What a Difference a Bay Makes

On the Beach side gay life flourishes, but on the Miami side it's Anita Bryant déjà vu

It would seem that in Ferré's political calculation, gay votes are good, gay fundraising dollars are even better, but a gay endorsement? Gracias, pero no gracias. With conservative Cuban exiles remaining mayoral kingmakers, so the thinking goes, best to play it safe and keep gays -- at least in public -- at arm's length.

"He's old school, and maybe he thought he'd lose votes," explains SAVE Dade chairwoman Heddy Peña of Ferré's slippery maneuver. Pointing to her group's endorsement of Manny Diaz and his subsequent victory, Peña adds, "It just goes to show you: Manny Diaz, a different generation, took the risk and it didn't hurt him. There's a lesson to be learned there."

In Ferré's mind, however, the only enduring lesson is that, in Miami, race rules politics. While agreeing with Peña's assessment of his motives, he remains unapologetic about dodging SAVE Dade's questionnaire. "I was trying to be pragmatic," he says. "In the dirty campaigning of Miami, my [questionnaire] answers would have been used somewhere. It doesn't matter what Manny Diaz says about gay adoption -- he's Cuban!" Addressing his own Puerto Rican heritage, he quips, "Me? My answer becomes important."

Peña insists anti-gay discrimination transcends identity politics. "This can't be just the gay community or SAVE Dade against Take Back Miami-Dade," she says. "The only way we're going to win is if the whole community says we're not going to be defined as divisive and intolerant, if all the people who are against discrimination band together."

Accordingly SAVE Dade is likely to heed the Herald's editorial advice to "create an upbeat campaign" with "a positive explanation for keeping this ban against discrimination in place." And given the necessity of convincing 51 percent of the electorate to say no to just such a proposition come September 10, the Herald's milquetoast strategy is, unfortunately, the right one.

Back on Lincoln Road, Marilyn is willing to work partly within that spirit. "You want a SAVE Dade campaign slogan?" she asks Kulchur. "You can have this one for free: Pleasestop working my nerves -- bitch!"

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