Jorge Mursuli, Former SAVE Chairman, Dies at 63

Jorge Mursuli. Courtesy photo.

Compassionate, intellectually curious and sensible are words friends of Jorge Mursuli use to describe his character, but above all, the late gay-rights leader knew how to build consensus.

“He was a great listener,” said Miami Commissioner Damian Pardo. “Jorge was a very good example of someone who listened intently and was able to build coalitions that brought people together.”

Mursuli died of heart failure on May 6. He was 63. 

“He gave of himself immensely and accomplished things when there was no playbook,” said Pardo. 

Mursuli led SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone) during a pivotal time in the movement. In 1998, the organization successfully advocated and passed the Miami-Dade County Human Rights Ordinance, which secured equal rights for gays and lesbians in employment, housing, public accommodations and credit and financial services. 

Pardo fondly recalls their first meeting. 

“He called our volunteer line and I picked up the phone,” said Pardo, who was SAVE’s first chairman. “He was disturbed with what was happening and wanted to get involved. That was the nexus of his activism.” 

At that time, the effect of Anita Bryant’s 1977 anti-gay crusade had put Florida, not unlike today, on the front lines of the culture wars

Fluent in English and Spanish, Mursuli quickly went to work in arenas others could not. He worked in management for the Florida East Coast Railway, was a registered Republican and erstwhile Roman Catholic, which set him apart from other, more radical activists.

“He was a team builder, who knew who worked well together, what needed to be done and how to do it,” said Greg Baldwin, a retired attorney who participated in the creation of what was then known as SAVE Dade. 

“Most importantly,” Baldwin said, “he never let his ego get in the way. Actually, he was too goddamn self-effacing and I told him that.” 

In a video interview with HistoryMiami Museum, Mursuli credited relationships developed with straight allies that got the human rights ordinance over the finish line. 

“We won this thing because we were able to move enough LGBT allies,” he said. “Moving LGBT people wasn’t enough.” 

Liebe Gadinsky was one of those allies. 

“He almost single-handedly mobilized a diverse team of advocates across political lines to reshape the law and build the LGBTQ community,” said Gadinsky, who served as SAVE’s treasurer at the time. 

Fighting alongside Mursuli instilled a sense of confidence that would propel Gadinsky into several prestigious board positions. 

“He changed my life,” she said. “Put me on a trajectory I never could have imagined.”

Born Jorge Alberto Mursuli del Valle in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, Mursuli immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of 6. The Mursulis eventually landed in South Florida when Jorge was 16, and soon he was off to the University of Florida, where he slept with a man for the first time. 

He would find true love in the form of a ballet dancer from Peru. Mursuli and Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros were together for 33 years. Gamonet died at 63 in 2021 from COVID-19. 

“Jimmy was a brilliant choreographer and so immensely kind,” recalled Pardo. 

Mursuli held strong feelings about the Fidel Castro regime in Cuba and some say that stance, specifically his warning to South Florida politicians and cultural leaders not to publicly oppose the ban on cultural exchange programs between Miami and Cuba, ultimately cost Gamonet his job as resident choreographer for the Miami City Ballet. 

“That was widely understood,” Pardo said. “Jorge was a staunch anti-communist.” 

Mursuli held leadership positions at People for the American Way Foundation and Democracia USA, an organization he founded, but is largely remembered for his work at SAVE. 

“He galvanized the organization,” Baldwin said. “I think we’ve lost one of the most effective leaders we’ve ever had.” 

Mursuli is survived by his sister Evelyn Peguero, nephew Ramiro Antorcha and niece Evy-Marie Pereira. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made at


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