As New Times magazine wrote a feature blasting Miami for becoming less gay friendly, two important pieces of pro-equality legislation passed last week in Miami-Dade County.
On Wednesday, January 13, 2010, the City of Miami Beach unanimously passed a revised and strengthened Human Rights Ordinance. The ordinance strengthens the language and enforcement mechanisms against discrimination in the city. And on Thursday, January 14, 2010, the City of South Miami passed a Domestic Partnership Ordinance, which extends access to health insurance to domestic partners of city employees, just as is provided for spouses of employees.
In 1992, Miami Beach became the first city in South Florida to pass such a Human Rights Ordinance, but other municipalities had since adopted stronger and better laws in the 17 intervening years.
For the past year, SAVE Dade, an organization created in 1993 to protect GLBT individuals from discrimination, worked closely with the City Attorney’s Office and former Commissioner Victor Diaz, drafting revisions that would remedy the outdated terminology and mechanics of the legislation. Mirroring the best modern state anti-discrimination laws in the country, the Miami Beach Commission voted this week to strengthen the language, enforcement mechanisms, process of complaint and legal access to the law of the city’s ordinance, which had become antiquated over time.
The most significant outcome of this process has been the establishment of the Miami Beach Human Rights Commission. Becaus ethere is still no state or federal law preventing gay or transgender people from being fired from their jobs or otherwise discriminated in Florida, the Commission will serve as an enforcing and advisory body of the Human Rights Ordinance, ensuring that gay and transgender residents of Miami Beach are protected from discrimination. Businesses that violate the ordinance will be reprimanded and in some cases could be stripped of certain business licenses.
On the heels of the Miami Beach vote, the City of South Miami passed a Domestic Partnership Ordinance, making it the city’s first pro-LGBT legislation since it was incorporated in 1927.
Commissioner Valerie Newman said, “Providing employment benefits, including healthcare, to the domestic partners of our City of South Miami employees is a common sense idea that has been far too long in coming. This is nothing more than treating people equally. I am proud to say our City is doing the right thing.”
Domestic Partnership Ordinances allow city employees in non-spousal relationships, whether gay or heterosexual, the eligibility to include their domestic partners under their health insurance benefits, which is a right that is automatic for heterosexual married employees. “We thank the City of South Miami Commissioners who voted for the ordinance along with the Mayor in recognizing that the families of all city employees deserve fair and equitable treatment,” said SAVE Dade’s Executive Director, C.J. Ortuno.
In summary, Broward County may be gaining in popularity, but Miami is still in vogue.