Miami-Dade County

Gay-rights group endorses Miami-Dade mayor for support of transgender protections

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addresses the media outside his County Hall office in this file photo from Jan. 15, 2016.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez addresses the media outside his County Hall office in this file photo from Jan. 15, 2016. DOUGLAS HANKS

Miami-Dade’s top gay-rights group is backing Carlos Gimenez in his reelection campaign, re-upping its endorsement of a Republican who supports same-sex marriage and the county’s new protections for transgender men and women.

SAVE endorsed Gimenez’s earlier runs for mayor in 2011 and 2012, and said it did not need to interview any challengers before deciding to back the incumbent in the 2016 mayoral race. “The mayor has been such a champion for us,” said Tony Lima, executive director of SAVE, which is best known by its former name of SAVE Dade. “We veered from our traditional process in order to be able to early-endorse him.”

Lima described Gimenez as a key behind-the-scenes backer of the 200-member group’s 2014 fight to expand the county’s anti-discrimination laws to include transgender protections when it comes to housing, employment and even mundane tasks such as using a public bathroom. “He met with me at least once every three weeks to discuss strategy,” he said.

When the transgender-protection ordinance passed in late 2014 after an emotional debate, Gimenez was on record supporting the proposed law but did not address commissioners as he has in other high-profile controversies. It passed 8 to 3. Weeks later, in his 2015 State of the County address, Gimenez touted the new transgender law as well as court decisions that legalized same-sex marriage first in Miami-Dade and then throughout Florida.

“I was proud to stand with commissioners who voted to protect our transgender residents in December of last year,” Gimenez said, “and welcomed the court rulings that finally gave adults the right to marry whomever they choose.”

Though county offices are officially nonpartisan, Gimenez’s endorsement of same-sex marriage and transgender rights set him apart from other Republicans urging that marriage be limited to men and women and that biological gender be the dividing line for lavatories and locker rooms.

Gimenez’s main rival, Raquel Regalado, is also a Republican. Lima said SAVE’s endorsement committee did not meet with Regalado or the less well-known candidates for the mayoral race.

In a statement released by SAVE, which stands for Safeguarding American Values for Everyone and now operates in Monroe and Broward counties, Gimenez said he wanted to “cement” his “pro-equality legacy” during a second full four-year term. Gimenez first took office in a 2011 special election following the recall of then-Mayor Carlos Alvarez, and won his first full term the following year. SAVE Dade backed Gimenez in both races.

“I’ve made a commitment to serve ALL MIAMIANS, and one of my proudest legacies as Mayor will be the historic strides toward equality we made together during my first term on issues like nondiscrimination protections for transgender folks,” Gimenez said in the statement.