“A rainbow” of residents and officials from across the county gathered Saturday in a North Miami park to witness the unveiling of a sculpture honoring the pioneers of Miami-Dade LGBTQ history.
The 18-color untitled sculpture by artist Alan Gutierrez is “In Celebration of the Contributions of Miami-Dade County’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Community,” according to a ribbon on a monument beside it at Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park, 1725 NE 135th St.
“It was an incredible effort by city staff and myself to do the research to see who was first, when did things happen and to come up with the right phrasing to, hopefully, honor their work,” said North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin, himself described as the longest-serving (nearly 18 years) LGBTQ elected official in the United States.
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Galvin, who spearheaded last year’s effort to build and present the 5-foot-tall sculpture, introduced each of the attending honorees.
“We start with the first — I won’t say the one and only — but we start with the lightning rod, the person who launched the LGBTQ movement across the United States of America,” Galvin said. “Oh yeah, it started here in Miami-Dade County, then Metro-Dade County in 1977. When Ruth Shack as a county commissioner made the motion to amend the human-rights ordinance to include gay people, she not only made history for Miami-Dade County, but she set in motion a force nationally that could not — would not and will not — be stopped.”
In what became the first national battle over LGBTQ rights, singer and Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant rallied conservatives across the United States and led a successful campaign to repeal Shack’s ordinance in June 1977. It took 21 years for the county to restore LGBTQ protections.
“I am honored to be here. I can’t wait to read the inscription. I hope they spelled my name right,” Shack joked at the podium. “I am also beside myself with joy because when we started this pursuit and we tried to get the gay community together, there was no such thing. Because you risked your life, your health, your family reputation and your job if you acknowledged the fact openly that you’re gay. And we see so many of the pioneers who had the courage to come forward here today. It’s so inspiring, so splendid. But we have so much more work to do.”
Following Shack, Galvin and North Miami honored the park’s namesake, state Rep. Elaine Gordon, Florida’s leading voice behind the doomed campaign to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. Gordon died at 68 in 2000. Several of her children and grandchildren represented her at Saturday’s ceremony.
Also inducted into North Miami’s initial LGBTQ hall of fame: Retired Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Sigler, who in 1994 became the first “out” political figure to win judicial office; Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David Young, who came out publicly in 1994 while serving on the county court; Mark King Leban, who in 1995 was the first openly gay man appointed a Dade County court judge; Kevin Burns, who in 2005 became North Miami’s first openly gay mayor; then-North Miami resident Martin Gill, an openly gay man who in 2010 won the right to become an adoptive parent, effectively ending Florida’s 33-year ban on gay adoption; state Rep. David Richardson, who in 2012 became Florida’s first openly gay member in its House or Senate; and SAVE, the LGBTQ-rights group that led the 1998 drive to restore the Miami-Dade human-rights ordinance.