Established to honor leaders of the community who have significantly advanced the cause of equality for LGBT people in Miami-Dade County, the ‘Champions of Equality’ Award winners have been announced for 2010.

South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Miami Major Manny Diaz and Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, and Bacardi U.S.A. Inc. are among the honorees so distinguished.

“The importance of recognizing those in our community who have used their position to advance equality for all is that it gives their colleagues and peers an opportunity to connect with what is righteous; therefore, asking themselves tough questions about their own leadership and participation,” said C.J. Ortuño, executive director of SAVE Dade.

South Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) is one our strongest and most steadfast allies in Congress. Ros-Lehtinen helped pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act into law in 2010. She has earned the title of Champion of Equality for her own support of pro-equality legislation and for garnering support for such legislation from her colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. is the world’s leading producer of wine and spirits, and is the first corporation bestowed with the Champions of Equality award for its strong support of the LGBT community and their organizations. For more than 15 years, Bacardi has leveraged its in-kind contributions to boost the fundraising goals of SAVE Dade, Aqua Foundation, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Miami Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff and former Mayor Manny Diaz sponsored a domestic partnership ordinance that was passed unanimously, by The City of Miami Commission. The ordinance offers health benefits to declared domestic partners of city employees and their children in the same manner as the city offers such benefits to spouses of married employees and their children.

Chairman of the Board, Orlando Gonzales explained “Honoring the leadership of Ileana, Manny, and Marc is something I am very proud that we are doing. Their recognition exemplifies that equality is nonpartisan and can be embraced by all parties, religions, and cultures in the rich diversity of South Florida. And, Bacardi of course is long overdue this acknowledgement as they consistently stand behind the community.”