Awards ceremonies are still important — even during the coronavirus crisis. Most of us still need some inspiration. You can find some during SAVE’s 2020 Champions of Equality virtual gala. It’s happening this Friday, Aug. 28, at 7 p.m. 

“The evening is a combination of two things,” said Orlando Gonzales, SAVE Executive Director. “Number one is a lot of inspiration. And the second is a line of personal reflection about why public service matters and why voting matters. Those personal reflections are really what makes the night so special because we hear from people like volunteers and the elected officials who give us so much of themselves to make things happen.” 

The evening celebrates politicians, civic and community leaders, scientists, thought leaders, and others who stand and support equality for LGBT people. More on the honorees in a moment.  

This year, because of the coronavirus, the gala is virtual, making it easier for more people to experience it. First, this won’t be just a Friday night Zoom call. This event is filled with incredible entertainment like Grammy and Latin Grammy winner Robbie Elias performing his new single. There are also auction items available for bidding.  

The event is free. But you must register to attend. You can find more information here

The 2020 Champion Honorees are State Representative Nicholas Duran and State Senator Jason Pizzo.  

“The reason why we chose Representative Duran and Senator Pizzo is because they have taken up work that was started by Senator Rene Garcia,” Gonzales said. “They are carrying forward in pushing legislation that decriminalizes the HIV/AIDS status of an individual. Right now, there are many laws in which somebody who's HIV positive can easily be prosecuted for their status because of issues related to consent. This includes situations where a person who doesn't know their status and may infect someone who still held to criminal-level charges even when they don't know. It's also important to lift the stigma from the disease, the condition, and the virus.”  

The Equality Legacy Awards will go to familiar faces this year who always support the LGBT community. The honorees are four Miami-Dade Commissioners — Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan, Dennis Moss, and Xavier Suarez. 

“They are retiring and leaving the board of county commission now because of term limits,” Gonzales said. “Some of these folks, you know, we can always count on them whenever there was a huge LGBT issue that came up, we knew we could count on their votes. They were engaged with us. But the reality is that because their hearts and their minds were inclined to justice, they always checked with us to make sure that the issues that we were advocating for were ones that they fully understood.”  

The Hall of Champions Award goes to scientists — Dr. Susanne Doblecki-Lewis, Dr. Besiki Luka Kutateladze, Dr. Steven A. Safren, Dr. Mario Stevenson, Dr. José Szapocznik.  

Dr. Doblecki-Lewis, Dr. Stephenson, and Dr. Szapocznik are infectious disease experts, honored for their work with HIV. 

Dr. Kutateladze is a research scientist looking at the way hate crimes are reported. “His work is going to transform the way that hate crimes are seen,” Gonzales said. 

Dr. Safren is examining the role of mental health when there’s an HIV infection and diagnosis. “This work is critically important,” Gonzales said. 

The Community Hero Awards go to Robin Bodiford and Jorge Mursuli. In the 1990s, in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties respectfully, Bodiford and Mursuli created the movement that brought the first version of the Human Rights Ordinance. “The recent Supreme Court ruling determining the sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under the Civil Rights Act demonstrates that what these two individuals did in the 1990s was way ahead of their time.”


The announced recipients of the 2020 Champions of Equality. Photos via SAVE, Facebook.