Raw emotion and invocations of biblical damnation over a proposed ban on discrimination against transgender people dominated on Wednesday what was perhaps the fiercest debate Miami-Dade County Hall has seen this year.
Advocates of a more inclusive society, including transgender men and women who spoke of how difficult it can be to find public acceptance, were outnumbered by conservatives who, in a show of force, assailed the legislation as immoral and a threat to public safety. Two likened South Florida to Sodom and Gomorrah.
What proponents called a civil-rights issue was boiled down by opponents to a mundane task that blurred the divide between men and women: going to the bathroom. A law protecting people like him, a transgender man said, offers the “dignity to pee in peace.”
After a public hearing that lasted nearly four hours, the commission’s Public Safety & Animal Services Committee voted 3-1 to bring the legislation to the full board for final approval, probably next month.
Voting in favor were Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Bruno Barreiro, the proposal’s main sponsors, and Sally Heyman. Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo voted against.
“We need to show some initiative up here,” said Edmonson, whose district extends from downtown through Miami Shores. “It is unfortunate that this has been characterized as a public-safety issue when it is really a fairness issue, an issue of equality, an acceptance issue.”