Principles vs. Politics

Natacha Millan: For a woman who likes to bully her way through issues, Millan has displayed a remarkable profile in cowardice during this debate. Unlike Souto and Reboredo, who are straightforward bigots, Millan hides behind a pathetic rationale: My constituents would want me to vote no.

Of all the pitiful excuses expressed by opponents of the ordinance, Millan's is the worst. It implies that she personally believes the measure is worthy (although she won't say so publicly) but feels she must vote against it because she is obliged to express the will of the people.

In truth Millan is afraid that people will think she's a lesbian if she votes for the measure. Cuban radio can be vicious. So can her opponents in Hialeah, who would likely use a yes vote to brand her a dyke. So she'll play it safe and vote no.

That's her right. I just hope she'll remain consistent. If she is going to turn her back on this issue, then she shouldn't be allowed to trot out her cross-burning story again. The anecdote (I've heard her recite it at least twice) goes something like this: As a young woman, Millan moved with her new husband to North Carolina. Soon after arriving, however, someone burned a cross on her front lawn.

Millan invokes this tale to shame those Anglos she suspects of harboring resentment toward Cuban Americans. Not since someone burned a cross on my lawn, she'll trumpet, have I felt such bigotry and hatred! It's a story she wears like a flattering fashion ensemble. After Tuesday, though, that outfit won't fit any longer. The next time she stands in front of a mirror trying to remember how nice she once looked, she should ask herself: What happened to that newlywed in North Carolina, the one who, despite being isolated and alone, understood the need for courage in the face of bigotry and intolerance?

Miguel Diaz de la Portilla: Welcome to the first round of the mayor's race. For some inexplicable reason Diaz de la Portilla has decided to bolster his political future by courting Christian conservatives. A few months ago he received an award from Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition. Now he's poised to lead the effort to kill this ordinance.

By opposing the measure, Diaz de la Portilla hopes to draw a clear distinction between himself and Penelas, who is up for re-election in 2000. This is nothing more than cynically crass political posturing.

Although the public has come to expect such sleazy tactics from county commissioners, it is beneath contempt to play this sort of game with an issue that affects so many lives. Worse, Diaz de la Portilla has been utterly disingenuous with backers of the measure. For months he led them to believe he hadn't reached a decision. He allowed ordinance supporters to arrange private meetings with victims of discrimination so he could hear their painful stories.

His response: Not good enough. Merely anecdotal.
It was a cruelly wasteful expenditure of time and emotion for which he should be ashamed. And it raises a question: Just how many people must suffer before Miguel Diaz de la Portilla comes to believe it is wrong?

Dorrin Rolle: Normally it takes rookie politicians a few election cycles to develop a flair for stabbing people in the back and breaking campaign promises. Not Rolle.

Earlier this year, when Rolle first ran for a commission seat, he courted his district's Upper Eastside gay community, men and women who were eager to help him defeat James Burke, the former county commissioner who had voted against the gay rights ordinance last time. Gays donated to his campaign; Mursuli even set up a phone bank to turn out voters on election day.

Last month, however, after Katy Sorenson announced her intention to introduce the gay rights ordinance, Rolle was suddenly overcome with indecision. Then when the measure came up for an initial vote on November 5 -- a vote to allow a public hearing on the proposal's merits -- Rolle voted against it.

Apparently it's fine with Rolle if gay people work behind the scenes to help him win election to office. He just doesn't want to associate with them publicly. "I was most disappointed in Dorrin's vote," sighs Mursuli. "I don't know. It's just one of those things where you still hope. It's not over till December 1, when the final vote is taken. I just hope he sees this for the simple, basic issue that it is."

Dennis Moss and Miriam Alonso: Although both Moss and Alonso have indicated they will vote against the ordinance, supporters remain hopeful they can persuade at least one of them to switch.

Moss is thought to oppose the ordinance for two reasons: He is being pressured by a handful of black clergy in his district to vote against it as a way of repudiating homosexuality, and he apparently believes that adding "sexual orientation" to the county's anti-discrimination statutes will somehow weaken the existing law and undermine the protection afforded to blacks.

For Moss, it seems, protection against discrimination is like a pie: The more slices you give away, the less there is for everyone. "When you are a victim of discrimination," Mursuli notes, "it feels just as lousy whether you are gay or black or Jewish or Hispanic. The one thing we should all agree on is that acting out discriminatory beliefs and having it affect other people is not okay."

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