MIAMI (BP)–An effort to repeal the homosexual-rights ordinance of Miami-Dade County appeared to fall short in the Sept. 10 primary election in Florida.
With 656 of 754 precincts tallied the morning of Sept. 11 amid a new round of election glitches, the anti-repeal vote totaled 52.9 percent, with 47.1 percent in favor of repeal, or 145,971-130,100.
The Democratic primary between former Attorney General Janet Reno and Tampa lawyer Bill McBride remained too close to call the morning of Sept. 11 pending tallies from Miami-Dade County and other south Florida precincts. The winner will face Gov. Jeb Bush in November.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas, a leading supporter of the homosexual-rights ordinance adopted by the Miami-Dade County Commission in 1998, said, “… we sent a very strong message today,” the Associated Press reported.
“All ethnic groups were on the same page today on this issue,” Penelas claimed. “There’s no room for discrimination of any sort,” he said, describing Miami as “a community of inclusion.”
The Miami Herald quoted Penelas as also saying, “We’ve come a long way since Anita Bryant,” the actress and singer who led a religious coalition in a successful 1977 repeal effort against an earlier homosexual-rights ordinance.
AP reported that a leader of the Take Back Miami-Dade organization at the forefront of the repeal effort claimed the vote had been rigged. “Anti-repeal forces are in control of the mayor’s office and the department of elections,” said Eladio Jose Armesto, according to the AP.
Armesto, a Catholic layman, is the publisher of a Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Patria. His selection to the “Hispanic Media 100” top Hispanic journalists in the nation is being protested by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Armesto initially voiced his allegations about the election in a news conference Sept. 6.
Armesto said he had alerted the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI via registered mail that, according to internal sources, Dade County elections supervisor David Leahy was “rigging the computerized voting machine in order to undercount votes for the repeal of the sexual orientation [ordinance].”
Each of the county’s 6,500 voting machines must be individually programmed, according to elections officials.
A spokesman for Leahy told the Miami Herald that Armesto’s accusation was “preposterous” and insulting, while Penelas said it was “just one more indication that you have a campaign run by extremists based on demagoguery and fear.” Penelas said repeal forces were losing in the polls and thus trying to discredit the other side by holding a last-minute news conference.
Armesto, on election day, additionally accused Penelas and other local mayors who opposed the repeal effort of “pandering to homosexualist extremists, who are nothing more than grown-up crybabies who want special rights,” the Herald reported.
Baptist Press could reach neither Armesto nor Bryant for comment Sept. 11.
The ordinance adds “sexual orientation” to discrimination prohibitions in housing, employment, lending and public accommodations.
Since the law went into force in December 1998, 71 complaints of alleged discrimination have been filed, with more than half the cases still pending, according to the Herald.