The sleepy village of Miami Shores has long been seen as a suburban haven for LGBT people, and is a reliable liberal bastion in elections. But this past Tuesday, the village council voted 3 to 2 to reject a resolution supporting marriage equality in Florida. The vote came on the heels of a contentious and bizarre session of public comments that showcased the passions on both sides of the debate.
The council's action harkens back to a different time in Miami-Dade's history when Anita Bryant led a repeal effort of a gay rights ordinance in 1977. On Thursday, a judge in the Florida Keys declared the state's ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. And mayors from Orlando, Key West, St. Petersburg, Lake Worth, and Miami Beach have all announced their support for the civil rights issue.
The largely symbolic resolution was proposed by Vice Mayor Jesse Walters, who is openly gay. The text of the proposal read," A resolution of the Miami Shores Village Council supporting marriage equality, urging enactment of a law that would provide for marriage equality in the state of Florida, and providing for an effective date."
Mayor Herta Holly, and Councilmen Jim McCoy and Hunt Davis voted against the resolution, while Vice Mayor Walters and Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma voted for it.
The proposal prompted larger than usual public attention to be placed on the council, and a few dozen people attended the Tuesday meeting.
After welcoming the assembled crowd to the meeting, Holly allowed time for public comment. And boy, did the public have something to say.
Here are some of the best lines from the video, which you can watch in full here.
Shores resident Elizabeth Little opposed the resolution. She said that she didn't think the council should be involved in the issue and supported the 2008 statewide vote that supported "traditional marriage" between one man and woman.
After Little sat down, a small older woman stepped up to the podium and proceeded to almost give her wrong address (she gave her "North Carolina address"). Then she went into conservative talking points.
"I believe that we should have man and woman as man and wife," She said. "It's the way I was brought up and raised and I guess I'll live till I die the same way."
Carter Winkle, a professor at Barry University in Miami Shores and resident of the community also spoke.
"Marriage has been defined over and over and over again throughout history and if you think that marriage has been between one man and one woman from the beginning of time, I would suggest you go back to university and do some studying," Winkle said.
Winkle said that he and his husband had to travel out west to get married and recently celebrated their one year wedding anniversary in the village.
While many of the speakers were Miami Shores residents, a good amount were brought in by various interest groups.
Christian Ulvert of pro gay rights group SAVE Dade spoke to the council and commended the leadership of the liberals on the board.
Nathanial Wilcox of People United To Lead The Struggle For Equality, a conservative group that opposes gay marriage, also spoke. "From the beginning of history, from the beginning of the Earth, there was marriage equality," Wilcox said of his beliefs, even though human beings have only been on the planet for roughly 200,000 years.
Christian Family Coalition leader Anthony Verdugo spoke at the event and claimed victory afterwards on the group's website. "Last night God won - and you courageously made the difference," the site said.
On Facebook, Miami Shores residents showed largely disapproval of the council's action.
Shores resident Nancy Sullivan wrote on the "Miami Shores Village People" page, "This was a sad and disappointing night for all LGBT people of Miami Shores. For the first time, I'm ashamed of a community I have called home for 20 years. Shame on the cowards McCoy, Holly, and Davis, who hid behind the veil of calling this a state issue rather than embracing the momentum of how change unfolds-- from the grassroots locals who stand up for their beliefs."
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On the same page, John D'Alessandro wrote, "The Village Council meeting last night was an upsetting and sobering reminded [sic] to me that changing misguided social beliefs is a long and difficult process. Last night we lost a battle in our own backyard but at the same time we are and will win the war."
New Times has reached out to all five council members for comment, and will update the story as necessary.
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