Miami Shores

Same-sex marriage issue divides Miami Shores

In a city with a large percentage of same-sex households and an openly gay vice mayor, a symbolic resolution supporting same-sex marriage seemed like “something kind of simple” to Miami Shores Councilwoman Ivonne Ledesma.

“But what I found was that that wasn’t the case,” she said.

Whether or not to support gay marriage has split Miami Shores, with proponents flying rainbow flags on their immaculate front lawns and opponents speaking out at Village Hall.

Village leaders originally voted down the nonbinding measure on July 15.

A similar symbolic resolution will come before the council again Monday night, introduced by Mayor Herta Holly, who voted “no” the first time around.

Holly could not be reached for on Friday and Sunday on her apparent change of heart.

Ledesma introduced the first resolution on July 1, but postponed the vote to give the community a chance to express their opinion on the issue.

Vice Mayor Jesse Walters says organizations supporting the resolution thought it was going to be defeated July 1, but brought it before his colleagues again two weeks ater.

“That’s when it failed,” he said, becoming the “first city in all of Florida to vote no.”

Miami Shores — a village nestled between North Miami and Miami and best known for its strict code enforcement, small-town feel and many churches, including Archdocese of Miami headquarters — has the 12th largest population of same-sex households of small cities in the U.S.

Mayor Holly, Councilmen Jim McCoy and Hunt Davis all voted against the resolution in July, outvoting Walters and Ledesma.

Some residents asked the commissioners to reject the gay-marriage measure.

“The Miami Shores Village Council is not a place to promote one side or the other of this issue. In Publix, what I’m hearing is, why is the village taking this up?” Ed Quinton, a former Miami Shores councilman, said that day.

Holly said she was voting no on the issue because “I think it’s wrong to ask a city municipal board to make a statement about something that is out of our control. Miami Shores is made up of many people with many thoughts.”

“There are varying opinions and they’re strong. I’m not one of those individuals that thinks our council should be weighing on this,” McCoy said.

Since then, Walters said the village hasn’t been the same. It’s neighbor vs. neighbor on the issue.

“The community is in a different place than it was two months ago,” Walters said. “The side that favors marriage equality has lost their innocence. I think they thought that these people really were their friends. They feel angry and betrayed.”

Dennis Leyva, a Miami Shores resident and gay-rights activist, said 10 of 20 households on his block are made up of same-sex couples.

“To see, in 2014, that an elected official slapped the face of a large section of the population, I was outraged,” said Leyva, who has been married to his same-sex partner for almost a year.

On Monday night at Village Hall, the mayor will present a resolution similar to the first. One change removes a line that says the council opposes current laws and constitutional amendments that deny equal access to legal marriage for same-sex couples. Similar to the original measure, it still encourages the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott to enact a law that would provide for same-sex marriage in Florida.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Miami Shores Village Hall at 10050 NE Second Ave.

Related stories from Miami Herald