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After 21 years

Gay rights victory in Dade County Fla.

By Shelley Ettinger

On Dec. 1, the Miami-Dade County Board of Commissioners passed a law outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. For the lesbian/gay/bi/trans community, it was a great victory.

And it was a long time coming--21 years, to be precise. In 1977 singer Anita Bryant led a vicious right-wing campaign to repeal Miami's original gay-rights law.

Miami had been in the first wave of major cities to pass such a measure. But the anti-gay mobilization nominally organized by Bryant packed such a powerfully reactionary punch that after the 1977 repeal passed, it took many years for progressive forces to regroup.

Last year the law was reintroduced. The board voted it down.

This time around, the right wing--spearheaded by the Catholic Church hierarchy--tried to pit the Miami area's big Latino community against lesbians, gays, bi and trans people. But a pro-equality coalition called SAVE Dade brought in supporters from every community and progressive movement to wage a united fight for the law.

At a Dec. 1 demonstration demanding the board pass the ordinance, SAVE Dade volunteer Jesse Brooks said: "I'm an African American straight male. My goal is to end discrimination no matter what its face is or where it comes from."

The measure passed by one vote. Reactionary groups announced they would try to repeal it again.

The next day, Miami Herald columnist Liz Balmaseda decried the fact that "the good men and women behind the amendment were forced to argue and plead for what should be their most basic human rights. ... That only seven of 13 commissioners voted in favor of what should have been a no-brainer is an embarrassment," she added.

Every attempt to win equal rights requires a huge struggle. And every victory is met with attempts to beat back the struggle.

The right wing of the ruling class pushes--and funds the campaigns to push--bigotry, fear and division. They were behind Anita Bryant 21 years ago. And they were behind the murder of Matthew Shepard two months ago.

These forces have money and power. But in the face of a mass movement that has grown broader and stronger in the last 30 years, they are losing the contest over consciousness. Polls show that most people oppose anti-gay discrimination.

Debunking a myth

Now a study has punctured one of the right wing's favorite myths in the propaganda wars.

On Dec. 3, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force announced, "Contrary to what has become conventional wisdom on the subject, gay, lesbian and bisexual people do not earn more than heterosexual people. In fact, they may even earn less."

NGLTF's report is titled "Income Inflation: The Myth of Affluence Among Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Americans." It is based on findings by M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts.

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