Miami – With a 3-1 vote, the Miami-Dade County Commission Public Safety and Animal Services Committee passed an amendment that would add gender identity and expression to the existing human rights ordinance.
Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Bruno Barreiro, both sponsors of the ordinance changes, voted in favor, along with Commissioner Sally Heyman. Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo voted against the amendment.
“There hasn’t been any demonstration, up to this point, of a grand scheme of transgender discrimination that would warrant us to take action to amend it at this point,” Bovo said at the meeting. “I do not believe that the transgender community has a claim akin to the suffering of African Americans or women’s rights. … This seems to me to be a carve-out of a minority within a minority that wants a special right. And then the question begs, ‘Where does it stop there?'”
The chamber was filled to capacity and so was the overflow room by the time the Nov. 12 meeting started at 9:30 a.m. Hundreds of citizens for and against the proposal showed up to the meeting, including more than 200 members of the Christian Family Coalition, wearing stickers that read “Don’t Legalize Discrimination.”
Gina Duncan, transgender inclusion director for Equality Florida, spoke at the meeting.
“Never in history has there been a more visible transgender community, and that is increasing with every day and every month and every year,” Duncan said. “We have it that we are seeing more and more examples of overt discrimination against transgender people in the areas of employment, public accommodations and housing. That’s why these protections are so important.”
Because of the number of people, only one representative from each organization was allowed to speak, but even though the Christian Family Coalition was there as one represented group, they said each person who was in attendance was actually there as an individual and that each person should have their own opportunity to speak. As a result, public comment for the agenda item lasted almost four hours.
“It was simply a political maneuver to perhaps overwhelm the commissioners at the workshop,” Duncan said. “Unfortunately for them, the motion still passed to go to the full commission for a vote to be added to the human rights ordinance for Miami-Dade.”
That final vote will be Dec. 16.
“This is very important in the fact that over 3 million people live and work in Miami-Dade,” Duncan said. “So this would send a clear signal to the rest of the State of Florida that the major counties in the state are stepping forward to be fully inclusive, socially accepting, and welcoming counties, which will only lead to greater economic growth for all of Florida.”
Here is Equality Florida Deputy Director Stratton Politzer speaking in favor of the amendment:
The City of Miami Beach, which is located in Miami-Dade County, recently received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index, being the city with the highest raw score in the nation.
“The City of Miami Beach receiving a 100 on the MEI, if nothing else, is a huge indicator of the direction that South Florida is progressing, and I think that this county commission that’s currently in place is moving forward in developing certainly a broader embracing of social equality,” Duncan said.