LGBT history in Florida

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This article concerns LGBT history in Florida.


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."[1]

Florida's first specific sodomy law, which was enacted in 1868 and made sodomy a felony, read: "Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding twenty years." In 1917, the Florida Legislature added a lesser crime, a second-degree misdemeanor: "Whoever commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person shall be punished by fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment not exceeding six months."[2]


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.[3] 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 the local NBC television station aired a documentary entitled "The Homosexual" in 1966 warning viewers that young boys were in danger from predatory men.[4]


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.[5]

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. 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8]

In 1997, Equality Florida was established, becoming the largest statewide LGBT rights lobby organization.[9]


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.[10] As of mid-2011, the state's sodomy law, though unenforceable, had not been repealed by Florida legislators.[11]

Since the passage of the Florida Amendment 2 in 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. Florida Third District Court of Appeal ruled in In re: Gill favor of the ruling on September 22, 2010, thus legalizing same-sex adoption in Florida after 33-year ban.

In 2009, Miami Beach held its first gay pride parade ever.

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

Notable LGBT Floridians[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Pope Duval (1839). Compilation of the public acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida, passed prior to 1840. S. S. Sibley, printer. p. 120. 
  2. ^ "Franklin v. State, Florida Supreme Court, December 17, 1971, accessed July 14, 2011". Retrieved 2013-11-02. [dead link]
  3. ^ Fejes, p. 62–63.
  4. ^ Fejes, p. 64.
  5. ^ Turbe, Laura A. "Florida's Inconsistent Use of the Best Interests of the Child Standard," 33 Stetson L. Rev. 369 (2003-2004), accessed July 16, 2011, pp. 377-381. See footnote 34, p. 374.
  6. ^ Fejes, p. 66.
  7. ^ Tanasychuk, John (June 4, 2007). "Exhibit Marks 30th Anniversary of How Anita Bryant Fought—and Helped—Gay Rights", The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, p. 1.
  8. ^ Ronni L. Sanlo (1999). Unheard Voices: The Effects of Silence on Lesbian and Gay Educators. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-89789-640-5. 
  9. ^ "About Equality Florida". Equality Florida. Retrieved November 11, 2013. 
  10. ^ New York Times: "Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas Law Banning Sodomy," June 26, 2003, accessed May 24, 2011
  11. ^ Florida Statutes 2010, Official Internet Site of the Florida Legislature, accessed July 16, 2011 The statute reads: "800.02 Unnatural and lascivious act. — A person who commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. A mother's breastfeeding of her baby does not under any circumstance violate this section."