Happy Pride Month: Check Out Some Florida LGBT History

Image created using photos from Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons.

History was never as straight as we are told. Recording our history means reporting the truth.


After Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, the Territorial Legislature enacted laws against fornication, adultery, bigamy, and incest, as well as against "open lewdness, or … any notorious act of public indecency, tending to debauch the morals of society."

Florida's first specific sodomy law, which was enacted in 1868 and made sodomy a felony, read:


The general attitude about homosexuality in Miami mirrored many other cities' across the country. Though gay nightlife in the city had enjoyed the same boisterous existence as other forms of entertainment in the 1930s, by the 1950s, the city government worked to shut down as many gay bars as possible and enacted laws making homosexuality and cross-dressing illegal. From 1956 to 1966, the Johns Committee of the Florida Legislature actively sought to root out homosexuals in state employment and in public universities across the state, publishing the inflammatory "Purple Pamphlet", which portrayed all homosexuals as predators and a dire threat to the children of Florida. In the 1960s The Miami Herald ran several stories implying the life of area homosexuals as synonymous with pimps and child molesters, and WTVJ, a television station, aired a documentary titled "The Homosexual" in 1966 warning viewers that young boys were in danger from predatory men.


Florida courts interpreted the 1868 law to prohibit all sexual activity between two men or two women. In 1971, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the "crime against nature" statute as unconstitutionally vague. The court retained the state's prohibition on sodomy by ruling that anal and oral sex could still be prosecuted under the lesser charge of "lewd and lascivious" conduct.

The public image of homosexuals changed with liberalized social attitudes of the late 1960s. In 1969, the Stonewall riots occurred in New York City, marking the start of the gay rights movement. Though gay life in Miami was intensely closeted, and bars were subject to frequent raids, Christ Metropolitan Community Church—a congregation for gay and lesbian Christians in Miami—was founded in 1970 as a religious outlet, attracting hundreds of parishioners.

JESS CLAWSON University of Florida: The 1972 Democratic National Convention was held in Miami, featuring, for the first time, a public speech about the rights of gay men and lesbians by openly gay San Francisco political activist Jim Foster. Jack Campbell opened the Miami branch of Club Baths in 1974. When it was raided, he made sure that all charges against those arrested were dropped, filed a lawsuit against the Miami Police Department prohibiting further harassment, and received a formal apology from the police. Even the depiction of gay men and lesbians in the local newspaper had changed to that of a silent, oppressed minority. By 1977, Miami was one of nearly 40 cities in the U.S. that had passed ordinances outlawing discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

In 1977, partly due to the anti-gay Save Our Children campaign led by Anita Bryant in Miami, the Florida Legislature passed a law specifically prohibiting homosexuals from adopting children.

In 1978, in an effort to stop the anti-gay work happening in Florida, the Florida Task force was created. It was the lesbian and gay civil rights lobby in Tallahassee, and likely the first statewide LGBT organization with a paid lobbyist. Patrick Land was the first executive director/lobbyist. Dr. Ronni Sanlo was the second, serving from 1981 to 1983. One of the primary pieces of work during that time was to fight the Bush-Trask amendment, an addendum to the Florida appropriations bill that would have eliminated all state funding (including football money!) to Florida's colleges and universities that supported LGBT student organizations. The bill was signed into law but was found unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.

In 1997, Equality Florida was established, becoming the largest statewide LGBT rights lobby organization.


Same-sex sexual activity remained illegal in Florida until 2003, when the United States Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws with Lawrence v. Texas. As of mid-2011, the state's sodomy law, though unenforceable, had not been repealed by Florida legislators.

Since the passage of the Florida Amendment 2 on November 4, 2008, by a vote of 61.9% in favor and 38.1% opposed, both same-sex marriage and civil union had been banned by Florida's state constitution. Despite that temporary setback, a major victory for LGBT rights on November 25, 2008, when Judge Cindy S. Lederman declared the ban on homosexuals adopting children violated the equal protection rights under the Florida Constitution. 

Same-sex marriage in Florida became legal on January 6, 2015, as result of Brenner v. Scottl.


Thanks to "Adoph" DeSantis, all our gains are in jeopardy. Dark days ahead. Once again we are an easy target for homophobes and self-righteous politicians. We might have to enlist all the Drag Queens to restart a Stonewall 2.

Watch your backs and don't be complacent. This is war.

Pier Angelo was born in Italy, moved to England at the age of 17 and learned English at the Nelson School of English. He attended college and graduate school in Manhattan. In 2009 he founded SFGN with Norm Kent. Now he’s retired with his husband Tom and his Affenpinscher Cabbage.


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