't, goddamn it, you're a bigot.' That plus 25 cents might get you half a cup of coffee.

"What's going to happen eventually is that we're going to have a bunch of municipalities in the county that have passed an equal-rights ordinance. And when we get the standard arguments -- `Oh my God, you'll molest all our children! You'll take over our schools!' -- we'll be able to say, `Well, Miami Beach has had this ordinance for five years. None of this has happened in Miami Beach. South Miami has had this ordinance for four years. None of this has happened in South Miami. The crime rate didn't go up. The number of missing children didn't increase.' Bit by bit, until we get to the county. And then we'll hit the county, then we'll hit the state.

"There's probably 70 cities that have gay-rights ordinances -- human-rights ordinances. There's legislation in Palm Beach County that provides for protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Tampa has something. Gainesville is considering something, so is Monroe County. But nobody's ever done it down here. In Broward they spent ten years building bridges. The Democratic party endorsed them, the labor unions endorsed them, they had all the basic power structure endorsing them. They didn't win the referendum, but that's a monument for down here. I don't care whether we come in first or last, I just want Dade County to do it. And they will. When we go for it, we will go for it knowing that our enemies are either neutral or on our side. Or knowing that we can beat them. One of those three.

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