News » Local

SAVE Dade Honors LGBT Advocates

by Gideon Grudo
Friday May 4, 2012

Setting an example means doing the right thing - but it sure helps when someone recognizes the effort. That's exactly what SAVE Dade will be doing at its upcoming Champions of Equality awards ceremony.

The night will be devoted to paying homage to people who've had a positive effect on the LGBT community in South Florida. On May 11, the public is invited to attend the cocktail reception, silent auction and showcase. The 19-year-old organization, devoted to protecting LGBT people against discrimination, will award a senator and a law firm for their advocacy. The event will also highlight six advocates who will be inducted into SAVE Dade's Hall of Champions.

"We have to reward elected officials just like when we remind our community when somebody acts against the LGBT community, voting against freedoms or against a pro-LGBT initiative," said CJ Artuno, SAVE Dade's executive director. "That doesn't mean that the folks who do good things will always do good things, but we have to recognize them when they do good deeds."

The idea is that other politicians will see that working on behalf of the LGBT community is not a political risk, according to Artuno. This way, SAVE Dade is not only supporting the community but awarding those who do.

"I think the event, fundamentally, also serves as a way to highlight what good behavior is like, what types of actions and initiatives that ultimately support the equality movement," he said. "For us it literally is recognizing our good guys, the folks who are on our side, and in an interesting way shaming those who think that LGBT Americans shouldn't have equal rights."

The honorees this year are Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and law firm White and Case. The two are partly responsible for getting rid of the ban on LGBT people serving openly in the military.

Otherwise known as Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), the ban forbade LGBT service men and women from disclosing their sexual orientation or discussing it while in service. According to SAVE Dade, more than 13,000 service people were discharged for violating this ban. Nelson's vote against the ban helped end it in December 2010.

For-profit law firm White and Case was at the time defending service people pro-bono. The firm's main client was the Log Cabin Republicans, a national LGBT Republicans grassroots organization. The LCR argued that the government had to defend itself on the ban and why it was of any importance to intrude on and violate the privacy of LGBT service people.

The second part of the award ceremony will be inducting six people into SAVE Dade's Hall of Champions. According to a SAVE Dade spokesperson, this hall was implemented in 2011 as an effort to honor long-term volunteers that have done a lot for Miami Dade.

Elizabeth Schwartz is one of the six. She's been practicing law in South Florida for 15 years, a lot of work benefiting the LGBT community. The local and national lecturer has worked pro-bono to end Florida's ban of LGBT couples adopting children, and serves on several boards in the area, including Miami Beach's Bar Association, where she's President-Elect, and the city's Human Rights Committee.

Richard Milstein and Eric Hankin are also being inducted into the hall. The two activists have proven themselves with their work for the LGBT community. From working with AIDS victims and developing the Pride Seder (and its Haggadah) to fighting for the passage of the Human Rights Ordinance and domestic partnership protections, the two have aided South Florida's LGBT in more ways than can be counted.

Next is Joan Schaeffer, the first woman to serve on the board of the Dade Human Rights Foundation. She's served on several other pro-LGBT boards and played a part in starting Project YES from the YES institute. She's a founding member of Ru'ach, the LGBT community at Temple Israel, where she's Vice President for Administration and Vice Chair of the Social Justice Committee.

Finally are Mark Steinberg and Dennis Edwards, who met in the 80s while being volunteers for the Health Crisis Network (today's CARE Resource). While serving on its board, Edwards created the first-ever AIDS Walk Miami, according to SAVE Dade. The two volunteered for organizations ranging from Pridelines Youth Services to the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The couple, which married in 2009, have been recognized by cities, counties, the state and the nation for their work.

The event will also act as a fundraiser for SAVE Dade, which survives from donations and events like this. Cristy McLelland, who was a co-chair of the committee that selected the honorees, said that the organization always looks to improve its ceremonies, which are part of the community SAVE Dade tries to protect.

"We're looking to raise very serious money - this is truly a team effort. Without the community and the things that they do, we wouldn't get as far as we are," she said. "People are coming to us and asking us how they can help."

Visit for more information.

[If You Go]
Come for the silent auction and honorees, stay for the cocktails

Friday, May 11, 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

55 NW 36th Street
Miami, FL, 33127

How Much:
$95 in-advance (
$125 at the door

Copyright South Florida Gay News. For more articles, visit


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook