LGBTQ History Month proposal attracts homophobic discourse, activists say

The LGBTQ History Month proposal that failed on Wednesday during a Miami-Dade School Board meeting attracted the voices of homophobic groups.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A Miami-Dade School Board member’s resolution to recognize October as LGBTQ History Month attracted activists from openly anti-LGBTQ groups.

Andrea S. Pita Mendez, 17, the school board’s student advisor, said she was very scared during the school board meeting on Wednesday, which included a hostile audience.

Attorney Max R. Price, a grandfather who opposed LGBTQ History Month, said it was a “highly divisive” proposal and there was “anger” and “animosity” because it raises “fundamental questions of personal values, morality, and deeply held religious beliefs.”

Fatima Chaiken, a foster mother, and the Miami-Dade County Council Parent Teacher Student Association’s vice president of advocacy and legislation said many felt dejected amid the anger and animosity.

“I am very saddened today to see some groups and some people spewing hate. It’s about kindness. It’s about love. It’s about unity. It’s about bringing our community together,” Chaiken told the crowd later adding, “Keep it classy, ladies. Enough!”

A trans woman was among the supporters of H-11 who said there were members of “hate groups” in the audience that were using words such as “indoctrination” to “dehumanize” the LGBTQ community. A man brought up “Satanism” and others described LGBTQ as an “ideology,” “left-wing social experiment,” and a “sexual lifestyle.”

Black-clad members of the Proud Boys made their presence known in and out of the building. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization, classified it as an “extreme group” with a “general hate” ideology.

School Board chair Perla Tabares Hantman’s repeated requests to maintain the rules of decorum went unheard so many times that security had to intervene. School Board member Luisa Santos, who represents District 9, said she was outraged by the misbehavior.

School Board member Marta Pérez, who represents District 8, accused The Christian Coalition, a conservative advocacy group, of “fear-mongering” while campaigning against the H-11 action proposed by School Board member Lucia Baez-Gellerr, who represents District 3.

Tabares Hantman, School Board vice chair Steve Gallon III and six other School Board members — Pérez, Santos, Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Lubby Navarro, Mari Tere Rojas, and Christi Fraga — voted against H-11 citing conflicts with a controversial state law.

Baez-Gelle said the academic aspect applied to Supreme Court cases in 12th-grade classes and parents would be able to opt-out to stay in compliance with state law. She also said Miami-Dade County Public Schools doesn’t have an LGBTQ curriculum.

That did not appease Eulalia Maria Jimenez. She was among the opponents who said H-11 violated Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Parental Rights in Education law, which critics referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill since it prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade.

“This is indoctrination; this is not history,” said Jimenez, who introduced herself as the chair of Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade, a therapist, and a mother of six.

Alfred Santamaria, a former Miami-Dade County Commission candidate, said loving and respecting people that think differently is clearly important, but he said he opposed H-11 because it “promotes indoctrination.”

Rev. Abraham Rivera said he was representing the South Florida Hispanic Pastors Association, with more than 1,000 churches and some 150,000 churchgoers who want the best for all MDCPS students. He associated H-11 with “sexual coercion” and described it as an “implicit endorsement.”

“We don’t think taxpayers’ money should be used for the indoctrination of our kids,” Rivera said.

Anthony Verdugo, the executive director of The Christian Family Coalition Florida, said the organization of over 100,000 “fair-minded” voters asked the board to vote against the H-11 resolution.

“Parents do not send their children to school for eight hours a day and they do not sign up for ideology,” Verdugo said.

Patrick Harrington, who introduced himself as the father of a five-year-old, described H-11 as “odd and inappropriate” and something that is going to introduce “sexual topics.” He said he believes that every person has human dignity and characterized being LGBTQ as a personal decision.

“I believe that there is a lie that is being fostered in our current culture, and we see it over and over, that if someone disagrees with the behavior that means they hate you,” Harrington said adding, “That’s irrational and just flat out wrong.”

Juan Carlos Sanchez, a father of two, read a part of 1 John 4:7 from The New King James Version of the Bible saying, “Let us love one another, for love is from God.” He followed it by associating H-11 with the smuggling of “radical gender theory.”

Eladio Jose Armesto, the chairman of the Florida Democratic League, said H-11 was problematic and said there were “valid and legitimate fears” that it would “give rise to abuse, bullying, invasion of privacy, sexual grooming” and “gender confusion or dysphoria.”

A 59-year-old man in a same-sex marriage said he was on his way to the gym listening to the public’s comments during the school board meeting on WLRN, and he was compelled to change his plans. He drove to the school board building and stood behind the podium.

“I am gay and I knew I was gay when I was 5 years old. Nobody indoctrinated me. I wasn’t abused. Nothing horrible happened to me. I just knew ... And as a gay child, I felt completely alone ... There are lots of children out there today who are in the same boat I was,” he said. “Let’s not pretend that they don’t exist. Let’s not pretend like they are not worthy.”

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.