LGBTQ South Florida

Gala aims to unite split Miami Shores community after gay marriage vote

Facebook graphic created to promote the Unity Ball in Miami Shores.
Facebook graphic created to promote the Unity Ball in Miami Shores. Via Facebook

A feud between gay marriage supporters and opponents has forced the cancellation of the Mayor’s Ball in Miami Shores and the creation of the Unity Ball. But not everyone is united behind the new event.

Mayor Herta Holly said she will not attend the ball although she supported a controversial gay marriage resolution.

“They can do whatever they want,” she said. “I’m deeply disappointed because I represent a town of 11,000 people, and they certainly should know 11,000 people do not think the same way.”

But there was still significant support throughout the village, which has the 12th-largest population of same-sex households of small cities in the United States.

The Mayor’s Ball was canceled after two volunteers chairing the event backed out when the village failed to pass a non-binding resolution in July supporting marriage equality. Holly and Councilmen Hunt Davis and Jim McCoy voted against the resolution while Vice Mayor Jesse Walters and Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma favored it.

“There is no valid reason to do what they did other than discrimination,” said Robert Bourne, chairman of the Unity Ball, and a former chairman of the Mayor’s Ball. “They might be managing, but they’re not leaders.”

In September, the council revisited the resolution and approved it, 4-1. Holly and Davis changed their votes in favor of gay marriage, and McCoy voted no, adding that politically sensitive issues should not be debated by the council village.

“I’m glad that they turned the vote around, I truly am,” said Elizabeth Hitt, former chairwoman of the Mayor’s Ball and current member of the steering committee for the Unity Ball. “But I think the bruises are still there.”

The Unity Ball committee was formed after the split in the Mayor’s Ball steering committee. Seven Shores residents stepped forward to organize the new event with a three-month deadline.

On Saturday, more than 400 people are expected to attend the ball at the Miami Shores Country Club, which is sold out. It will feature “Adora,” one of the top drag queens in Miami, DJ Jody McDonald, a performance with Young Arts student alumni and a silent auction.

“It’s going to be fabulous,” said Dennis Leyva, a steering committee member and gay rights activist. “It’s going to be a community building event and we are going to have fun.”

Several council members plan to attend, including Walters and Ledesma. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson is also expected.

Like the Mayor’s Ball, the community gala will focus on raising funds for charities and grants. The committee welcomes everyone, including Miami Shores educational program, cultural arts, service organizations and social clubs, to apply for the grants.

“There’s been such an outpouring of support, for the Unity Ball, for gay rights from this community,” said Julia Hammond, who is helping plan the event. “From the businesses and organizations from this community, the churches, the women’s cancer association bought a table, the women’s club did. There’s so many business and restaurants have offered all sorts of donations for silent auction items.”

All net proceeds will benefit local schools and organizations. In lieu of the canceled Mayor’s Ball, Holly and the Miami Shores Community Alliance will host a $25 brunch on Nov. 9.

“I think this has been the tipping point for Miami Shores of what we are as a community, what all of us believe in and how we expect the future to be,” Leyva said.