By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
To his credit Moss is still listening to supporters of the ordinance, and he called for a series of community meetings, which began last week, to discuss the issue.
Alonso, on the other hand, is simply being timid. Like Millan, she is afraid of political fallout from her constituents should she vote in favor of the ordinance. But she has not been as vehement as Millan in her opposition. Following a personal plea from Penelas, Alonso voted in favor of holding next Tuesday's public hearing.
Ordinance supporters now hope she can be persuaded to vote in favor of the measure by arguing that the political repercussions will not be as bad as she believes. For one thing, Alonso, who was easily re-elected in September, will not face voters again until 2002. Supporters also hope Alonso will be swayed by the fact that the proposed ordinance enjoys the support of several prominent Hispanic organizations, including the Spanish American League Against Discrimination and the Coalition of Hispanic American Women.
Coincidentally, the teacher with whom I spoke lives in Alonso's district. A child of Operation Pedro Pan, she left Cuba 37 years ago and says she is mystified by the reluctance of Cuban-American commissioners such as Alonso to adopt an anti-discrimination ordinance. "How can they condemn Castro for violating people's human rights when they won't even pass such a simple ordinance?" she asks. "Haven't they learned anything?"
Mursuli says he remains "cautiously optimistic" that a seventh favorable vote will emerge on Tuesday. But regardless of the result, he believes supporters did everything possible this time around to give the measure a chance to succeed. "We have had the conversations, we have been patient, we have been diligent, we've answered the questions, we've jumped over obstacles, we've been kind and generous in our comments and in our time, we've given people the benefit of the doubt, we've educated them, we've gone out and built a broad base of support," he says. "We've treated each commissioner with respect, even when we weren't treated the same way in return. There is nothing else we could do. Now it's time for them to vote. Our elected officials need to take a stand one way or another. We want to know."
And if they vote no? "Well, then they need to realize they will be sending a message that says: A certain group of people in this community are valued less than others," Mursuli cautions. "And when you do that, others begin to believe they can treat those people differently. It gives them a license to exercise their discriminatory beliefs in whatever way they choose. For some people it might be not hiring someone. Other people might express their views violently."
Katy Sorenson promises that if the ordinance fails on Tuesday, she will introduce it again next year, and the year after that if necessary. "Eventually it is going to pass," she vows. "That is the lesson of the civil rights movement. People aren't going to stop fighting for their rights."
Mursuli, who manages a Miami security firm, agrees. "I'm 37 years old," he says. "I have a mortgage. I contribute to this community on many levels. My partner [Jimmy Gamonet De Los Heros, resident choreographer for the Miami City Ballet] has made a significant contribution to the arts in this community and has been an ambassador for this community nationally and internationally. We are part of this community, and so are many other gay and lesbian people, and we are not going anywhere. It's not like if the commission votes no, we are going to go away.
"We've become very well organized. We have an active, active volunteer database. We were at the polls this year, and we've identified close to 10,000 supporters. We're very serious about this.