newanimation2_opti.gif (33173 bytes)

plainxaviercortada.jpg (7512 bytes)

art gallery




arrow.jpg (2326 bytes)   2002








1993 & prior




see calendar

sign guestbook

send email
view sitemap
en espaņol

print.jpg (4251 bytes)

signature.gif (583 bytes)

Panel Discusses History, Upcoming Referendum on Miami-Dade Human Rights Ordinance
(Published in University of Miami School of Law publications, 2002)


A panel discussion of the three-year-old Miami-Dade Human Rights Ordinance and its 1977 predecessor brought some of the law's strongest proponents to UM Law February 26. The current ordinance, which faces a repeal vote on the September 10 ballot, extends protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, financing, and public accommodations.


Joanne Harvest Koren and Xavier Cortada
Joanne Harvest Koren, director of UM Law's Academic Achievement Program,
with artist Xavier Cortada in front of Cortada's mural commemorating the 1977
Human Rights Ordinance. Koren, a member of the Miami-Dade County
Community Relations Board, organized the February 26 panel and arranged for
the discussion to be held at UM Law

Sponsored by the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board and moderated by UM Law alumnus Xavier Cortada, an internationally acclaimed artist who chairs the board's Forums Committee, the discussion focused on the history and effects of the 1977 law and prospects for the embattled current law.
Panelists included:

  • Bruce Winick, a UM Law professor who not only laid out the strategy and drafted the 1977 ordinance but also testified in favor of it at the Dade County Commission and successfully defended it when it was legally challenged.
  • Fred Fejes, a Florida Atlantic University professor who is writing a book about the 1977 law.
  • Mindy McNichols, a lawyer who is chief of staff to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, sponsor of the current ordinance.
  • Heddy Peņa, chair of SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone) Dade, an organization that is organizing supporters to defeat the repeal movement.

Passage of the 1977 ordinance was a defining moment for Miami-Dade County and brought into focus one of today's most important civil rights struggles. The law and the Anita Bryant-led referendum that repealed it focused national and international attention on Miami and Dade County's struggle to extend civil rights protection to a previously unprotected minority group-the gay and lesbian community.

What followed was a national debate, which in the past 25 years has helped promote a more tolerant society.

Panelists agreed that the move to repeal the current ordinance once again places Miami-Dade County in the international spotlight and that the outcome will have a major effect on similar battles brewing across the nation.

Speakers at the event
Speakers at the February 28 event included, from left: Joanne Harvest
Koren; Prof. Bruce Winick; Mindy McNichols; Prof. Fred Fejes; Heddy
Peņa, Dr. Larry Capp, executive director of the Miami-Dade County
Community Relations Board; Prof. Stephen Schnably, associate dean of
UM Law; and Xavier Cortada.

The eyes of the world are on us," Peņa said, citing as examples a recent New York Times lead editorial on the subject and frequent calls to her office by BBC journalists.

Although opinion polls show that a substantial majority of Miami-Dade citizens favor keeping the ordinance in force, she pointed out, what matters is who actually shows up to vote. Emphasizing that voter apathy is a real concern, she said that SAVE Dade estimates that about 167,000 "no" votes will be needed to defeat the referendum.

Along with the panel discussion, the February 26 event featured a showing of a mural by Cortada commemorating the 1977 Human Rights Ordinance. Entitled All Are Equal 1, But Some Are More Equal Than Others 2, the 48 x 108-inch mixed media on canvas work will be displayed in the School's Law Library throughout March.



Published in TWN (The Weekly News), Miami, Florida, on January 24, 2002

On the 25th anniversary of the county’s Human Rights
 Ordinance, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas honored  UM
 law professor Bruce Winick and former County Commissioner
 Ruth Shack for their contributions to human rights at a public forum.





Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board, and the University of Miami School of Law united Jan. 18 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the original Dade County Human Rights Ordinance. More than two decades ago, then-County Commissioner Ruth Shack sponsored the first ordinance to include sexual orientation protection; what followed with Anita Bryant’s "Save Our Children" campaign and the ordinance’s repeal helped to fuel the modern-day gay rights movement.

The anniversary carries even greater significance this year as Miami-Dade County once again seems destined to decide the fate of sexual orientation protection at the polls. The community leaders who participated in the event, held in the Miami-Dade County Commission chambers, had their eyes on the future as they acknowledged the past.

"One of the truest measures of a community’s quality is how it respects the rights of its people, and that means all of its people," Penelas said. "We’re here to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the first Dade County Human Rights Ordinance, and we’re also here to honor the people who helped make that possible and, we’re also here in a bittersweet moment as we regroup and organize our efforts to confront this issue once again, which I’m sure we will do successfully."


Among the participants in a Jan. 18 forum commemorating
the passage of the 1977 Human Rights Ordinance were, left
to right, Larry Capp, Executive Director of the Community
Relations Board; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy
Sorenson; Jorge Mursuli, Florida director of People for the
American Way; Dade Community Foundation President Ruth
Shack; FAU professor Fred Fejes; artist Xavier Cortada,
chair of the Community Relations Board Forums Committee;
and UM law professor Bruce Winick.


Penelas honored Shack and UM School of Law professor Bruce Winick, who was the legal strategist for the 1977 ordinance, for their contributions on behalf of human rights. Miami-Dade County Commissioners Jimmy Morales and Katy Sorenson and elected officials from Miami Beach, South Miami, Miami Springs, Hialeah, and North Bay Village were also on hand to show their support – many with proclamations from their districts to commemorate the date. Artist Xavier Cortada unveiled a new painting, which incorporates images from the struggle for human rights; the painting will be on exhibit in the Stephen P. Clark Center.

The presentations were followed by an educational forum that put the events of the past 25 years in perspective: Winick and Shack shared stories from the trenches; Florida Atlantic University professor Fred Fejes, who is writing a book on the early HRO days, provided additional historical context; and People for the American Way’s Jorge Mursuli, who led SAVE Dade in the successful effort to pass sexual orientation protection in 1998, offered insight on the current situation.

"If we are in this playing the game of politics, then we are not going to be successful. This is not a game, this is life. This is the real time, this is not a civics lesson. This is our opportunity to pull this off," Shack said. "I urge you not to think of me as a hero, but just someone who was doing what it was they served public office to do. I thank those who stood side by side with me. I want us to do this not to send messages, but damn it, I want us to win."