« Unity Coalition: Call Sen. Marco Rubio regarding immigration reform and demand 'equal rights' | Main | HUD releases first-ever same-sex housing discrimination study of private rental market »

C.J. Ortuño of SAVE Dade resigns to become CUNY law school's executive director of development

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, [email protected]

C.J. Ortuño, the straight, married dad who for five years has run Miami-Dade County's leading gay-rights group, has resigned to take a development job with City University of New York law school.

Ortuño, executive director of SAVE Dade, will move next month to New York City with wife Charlene and their 5-year-old daughter, Amalia.

"I’ve accepted a position as executive director of development for CUNY School of Law. They’re a public interest law school in Long Island City," Ortuño, 36, said Monday night. "My start date is the end of July."

Ortuño, who grew up in Miami-Dade County and graduated from Killian Senior High, Miami Dade College and Florida International University, joined SAVE Dade in 2008 -- weeks before Florida voters enacted the state's Amendment 2, which defines marriage as a union only between one man and one woman.

Previously, Ortuño had been development director for Hands On Miami, a nonprofit volunteer-based social entrepreneur organization.

Ortuño put those skills to use when he succeeded Heddy Peña as SAVE Dade's executive director.

Under Ortuño's leadership, SAVE Dade helped secure domestic-partner benefits in cities including Coral Gables and organized political campaigns, including David Richardson's successful 2012 run for state legislature, making him the first openly gay Florida lawmaker.

"C.J. brought a level of professionalism, professional management, to SAVE Dade that we had never really had before. He brought fundraising and political skills and brought us significant new resources to plow into missions of the organization," said mortgage broker Joseph Falk, SAVE Dade's previous board chairman. "There's no question the results are apparent. Our task now is to look out to five more years of growth and find an executive director who can lead to new heights."

Falk is chairing the committee to replace Ortuño. A quick national search is planned. "Our view is expansive. We are not limiting our search to Miami-Dade County," Falk said.

Attorney Brian Adler, SAVE Dade's current board chairman, said he is disappointed Ortuño will soon leave.

"We want to congratulate C.J., obviously. He’s embarking on a wonderful new journey," Adler said. "Anyone’s who has worked with C.J. knows his unwavering dedication to the LGBTQ community."

Ortuño describes himself as "a completely different person" than the young man who first went to work at SAVE Dade.

"There was a tremendous amount of responsibility placed on my shoulders. I’ve been able to build a connection to a cause that doesn't directly affect me, yet completely affects me. I've been able to create this overwhelming sense of empathy and compassion that I didn’t know I had inside of me," he said. "It allowed me to manifest some values that were inside me as a person, but didn’t know how they shaped me. Values of respect and dignity and equity."

Two things surprised Ortuño most in his five years at SAVE Dade.

"First, the value of the work, the purpose of the work. Acceptance and fairness and equality were afforded to me by a community that I am not exactly like. Here I am, this straight guy running an LGBT advocacy organization, asking for the acceptance on behalf of a community. That same idea of acceptance was afforded to me," he said. "I was the person who was different, coming to a community of difference, where I was accepted.

"Ultimately, that allowed me and the organization to be embraced and see some success. That is what the success of the movement will be. Because acceptance is a two-way street," he said.

"The second thing I learned was just because you are gay or transgender doesn’t necessarily mean you are part of the movement," Ortuño said. "I thought it was going to be easy: If you are gay or lesbian or transgender, you are going to support SAVE Dade, of course.

"I quickly realized I had my work cut out for me even in the community that was affected by the work. The movement is so diverse. The movement is realizing success at such a rapid pace, that level of diversity doesn't always speak to somebody just because they are LGBT.

"During the time of 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' to tell the 60-year-old gay man or lesbian that being in the military was important. Or to tell the 15-year-old queer kid that marriage is important."

Ortuño named another challenge: Reminding well-to-do LGBT people in places like South Beach and Miami's Upper East Side that the movement is "also about the 13- or 14-year-old boy in Hialeah or Overtown who is being marginalized, without the power or the access."


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Blah blah blah. He has always been a shady character hiding behind this "knight in shining armor" schtick. Board members: I'd comb through your financials THOROUGHLY before he skips town. You will be sure to find some kind of scandal. Just saying...

Its good that this corrupt individual with no morals is out of our city. While I had never heard of him it is disturbing to hear of his promotion of perverted lifestyles.

Clearly "Told you so..." reveals his ignorance by not understanding that SAVE's books are managed by an outside person known to be above reproach, with proper professional audits and a smart and active Board. Seems as if there is a personal issue here, clearly from someone who doesn't even understand what contributing money or time to the community means. CJ has done more for the LGBT community in Miami-Dade than anyone since Jorge Mursuli, nearly a decade ago. Why such an attack when the real record is clearly the opposite. No one can accomplish so much without disagreeing with some. Such hostile, personal animus needs a therapist, not an unidentified blurb. Eat our own -- that's his model.

Posted by: Stephen Herbits

CJ is an incredible person and Miami is losing an important leader in our community. Thanks to Stephen Herbits for your post in defending the integrity of CJ and Save Dade. I couldn't agree with you more.

Why dignify stupidity by responding to it?

Here, here, Steve and Franc. CJ is a visionary of the highest character, and his talent has changed the landscape of the LGBT movement in Florida. There seems to be a group of people in Miami, like "Told you so..." but not limited to the Gay community - who reflexively believe that anyone in a leadership role is on the take. This allows them to embrace cynicism and avoid participation, exactly what feeds the status quo. It gets us nowhere fast, only allowing the civically challenged to wallow in their self pity, paranoia and inaction. They create a poisonous environment that makes it harder for those who do want to improve things to do their jobs. Told you so.... is pathetic.

He's straight? Oh please!

Told you so.. And Ed.. Ignorant is bliss, yet your plainly just IGNORANT, morons, pathetic, self loathing, hateful, sick individuals. To take such a beautiful moment away from such an incredible person. Who has done more for this community in his pinky than you have your whole pathetic lives. Mandela said it best“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
I hope you find some love for all the hate you spurge!

The comments to this entry are closed.