Miami Then And Now: Always Gay Friendly

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Always Gay Friendly

Aqua Girl

Aqua Girl

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Miami Beach Pride Parade

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By Kara Franker & Liz Cepeda

Rolling out the rainbow carpet to LGBTQ travelers

Attracting more than one million LGBTQ visitors a year, Miami Beach even has its own dedicated LGBTQ Visitor Center. And while our art and culture just keep growing, one thing hasn’t changed: Miami loves the gays.

Always famous for an energetic 24/7 nightlife scene, gay clubs have existed in Miami since the 1930s. But it wasn’t until the seventies that the local LGBTQ community really started to take center stage. Known as the “golden age,” gay bars began popping up all over town and the first gay pride week was celebrated on Lincoln Road.

The 70’s was a big decade for the LGBTQ community. Christ Metropolitan Community Church was founded in Miami in 1970 as a congregation for gay and lesbian Christians, attracting hundreds of parishioners. Then in 1972, the Democratic National Convention was held in Miami where for the first time there was a public speech about the rights of gays and lesbians. Club Baths opened in Miami in 1974, giving the community a gay bathhouse where men could enjoy spa amenities such as saunas and steambaths. Miami also became one of almost 40 cities in the country to pass nondiscrimination ordinances against gays and lesbians in 1977.

Throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s, Miami Beach became the hub of what became known as the Versace era filled with glamorous, star-studded parties and celebrity guests. Popular places of the day included Warsaw, Paragon on Washington Avenue and Salvation on West Avenue. Restaurants and boutiques kept popping up to cater to the burgeoning LGBTQ community. The Palace on Ocean Drive – because “every queen needs a palace” -- has been a popular mainstay for nearly 30 years and is still home to lively drag queen shows.

But it wasn’t just about the party scene. Leonard Horowitz, the openly gay co-founder of the Miami Design Preservation League led the charge alongside Barbara Capitman to promote the preservation of Miami’s iconic Art Deco architecture. SAVE Dade, an organization that fights for equality was founded in 1993 and continues to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination. In 1997, Equality Florida was established, becoming the largest statewide LGBT rights lobby organization.

The Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (MDGLCC), the largest non-profit corporate in the county for gay and lesbian businesses, open its doors in the late 1990s. Steve Adkins took over as the President of the MDGLCC in 1999, immediately taking a keen interest in promoting Miami as a year-round, gay and gay-friendly tourist destination. George Neary, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor's Bureau’s Assistant Vice President of Cultural Tourism/LGBTQ Marketing, led the first LGBTQ press trip back in 1997-- before other destinations had even heard of the gay travel market and continues to tout the greatness of Gay Miami around the globe.

To learn more about the contributions of gays and lesbians to the history of Miami Beach, make sure to take the Gay & Lesbian Walking Tour of Miami Beach. This monthly excursion is offered the second Saturday of each month by the Miami Design Preservation League and starts at the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive.

Today the LGBTQ scene in Miami is stronger than ever. Gay marriage has been legal in the state since January 6, 2015 and Miami Beach has just been listed as a 2017 Top Municipality for LGBTQ Equality with a perfect score on the LGBTQ Task Force equality index. There are gay weddings officiated at some of the most beautiful churches and beaches throughout the city, exciting nights to be had at Twist and Score and after a night of hard partying you have Miami Beach’s only totally gay place to stay Hotel Gaythering. There is no question that opportunities to celebrate the LGBTQ community in Miami are abundant.

The LGBTQ parties and events year-round are also endless. From the ever glam Winter Party Festival to the never-to-be-missed White Party, Miami has the hottest gay and gay-friendly events in the country. The Miami Beach Gay Pride has grown into the largest, two-day event of the year, in May there is also Aqua Girl for the ladies as well as Sizzle Miami offering even more opportunities to celebrate pride.

See our list of the best Gay annual events in Miami. You can also check out, a website featuring a great community calendar listing all events happening in the area.

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