By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Anyone who wants to try to understand the looming battle over this county's law prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians must first become familiar with two definitions. They come from the mind of 45-year-old Eladio José Armesto, communications director of Take Back Miami-Dade, the organization that is waging an assault on the law.
Homosexual. "A person who suffers from same-sex attraction."
Homosexualist. "Anyone -- be they heterosexual, bisexual, multisexual, or homosexual -- that seeks to impose homosexuality on society as a normal and acceptable sexual conduct. Not all homosexuals are homosexualist. In my experience the vast majority of homosexuals are not homosexualists, meaning they are not exhibitionists, they do not seek to impose their sexual conduct on the rest of society, they are nonviolent, they are discreet, they are respectful, they keep to themselves, they prize privacy. On the other hand not all homosexualists are homosexual. A lot of people don't understand the difference between a homosexual and a homosexualist."
Armesto is Take Back's leading legal theoretician. He attended Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles in the late Seventies (but did not graduate, according to the school's alumni office). His anti-homosexualist doctrine is based on these claims:
Homosexuals are sick.
Homosexualists are corrupt.
The sexual-orientation amendment is actually being used to discriminate againsthomosexuals.
The amendment is being used to quash the constitutional rights of people who oppose it.
If the measure is not abolished, sexual deviants such as masochists and incest perpetrators will soon seek civil-rights protections based on their sexual practices.
Above all, he maintains, the sexual-orientation amendment is a formula for fraud: People will claim they've been discriminated against because they are homosexuals even if they are not. "If a pregnant woman comes in through the door I know she's pregnant," he posits. "But if a homosexual walks through the door, I do not know that they're homosexual. And in fact and indeed if someone claims that they're homosexual, the next logical question is how he or she proves it. Oh, because they're going to put down their pants and they're going to butt-fuck in front of me? And that's how they prove it? Well, I can do that, too! And say I'm a homosexual. You know, I have all the physical organs necessary to be homosexual. But I choose not to behave in that manner."
Armesto's obsession with the sexual-orientation amendment has had a tangled past and is likely to have a twisted future as the September 10 referendum approaches. Miami-Dade commissioners passed the legislation in 1998 by a one-vote margin. The ordinance added two words to various sections of the county code. Thus it became the law of the swampland to prevent discrimination because of "race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, pregnancy, age, disability, marital status, familial status, or sexual orientation." SAVE Dade, a nonprofit political action committee whose members include gay and straight people, was largely responsible for persuading the slim majority of commissioners to enact the amendment.
In December 2000, however, Armesto and several other Take Back organizers delivered about 51,000 signed petitions to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections David Leahy, calling for a referendum to repeal the sexual-orientation protections. Among the presentation posse were Armesto; his father Eladio Armesto-Garcia, a former state representative and Miami Code Enforcement Board member who is now Take Back's chairman; and Antonio Verdugo, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Christian Coalition. Armesto describes Take Back as "a citizens' coalition of 400 civic, religious, and political groups" that wants to give people an opportunity to voice their opinion on "the highly controversial and highly divisive sexual-orientation amendment."
But the petition drive ran into trouble. Acting on complaints by SAVE Dade, Leahy determined that at least a fourth of the signatures belonged to unregistered voters or were fake. Take Back struck back by accusing SAVE Dade of sabotaging the petition drive by planting bogus signatures. In February 2001 Miami-Dade County filed a lawsuit against Take Back, Armesto-Garcia, Verdugo, and SAVE Dade, asking a judge to disqualify the petitions. Last August a Miami-Dade judge dismissed the complaint, however, after deciding the supervisor of elections lacked authority to determine the veracity of signatures. The ruling was upheld on appeal. This past January county commissioners set the date for the referendum. A criminal investigation into the petition drive is ongoing.
Of all the purposes a civic-minded soul could dedicate himself to in this poorest city in North America, why has Armesto singled out a law aimed at protecting homosexuals from discrimination? "I've chosen this one because I want to improve the quality of life in my community and I want to weed out corruption," he declares. "And this issue has become an issue because of the public corruption that exists in County Hall and at high levels of government."
Armesto warns that roving bands of homosexualistsare sowing seeds of paranoia all over the place. "The SAVE Dade crowd has been in everybody's face since they wanted to get this tacky amendment passed," Armesto maintains. "Because they're basically tacky people. They're tacky, tacky, tacky. And many homosexuals in this community feel that SAVE Dade is a group of tacky people who are promoting a tacky ordinance in order to exploit homosexual persons by promoting fear of discrimination where there is none and trying to shake them down for money."