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SAN FRANCISCO – Chely Wright will be among those honored on Saturday, May 21, as the National Center for Lesbian Rights celebrates 34 years of LGBT legal advocacy.
The gala will be at the Metreon Cityview in San Francisco.
NCLR's Anniversary Celebration is often called "the party of the year," attracting a sell-out crowd of 1,700 people from across the country to celebrate victories in the movement for full LGBT equality, and to honor those who have become role models for thousands of people through their unfailing commitment to justice.
Here are the awards and honorees:
The Voice and Visibility Award: Country music star Chely Wright and her father Stan Wright
The Voice and Visibility Award honors an individual who has helped to give voice and visibility to LGBT people. This year's award goes to country music star Chely Wright (shown below) and her father Stan Wright. Chely has shown unwavering courage since coming out in 2010, at the height of her career in Nashville, as the first openly LGBT country music star. She became a role model for others by sharing the painful, inspiring, and moving story of the heartache she suffered by trying to live in the closet, and the despair that finally propelled her to choose between taking her own life or coming out.
Chely has used her fame to speak out about the terrible shame, pain, and harm that are inflicted on LGBT people—and especially on LGBT youth—by a culture that still views LGBT people as sinful and immoral.
Chely’s father, Stan Wright, has stood by her side through every step of her journey, showing his unconditional love—an example for LGBT children and adults who may fear losing their family's loving support by living authentically. Chely and Stan continue to stand up and speak out as people of faith, unchanged by the fact that Chely is a lesbian.
Spirit Award: George Washington University basketball player Kye Allums
The Spirit Award honors an individual whose strength of character embodies and invigorates the spirit of the LGBT community. This year's award goes to George Washington University basketball player Kye Allums. Kye is a pioneer in the world of intercollegiate sports.
In November 2010, he became the first Division I basketball player to come out as transgender, demonstrating extraordinary bravery and character by living genuinely and unapologetically as a transgender man. Through his simple act of continuing to play the sport he loves as the man he is, he has helped to change the landscape for other athletes.
Justice Award: Former Belmont University soccer coach Lisa Howe
The Justice Award honors an individual who has shown the courage and perseverance to fight for justice and sacrificed to make broad social change for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. This year's award goes to former Belmont University soccer coach Lisa Howe. Howe stood strong in the face of ignorance and bigotry, becoming a role model for not only her players and students, but this country, by living honestly and loving her family.
She has put a face on the continued need to fight employment discrimination in Nashville, Tennessee, where Belmont University is located, and in every corner of this country. Lisa has helped to transform the hearts and minds of her community and colleagues, inspiring them to launch an unprecedented public discussion about the place of openly LGBT people in private Christian colleges and universities, and prompting Belmont to change its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.
Founder’s Award: The Honorable Donna Hitchens
The Founder’s Award acknowledges a person whose life embodies NCLR’s vision and values of equality and justice and who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to activism on behalf of our communities. This year's award goes to the Honorable Donna Hitchens, who, known as one of the nation’s most well-respected judges, retired from the San Francisco County Superior Court in November 2010. She has changed the lives of thousands of people through her commitment to justice, not only while serving on the San Francisco County Superior Court bench, but by founding the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 1977, where her vision of fighting for LGBT equality continues to change the nation’s legal landscape.
NCLR's special guests at the 2011 Anniversary Celebration will be NCLR clients Desiree "Dez" Shelton and Sarah Lindstrom, out high school lesbians, who successfully challenged their Minnesota school district in January 2011 so they could walk together as part of the royal court of their school’s winter formal.
“Each and every one of these individuals is a hero," said Kate Kendell, NCLR executive director. "Their willingness and determination to stand up for their beliefs have not only changed history, but will continue to improve the lives of thousands of LGBT people across the country for years to come — making them victors in our movement for equality and justice, and role models for each one of us."
Founded in 1977, NCLR is a national legal organization devoted to advancing LGBT justice and equality through litigation, public policy, and public education. Since its start, NCLR — which helps more than 5,000 people each year — has embraced every aspect of the diverse LGBT community through its work, recognizing that the community comes from many different backgrounds and faces a wide range of issues.
The Anniversary Celebration is NCLR’s annual signature event that draws a sell-out crowd. Festivities begin at 8 p.m., with the well-known political humorist Kate Clinton returning for a command performance as emcee.
The presenting sponsor of the Anniversary Celebration is Wells Fargo. Gold sponsors are AAA and American Airlines.
Photo shown above left: From left, comedian Kate Clinton, Jane Lynch and NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell.