On the morning of Jan. 19, 1977, it snowed in South Florida for the first and only time.
To many, it was as improbable an event as the ground-breaking human rights ordinance narrowly approved by the Miami-Dade Commission the night before, even as critics said it would pass “when hell freezes over.”
It was a short-lived victory. Anita Bryant, the face of Florida’s citrus industry, launched an opposition campaign that led to the repeal of the ordinance and thrust the state — and the gay rights issue — into the national spotlight. It would take 21 years for Miami-Dade County to restore the ordinance, which prohibited discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community members in the public sector.
We chronicle that trajectory in a new documentary, The Day It Snowed In Miami, a collaboration between the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald, independent filmmaker Joe Cardona and WPBT2, the local PBS affiliate. The idea for the film was conceived two years ago, as the public debate over gay rights, including same-sex marriage and adoption, gained momentum in the national political discourse.
“The genesis of the modern day LGBT-rights movement can be traced back to that human rights ordinance passed in Miami-Dade,” said Nancy San Martin, Interactive Editor for the Miami Herald.
The subsequent repeal at the polls galvanized the long-silent gay community and brought talk about LGBT issues into American households, San Martin said.
“For me, it was an opportunity to shed light on a Miami story that has tremendous national ramifications,” said Cardona, the film’s director. “It is a story of a community’s struggle for equality.”
The documentary brought together the same creative team that filmed Nou Bouke: Haiti’s Past, Present and Future, an Emmy Award-winning documentary following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
For this new film, San Martin, Cardona and el Nuevo videographer Jose Iglesias teamed with Steve Rothaus, whose Miami Herald Gay South Florida blog is the go-to source on LGBT-related news, and executive producer Shed Boren.
The film premieres Tuesday in two screenings at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. The 7:30 p.m. showing is sold out but tickets are available for the 10 p.m. showing. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.colonytheatremiamibeach.com.
If you miss the screening, the film also will be broadcast locally at 8 p.m. Thursday on WPBT2 and nationwide on the PBS network throughout the rest of the year.
Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, executive editor, can be reached at 305-376-3429 or amarques@MiamiHerald.com. The mailing address is 3511 NW 91st Avenue, Miami, FL 33172. Follow on Twitter @MindyMarques..