BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
About two-dozen men, women and children came to Miami-Dade County Hall on Monday seeking to keep dead a proposal that would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.
"We must make sure that this discriminatory transsexual ordinance never returns," said Nathaniel J. Wilcox, director of PULSE, People United Leading the Struggle for Equality.
Wilcox and other conservative activists, including Anthony Verdugo of the Christian Family Coalition and Eladio José Armesto of the Catholic Cultural Fund, introduced several speakers outside the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami.
"We’re living in a society where many have lost their moral compass and no longer have an understanding of right and wrong, good and evil," said Teresita “Tesi” Miglio, 56, of Miami. "From history we learn that the greatest empires that have existed were destroyed, not by conquering enemies, but from within. They fell into moral decadence."
Miglio referred to the gender identity ordinance introduced in May by Miami-Dade Commissioners Bruno Barreiro and Audrey Edmonson and co-sponsored by Commissioners Barbara Jordan and Sally Heyman.
The plan, which would have amended the county’s existing gay-rights law to ban discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or expression, passed 11-1 on first reading. Commission Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell voted against.
The proposal then went to the commission’s Health and Social Services Committee, comprised of chairwoman Edmonson, Bell, Commissioners Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Jean Monestime and Javier D. Souto.
Co-sponsors pulled the amendment on Aug. 13, when they realized there weren't enough votes to pass in committee.
SAVE Dade, the county's leading LGBT rights group, blamed Bell for the proposal's failure.
Miami-Dade conservatives then rallied around Bell, the former president of Florida Right to Life.
"As I stand here today, I am truly grateful to Miami-Dade Commission Vice Chair Lynda Bell for doing her duty as a public servant and voting against a proposed ordinance on its first reading," Miglio said Monday. "Unfortunately, she became a victim of discrimination and hate by the very group that was trying to force this discriminatory law on every Miami-Dade County resident. Commissioner Bell, please know that there are numerous human rights organizations that proudly stand by you."
Gay activists nationally are seeking to protect transgender people from workplace, housing and other discrimination, and to provide physical and mental healthcare benefits for people in gender transition.
“Transitioning is the process some transgender people go through to begin living as the gender with which they identify, rather than the sex assigned to them at birth. This may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures,” according to Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the United States’ largest LGBT rights organization.
The Christian Family Coalition campaign this summer against the Miami-Dade proposal included a picture of a man with beard stubble and a blonde wig leering at a frightened little girl in what appears to be a bathroom.
Christian conservatives say that if the Miami-Dade County law eventually passes and they must comply with it, they'll become the victims of discrimination.
"The lack of honesty of the ordinance proponents is also very apparent as their cowardly threats and attacks make clear. They seek to legalize discrimination. Everything for them, nothing for us. They want everything, give us nothing," Wilcox said. "They want protection, but they don’t want our children to be protected. They want protection, but they don’t want our wives and daughters to be protected. That’s discriminatory."
Miglio said the proposed ordinance "was not only discriminatory, but actually put women and children at risk at being raped in bathrooms."
Mara Keisling, founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called Miglio's claim "utter nonsense."
"But it's also mean spirited," Keisling said. "They know they are lying. There is nothing in the ordinance that would have legalized any illegal behavior."
Click here to view more pictures from Monday's protest. Photos by STEVE ROTHAUS / Miami Herald Staff.
The is the commission pledge sought by Christian conservatives:
The NO to Discrimination Challenge
Legalizing discrimination in Miami-Dade through a “gender identity and expression” ordinance or similar policies is not the answer.
No one should fear losing their job or having their rights violated because of who they are or what they believe.
Miami-Dade must remain an inclusive and tolerant community.
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