One year after Anita Bryant led a crusade to prevent homosexuals from having their way of life protected by law, the gay community which fought and lost is in many ways thriving more than ever, despite becoming divided and weak as a political force.
Gay bars are flourishing. Miami, Miami Beach and Hialeah have 32, compared with 25 a year ago. One that opened six months ago has a disco dance floor, pinball machine, pool table, female impersonator shows and photos of male nudes flashing on the wall. The manager of this bar, the 13 Buttons, says it already has 6,000 members, who pays $5 a year.
New publications serving the local homosexual community have appeared. And the area continues to be a magnet for gay tourists despite the voter's decision on June 7, 1977, to repeal Dade County's five-month-old ordinance banning discrimination in employment, housing and public accomodations on the basis of "affectional or sexual preference." The vote, 202,319 to 89,562, received national publicity and was widely interpreted as a rejection of the gay lifestyle. It was followed by balloting to repeal similar ordinances in St. Paul, Minn., Wichita, and two weeks ago, Eugune, Ore.
The current vitality in Miami's gay community comes as no surprise to Donald Embinder publisher of Blue-boy, a Miami-based gay magazine that claims national circulation of 173,000. "I never perceived Dade County as an unpleasant or difficult place for gays to live and live well," he said.
Beyond these outward manifestations, some gays point to less tangible but perhaps more meaningful gains since the emotional campaign of a year ago - gains that, in their view, convert defeat into a victory of sorts.
They say that more gays have begun to "come out of the closet," and that many "straights" have been exposed to the realities of homosexuality for the first time. "It's no longer a taboo subject to discuss," said Robert Basker, 59, a former gay leader.
Bob Green, whose wife, singer Anita Bryant, led the fight for repeal, scoffs at talk of a gay victory: "What else are they going to say - that it's disaster?"
Robert Brake, an attorney who worked with Bryant on behalf of repeal, said the vote proved that "she and not the homosexuas are in the mainstream of society." Brake said his impression is that "the homosexuals have gone back in the closet, so to speak."
Discrimination, against gays in Dade County increased only slightly, by most accounts, after June 7 vote.
Now, according to a number of gays, the situation is as it was before the vote, though perhaps with a "tougher edge," as one put it.
"We didn't notice the law was there; it went out the window before we could use it," said Tom Hoey, 36, manager of a Miami Beach motel that caters to gays.
Jan Feagans, executive director of the county's Fair Housing and Employment Appeals, said there were only complaints to her agency during the short life of the ordinance. Both involved housing and both were later dropped. But in the first two days following the repeal vote, five gays complained to her that they had been fired from jobs.
Feagans said that fear of harassment undoubtedly kept others from complaining. In any case, she said, her agency no longer has jurisdiction, and "there is a feeling of hopelessness because it's quite clear now that they can't come to us."
Green acknowledges discrimination - although he says he uses the word only in a descriptive way, without a negative connotation . He and his wife entered the fray to prevent any homosexual - "a person that we consider sinful" - from being allowed to teach their children.
"They have their magazines and their publications, and they have the job opportunities and the freedoms to speak out and do anything they want, as long as they don't infringe upon the freedoms of other people," Green said.
G. Michael McKay, vice president of the Dade County Coalition for Human Rights, one of the two principal factions in the gay community, said that employers give other reasons for dismissing gays and that gays are often reluctant to complain for fear of revealing their lifestyle.
McKay, 27, a radio disc jockey who "came out" publicly three days before the referendum, said one result of the controversy a year ago is that more gays have confronted themselves and decided to come out.
On the other hand, McKay said, some guys, particularly those in sensitive positions such as teachers, have gone deeper into the closet. "Everybody left the middle ground," he said.
Victor Lopez, 29, a clinical social worker, was counseling child patients at a kidney treatment center last June 7. "That particular day," he said, "the electorate here in Dade County decided that people like me were not fit to work with children. Now here I was working in terms of the psychological needs of these children, and people were saying that I was trying to corrupt children. So it was a turning point in my life. . . ."
Lopez said he began to admit his homosexuality to professional colleagues. "Originally some people reacted with schock," he said, "but in time they realized that I am basically the same person and that I remain constant and a caring individual and a person that they could respect and relate to." Lopez said he subsequently left his job at the clinic for reasons unrelated to his homosexuality.
Several agencies report increases since last June in the number of homosexuals seeking counseling, Linda Philhour, a social worker for United Family and Children's Services, a private, nonprofit agency, said she receives 10 to 20 calls per month on homosexual matters. About half of the callers are persons "questioning whether they are gay or not," she said. The others have problems related to their homosexuality, such as relationships with lovers.
As for the political activists, they are few and divided over matters of style, personality and goals.
The Sunshine Party Movement headed by Robert Kunst, 95, a garulous former anti-war activist, plans to gatther petitions for another county-wide vote this November. This one would encompass other issues as well as gay rights, such as legalization of prostitution and marijuana.
Would the rival Dade County Coalition for Human Rights, which itself has been split by factionalism, support Kunst? "I would doubt it," said McKay, the vice president. John W. (Jack) Campbell, 45, the outgoing president, was blunter: "He's just doing it to get publicity for Bob Kunst. . . . He's probably sincere about feeling the need for these things, but they are not going to happen in the near future."
Campbell, who owns a chain of gay clubs, near future."
Campbell, who owns a chain of gay clubs, should have been adopted in the first place, because "I really feel we need to be fighting these battles on the state and national levels, not locally."
If a gay rights issue is on a ballot again, would Anita Bryant and Bob Green campaign against it? Said Green: "I guess we'd be considered hypocritical if we didn't."