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Two South Florida Cities Pass Ordinances in Favor of Equality
by Joshua Head

Miami Beach, FL – January 28, 2010 --- This month marks the passage of two very important pieces of pro-equality legislation in Miami-Dade County.  In a press release from SAVE Dade, we learn that the City of Miami Beach unanimously passed a revised and strengthened Human Rights Ordinance.  We learned also that the City of South Miami passed a Domestic Partnership Ordinance.

On January 13, 2010, the ordinance passed by the City of Miami Beach strengthens the language and enforcement mechanisms against discrimination in the city.  The passage of this ordinance was more than a year in the making when back in 2008 the City tabled a vote on it.  The South Miami ordinance passed on January 14th extends access to health insurance to domestic partners to city employees.

SAVE Dade worked very close with the Miami Beach City Attorney’s office and former Commissioner Victor Diaz, who sponsored the ordinance.  It strengthens the language, enforcement mechanisms, process of complaint and legal access to the law of the City’s ordinance and mirrors the best modern state anti-discrimination laws in the country.  The most significant outcome of the process was the establishment of the Miami Beach Human Rights Commission.  Because there is still no state or federal law preventing gay or transgender people from being fired from their jobs or otherwise discriminated against in Florida, the Commission will serve as an enforcing and advisory body of the Human Rights Ordinance.  Businesses that violate the ordinance will be reprimanded and, according to the press release, repeat offenders could be stripped of certain licenses necessary to continue doing business, such as a liquor license.

The City of South Miami’s Domestic Partnership Ordinance marks the city’s first pro-GLBT legislation since it was incorporated in 1927.  The Ordinance was co-sponsored by South Miami Mayor Horace G. Feliu and City Commissioner Valerie Newman.  It passed the second reading with additional support by Vice-Mayor Brian D. Beasley.  City Commissioners Velma Palmer and Lew Sellers voted against the Ordinance and this should be considered when these two are up for relection in the future.

After Amendment 2 was adopted in 2008, Florida remains one of 29 states in the nation that have constitutionally banned same-sex marriage, and one of 19 states that do not recognize gay or lesbian relationships in any form. Domestic Partnerships are the only current form of recognition offered to gay and lesbian couples on a local level.

"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. The City of South Miami joins the City of Miami, North Miami, Miami Beach, and Miami-Dade County, which have all passed similar Domestic Partnership Ordinances.