The Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce presented its 10th annual “State of Our Community” EXPOsure & Luncheon on Jan. 27 at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, 1633 N. Bayshore Dr., Miami.
At the beginning of each year, the Chamber conducts a networking luncheon where key leaders of the community talk about their upcoming plans and potential impact on the LGBT community. Speakers consist of the mayors of the main cities in South Florida (Miami-Dade County, City of Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, etc.) and leaders of two human rights and political organizations in the LGBT community (SAVE, Equality Florida).
The event is an opportunity for attendees to network with each other and to listen to speakers talk about their 2022 plans impacting the LGBT community. The luncheon usually attracts around 150 guests and is preceded by a business expo, showcasing up to 20 MDGLCC members promoting their products and services.
Chamber CEO Steve Adkins said the pandemic may have forced the MGLCC to move in a different direction, but its multiple networking events a year, such as the “State of Our Community,” are still a mainstay for its members.
“When COVID happened, we pivoted to a virtual directory. It has become more successful than the print version from an advertising perspective. That book is up online and we will take that book virtually to every single event we have,” Adkins said. “This chamber has 110 networking events a year. Please support our members always. That’s what SOMA stands for and that’s what our book represents — the membership in this organization.”
Adkins added: “We have just north of 500 companies who belong to this organization. We’re the second-largest LGBT chamber in the United States. And we represent a $9 billion local economy. That’s the number of LGBT people times the personal GDP. Those numbers are verified by a national report that came out a few years ago. Please support our members. They support you.”
Guest speakers at the luncheon included the mayors of various municipalities and leaders of local organizations defending LGBT equality. Those in attendance were Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.
When addressing the South Florida mayors and guest speakers, Adkins said, “one of the things that we’re most proud of all three of you is your dedication to our community, especially the LGBT business community. Each of you have been involved in either establishing or helping elevate the LGBT community by forming advisory boards that guide you on discussions, decisions and policy.” Adkins proceeded to ask the mayors “what are some of the things your groups are working on [pertaining to LGBT issues] and if not that, what would you like to have them work on?”
Gelber replied: “When it comes to LGBTQ social justice issues, we do not check boxes. The obligation of my city is to create the boxes that other cities check. With my city, we’re only constrained by our imagination, honestly. Last year, we did Harvey Milk Way outside Pride Park underneath our new Pride flag. We do that kind of stuff [in Miami Beach] every day.”
As the parent of a lesbian daughter married to a woman, Cava considers herself a supportive LGBT ally. She said the county was the first to raise the first-ever Pride and Progress flags and added Miami-Dade works closely with its LGBT advisory board to address several problems facing the community, among them a concern for the treatment of the trans population in county jails.
“We also have the first-ever office of equity and inclusion in county government,” which is soon designing an LGBT community needs assessment in partnership with SAVE and other organizations. “We want to know what the community needs and it will be the first of its kind,” said Jason Smith, head of the Miami Beach LGBT advisory committee.
Cava said Miami-Dade is committed to doing “everything that we can to elevate the voice of this community, ensure that our policies and practices are equitable and that we address any kind of bias or discrimination” against the LGBT community. “Anything we can do to move the needle, we’re here.”
Suarez says he was very proud to sponsor the creation of an LGBTQ advisory board in the City of Miami.
“We’re focusing on the youth, we’re focusing on some marginalized populations like the homeless, older adults and individuals living with AIDS and HIV,” Suarez said. “I think people need to know what treatments are available. I was surprised to know what treatments are available.”
Suarez says he wants to start a campaign called HIV-Free Miami and go from being number one in the nation with incidents of HIV to being HIV-free.
“I’m often talking about all the statistics and all the times Miami is ranked number one. This is not one I want to be ranked number one,” he said.
Suarez says the City of Miami is also working with the transgender community, “which, to me, I feel are very much under attack. We’re working with our advisory board to come up with policies that will try to restore some of the dignity that’s been taken away from that community.”
Suarez announced he sponsored anti-conversion therapy legislation in the City of Miami, which passed by a narrow 3-2 margin.
“We looked at statistics, we brought in experts, and it only passed 3-2 when it should’ve been unanimous. There’s still work to be done.”
Suarez, however, is proud that for the last four years as mayor, Miami’s LGBTQ score increased from 73 to 89. “But I’d like it to be closer to 100, go from an 89 to 95,” he said.
Adkins says the Chamber wants to work with South Florida cities and counties to help accomplish their goals.
“Where barriers exist, let us as a community help you come up with workable solutions in the areas of diversity and inclusion,” Adkins said.
Courtesy of Miami Gay News.