GAY RIGHTS

Tickets on sale for gay rights documentary chronicling 1977 fight with Anita Bryant

 

LGBT-rights documentary

The Day It Snowed In Miami, a chronology of the LGBT-rights movement focusing on its early days during the Anita Bryant campaign in Miami-Dade County, is a feature-length documentary by Joe Cardona in association with the Miami Herald Media Company and WPBT2.

The film will air locally at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 6, on WPBT2 and nationally on PBS throughout the rest of 2014.

A premiere screening will be at 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, at the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach.

Film tickets are $10 and may be purchased online at www.colonytheatremiamibeach.com or call 305-434-7091

For more information, www.MiamiHerald.com/gay.


The political battle lines were clearly drawn in 1977 when gays sought approval of a then controversial Dade Human Rights Ordinance, which guaranteed they would not be discriminated because of their “affectional or sexual preference.”

Opposing the ordinance: a group of conservatives led by nationally-known singer Anita Bryant, the state’s orange juice pitchwoman who lived in Miami Beach.

The dramatic clash — the ordinance was initially approved and repealed months later by voters — marked a seminal moment in the nation’s gay rights movement now captured in a documentary that premieres Tuesday night 3/4 at the Colony Theatre on Miami Beach.

The feature-length film by director Joe Cardona in association with the Miami Herald Media Company (MHMC) and WPBT2 will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on Thursday by WPBT2.

Its title, The Day It Snowed In Miami, serves as a metaphor: the ordinance that sparked the outrage was debated by commissioners on an uncharacteristically frigid night and some opponents at the time remarked that the ordinance would pass “when hell freezes over.”

The morning after the ordinance was approved — Jan. 19, 1977 — Miamians woke up to snowflakes for the first and so far only time.

At the time, then Dade County was the first metropolitan area in the South to pass an ordinance prohibiting housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Months later, however, voters repealed the ordinance by a 2-1 margin. It wasn’t until 1998 when Miami-Dade County commissioners approved the original ordinance in yet another dramatic vote.

The passage and subsequent revocation by voters of that ordinance sparked a national movement that brought the topic of gays and lesbians into American households. Some called it a national wake-up call for gay rights activists.

Miami Beach’s Bob Kunst, the most vocal leader, sums it up in the film this way: “If you thought we were a bunch of pansies ... you were wrong,” he says of his conservative opponents.

Bryant, who now lives in Oklahoma, declined to be interviewed for the documentary, but one of her children, William Green, who lives in South Florida, was interviewed and helps explain his mother’s motivation.

Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said the documentary is another way for journalists to enlighten the public.

“We are looking through the prism of the past at an issue that is once again at the center of a national conversation,” Marqués said. “With our partners, including sister newspaper el Nuevo Herald, we are using documentary style elements as another journalistic tool to tell this important story.”

The documentary, a second for MHMC in association with Cardona and WPBT2, gives a unique historical perspective of the times. The first film, which examined Haiti’s future and past following the 2010 earthquake, was honored with an Emmy Award.

In The Day It Snowed In Miami, Cardona and Jose Iglesias, an el Nuevo Herald videographer, who is the film’s editor and director of cinematography, trawled through tons of old black-and-white historical footage to retell the story. Miami Herald LGBT issues reporter Steve Rothaus provided expertise to help shape the complex tale.

As the movie evolves from the gay-rights tug-of-war to the events of the times, clearly another villain for the gay community is the rise of AIDS —punishment from God, as Bryant’s troops would say.

Another hit to the gay rights movement’s gut was the murder of gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, who had visited Miami during the campaign to repeal the ordinance. He returned to California with a resolve to fight against similar legislation.

Also featured in the documentary is former Miami-Dade Commissioner Ruth Shack, the champion of the gay rights ordinance, whose late husband Richard was Bryant’s onetime booking agent. He had asked the singer to support his wife’s entry into local politics — and Bryant agreed.

It is Bryant, a 1959 Miss America pageant contestant, who plays a prominent role in the documentary as she successfully leads her organization, “Save Our Children,” and takes her fight nationwide.

One long-forgotten incident speaks volumes of the tension between gay rights supporters and conservatives. The impeccably dressed Bryant was hit in the face by a gay activist with a pie at a news conference.

“God, forgive him,” she prays in front of her attacker, obviously seething, as she wipes the pie from her face.

.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category