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Equal rights law might be axed

Voters in Miami-Dade County will be remembered for their decision on Sept. 10. Voters will decided whether to repeal a law that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. Other states, including Michigan and Washington, will be facing similar dilemmas in coming elections. The fact that such an initiative could be on a ballot in 2002 is absurd, and residents of Miami-Dade need to be aware of the damage they will do, should the law be thrown out.

The law in question, to allow for fair hiring of gays and lesbians, was first passed in 1977, and, later that same year, was repealed through a campaign led by former beauty queen and orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant. Nothing was accomplished for gay rights in Miami-Dade County until 1998 when the law was again voted on and passed.

The major battle being waged is whether morals or fair treatment is more noble. However, being allowed to refuse to hire someone based solely on his or her sexual preference is just as discriminatory as refusing to hire someone because he or she is black.

While Florida or the United States does not have an anti-discriminatory law to protect gays and lesbians, the steps Miami-Dade County made were forward-thinking and a giant leap forward for all Americans and fair treatment. Civil rights movements in the 1950s and 1960s were necessary steps to allow minority groups to be recognized as contributors to society. Blacks and women both had to fight to maintain an equal position, and still fight today.

Gays and lesbians are a minority just as these other groups. It is only right to make allowances for equal treatment, and to ensure that discrimination in any form is avoided. Miami-Dade County voters will be taking a step backward for themselves and the state if they choose to repeal this law. It is legislation that needs to be supported and expanded, not banished from the books.