If you are an LGBTQ+ person in south Florida, your life has been touched—and in so many ways improved—by this year’s SAGE & Frends/Miami honoree.  Rosemary Wilder is the quintessential SAGE Pioneer, having been instrumental in building the institutions and organizations that Miami’s LGBTQ+ community relies on to this day.

  • She was a founding member and past co-chair of SAVE and SAVE-DADE. During her tenure the Human Rights ordinance, which had been repealed during Anita Bryant hysteria, was reinstated.  The vote was reported around the world with the iconic photo of Rosemary in triumphant tears, being hugged by fellow activists and friends, Richard Milstein and Richard Sherman.
  • She was a founder and early board member of GALLA, the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association in Dade County (now part of the Miami Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce).
  • Her support of the Aqua Foundation for Women, began at its inception. She was the early Aqua Girl Pool Party water sponsor, volunteered at many events and was a Scholarships and Grants Committee member.
  • Rosemary worked closely with the legal teams at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, when they were litigating cases in FL.

But it is the ACLU of Florida that has been the lucky beneficiary of much of Rosemary’s passion and leadership for over 30 years.  She served as its Board President for 2 terms, and is now the immediate past President.  During her first term as President, the ACLUFL brought the cases that challenged Florida’s laws barring same-sex marriage. The ACLUFL worked tirelessly challenging bans on gay adoption and has been victorious in several cases establishing the right of gay-straight alliances to exist and flourish in schools statewide.  Rosemary was the Chair of the first Amendment 4 committee, 15 years ago, and chaired the first statewide conference on Second Chance Voting Rights.


Rosemary’s support of our community is not limited to organizations and institutions—she brings a fiercely personal level of support as well.  Over 30 years ago with understanding and encouragement, she mentored two trans individuals through their transition, and they have remained life-long friends.  Rosemary and her wife, Karen Costello-Wilder have long supported Pridelines.  Together they have gifted custom made suits to a beloved member of our community, and outfitted kitchens for homeless youth when they secure a safe place to live.


To appreciate the full scope of Rosemary’s contributions, it is worth noting that while a freshman at Barry University, she saw first hand the sting of homophobia as the school expelled a lesbian couple and other gay students simply for being true to themselves.  She had an early career as a biologist, rising to Director of Labs at Hollywood Memorial Hospital and writing numerous articles for scholarly journals before a course in business law during her MBA studies (on scholarship) introduced her to the law.  A single mom and fulltime employee, she nonetheless enrolled at the Shepard Broad School of Law at Nova Southeastern University and graduated with honors in 1984. In fact, her activism started in earnest then as the founding member of the first LGBTQ+ Student Law Group at Nova.


Rosemary lives in Palmetto Bay, with Karen, her wife of 21 years.  Their daughter Suzanne and grandchildren Isabel, Xavier and Evelina live less than a mile away. She loves all things Jackie Chan, British murder mysteries, college football, Hallmark Christmas movies, all the fish in the sea, being Grammy, New Zealand lamb chops, and practicing law.


Click here to purchase a sponsorship or donate to SAGE & Friends Miami in honor of Rosemary Wilder.