Gay-rights documentary to screen in Fort Lauderdale, air widely on PBS

 

nsanmartin@MiamiHerald.com

A documentary that showcases South Florida’s role in the gay rights movement will make its national debut beginning Sunday, ultimately airing in June on more than 100 PBS channels across the United States.

The Day It Snowed In Miami — by director Joe Cardona in association with the Miami Herald Media Company (MHMC) and WPBT2 — also will be screened at The Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, and DVDs are available for purchase at http://hrld.us/snow.

The feature-length film traces the political battle lines drawn in Miami in 1977 when gays sought approval of a then controversial Human Rights Ordinance, which guaranteed they would not be discriminated against 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The dramatic clash — the ordinance was initially approved and repealed months later by Miami-Dade voters — marked a seminal moment in the nation’s gay rights movement, one now captured in the documentary. The film, which has aired on WPBT2 in South Florida, now begins its national broadcast during Lesbian and Gay Pride Month on KOCE in Los Angeles and WTTW in Chicago.

In the month of June alone, the documentary will broadcast on about 64 percent of the top 25 PBS markets stretching from the East Coast to the West Coast and reaching an estimated 69 million households.

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.”

Besides Los Angeles and Chicago, the film also will be carried by PBS affiliates in other major metropolitan cities, including Dallas, New York and Atlanta, as well as in smaller markets such as WJSP in Columbus, Georgia, and KAID in Boise, Idaho.

The film’s title, The Day It Snowed In Miami, serves as a metaphor: The ordinance that sparked the outrage was debated by Dade County 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.

Back 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 commissioners of the county, which had been renamed Miami-Dade, 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.

For ticket information on Thursday’s screening in Fort Lauderdale and to see a trailer, visit http://hrld.us/snowscreening.

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