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LGBTQ Org Fires Director After He Defended Alleged Gay Bashers at Gala

Miami Beach Police Department

SAVE's Tony Lima has been terminated.


An LGBTQ organization in Miami axed its executive director following controversial remarks at a recent fundraiser.

Tony Lima, formerly the head of SAVE, reportedly defended four men convicted of a hate crime June 14 at the group's Champions of Equality Gala at Hard Rock Stadium.

Onstage, Lima allegedly said the men -- Luis Alonso, Juan Lopez, Adonis Diaz, and Pablo Romo (pictured above) -- were "wrongfully accused" of attacking a gay couple, Rene Chalarca and Dmitry Logunov, as they held hands leaving Miami Beach Pride last year.

Police had charged the four with aggravated battery committed with prejudice, which is a hate-crime charge in Florida. The case is still active, and the state attorney's office announced last week that it was confident it could prove the charges.

Lima disputed the phrasing in a video posted last weekend that has since been taken down. However, former Miami Herald reporter Steve Rothaus, an honoree at the gala, confirmed the remarks.

"I wanted to give [the men accused of the hate crime] the opportunity to make themselves better," he said. "I don't remember ever saying 'wrongfully accused,'" said Lima, according to WFOR TV, a local CBS affiliate. "I don't speak in those terms, I'm not an attorney, but if that's what I said in haste, I apologize for that. I am no one to pass judgment on this case."

The men were present at the gala. They had purchased tickets and had been volunteering with SAVE -- acts that showed Lima that they were repentant.

"About six weeks ago I received a call from the gay parents of one of the four men that were accused of this horrific crime and they said they wanted to get involved with SAVE, they wanted to give back to the community, and really be able to show the community that they are committed to being their best selves," he said.

"My mistake [was] I did that on my own, I didn't check in with my board or anyone like that," he added. "When I saw them at the event I wanted them to feel welcomed and really be able to have the opportunity to engage with our community at a deeper level."

The board of SAVE initially said Lima would be placed on a paid administrative leave while the case was reviewed. However, the group released a statement Monday announcing Lima's termination.

"We deeply regret the damage this has caused the LGBTQ+ community in South Florida, particularly during a time when the country was reflecting on the riots at Stonewall as well as the many other hardships and abuses that our community continues to endure," the board members stated. "These actions have been incredibly upsetting to the community and most of all, hurtful to the victims of this terrible crime."

In a Monday statement to the Miami Herald, Lima also apologized to the victims of the attack. "I made one mistake in my tenure of six years as the leader of SAVE and I've paid dearly for it," he said. "Again, I apologize to the victims and to those in the community that were hurt by this. Hurting anyone was never my intention."

SAVE was formed in 1993 to lobby for LGBTQ rights in south Florida; its name is an acronym (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone) as well as a reappropriation of Anita Bryant's 1970s-era antigay "Save Our Children" campaign.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.
Daniel Reynolds is the editor of social media for The Advocate. A native of New Jersey, he writes about entertainment, health, and politics.