LGBTQ South Florida

LGBT-rights group SAVE Foundation launches business ‘Equality Network’

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, with SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima, speaks at a luncheon Oct. 15 at Florida International University.
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, with SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima, speaks at a luncheon Oct. 15 at Florida International University. SAVE

South Florida-based SAVE Foundation has launched an “Equality Network” of businesses to lobby for passage of the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, which statewide would ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We’re educating the community as much as possible why nondiscrimination policies are important,” SAVE Executive Director Tony Lima said Wednesday. “The SAVE Equality Network is focused on businesses committed to making sure nondiscrimination policies are in place in their businesses. As they sign up they become ambassadors to help convey the message that nondiscrimination policies are important in business.”

Lima said SAVE is working closely with political and business allies including U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, and Mike Valdes-Fauli, CEO of Pinta, a Miami Beach-based international marketing company.

“Sometimes we’re tempted to change a rule or check a box and say we’ve achieved diversity,” Curbelo told attendees at a SAVE luncheon Oct. 15 at Florida International University. “But businesses that truly value inclusion — they think a variety of points of view are a good thing, and they’re primed to compete in the economy of the future.”

Also at the luncheon, Valdes-Fauli said: “I can tell you through my first-hand experience at Pinta and in the business world that equality as a business value is not only the right thing to do, but it's also great for your bottom line, and so I urge all businesses that aim to compete in today's global and diverse economy to join important initiatives like SAVE's Equality Network.”

In August, state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, filed the workplace act for passage in the 2016 legislative session. The bill is also sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, a Wellington Democrat.

“You can get married in the state of Florida if you are an LGBT person, but you can still get fired. Why would I be sponsoring a bill and putting myself out there if there wasn’t a need?” Raschein told the Miami Herald in August. “I’ve got gay friends, gay colleagues, gay acquaintances. I wouldn’t want to see them discriminated against.”

Lima said SAVE is working with local businesses including Hard Rock Cafe, Baptist Hospital of Miami, Akerman LLP and Magic City Casino. Other businesses supporting the workplace act include Wells Fargo, Florida Blue, Citi, Morgan Stanley and CSX.

SAVE’s effort, which Lima says focuses on small business and local education, compliments a statewide campaign by LGBT-rights group Equality Florida, Equality Means Business. On Monday, Curbelo will speak at an Equality Means Business luncheon to be held at the Westin Colonnade in Coral Gables.

Lima said SAVE’s campaign puts particular emphasis on transgender inclusion.

“Over the past year we’ve been educating voters at the door with our long-form canvassing model to reduce prejudice toward the LGBT community, with the focus on the ‘T’ and to lay the educational groundwork to pass policy. We’re educating voters in the most conservative neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County. We’re doing this in English and in Spanish to help reduce prejudice. Field staff and trained volunteers are having these conversations.”

Justin Klecha, SAVE’s director of campaigns is passionate about passing the workplace act.

“Nondiscrimination laws set the tone for the state to say we are open for business and we want to attract the best and the brightest for the state. At the end of the day when we go to work, what’s important is how we do our jobs and not other aspects of our lives,” Klecha said. “Nondiscrimination laws are important so that we all have the same access to fundamental rights, such as being able to get a job, buy or rent a home. We all want the same things for our friends and families and children — to have a shot at making a good life for ourselves and going after the American dream.”

Klecha, 31, who is straight, says he has worked years for LGBT rights.

“My aunt is a lesbian. That whole fear from the opposition that kids learning about gay people are going to make them gay is a myth. I’ve known about my aunt since second grade and I’m still straight,” he says. “I do this work for my family and my friends.”

Steve Rothaus: 305-376-3770, @SteveRothaus

If you go

▪ What: U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Miami, speaks at the Equality Means Business luncheon

▪ Where: Westin Colonnade, 180 Aragon St., Coral Gables

▪ When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16.

▪ Tickets: $35 for members of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Chamber South, Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce or Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce; $45 nonmembers. Space limited. RSVP to Mike Reedy at 813-508-8499 or