"The achievement of civil marriage equality in the District of Columbia is the fruit of decades of public advocacy and organizing by gay citizens and our numerous allies.''
Mitch Wood, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), made that statement one day prior to marriage equality going into effect in the District. Tuesday, April 20, GLAA will honor several of those who helped to forge that reality, among others, with the group's annual Distinguished Service Awards, presented during GLAA's 39th Anniversary Reception.
Those eight honorees include DC Clergy United for Marriage Equality; Brian Moore, legislative counsel for the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary; Mark Levine, who's been active in the marriage fight as the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club's pro bono counsel; Sultan Shakir, regional field director at the Human Rights Campaign; and Michael Crawford, co-founder of DC for Marriage and director of new media for Freedom to Marry.
''GLAA is an amazing organization that has been at the forefront of advancing LGBT rights in D.C. I learned a lot working alongside them to win the freedom to marry in D.C,'' Crawford says, reflecting on his marriage-equality efforts in Washington over the past year.
''The best thing about 2009 was hearing from couples who had gotten engaged and were so excited about getting married,'' Crawford adds. ''D.C. is one of the few places in the country where same-sex couples can marry and I am grateful to have played a small role in making it possible.''
GLAA's awards ceremony will go beyond marriage-equality efforts. Four individuals are being honored for doing work to ensure GLAA's mission: defending the civil rights of LGBT people in the nation's capital.
They are: longtime lesbian documentary creator Joan E. Biren ("JEB"); David Mariner, executive director of The Center, D.C.'s LGBT community center; Washington Blade/DC Agenda senior reporter Lou Chibbaro Jr.; and Metro Weekly co-publisher and senior contributing editor Sean Bugg.
''To be recognized by GLAA, by a group that's been around and doing a lot of good work for our community for so long, is an honor in and of itself,'' Bugg says.
''I'm lucky enough to be doing things that are good for the community but also speak to my own interests as a writer and journalist. Knowing that people notice, that makes me feel good.''
Biren, a resident of Silver Spring who has been chronicling LGBT lives for the past three decades, echoed Bugg's sentiments.
''Whenever anybody wants to recognize you, it's an honor,'' she says. ''I started photographing at a time when lesbians were almost entirely invisible and I'm proud that I was able to pioneer in making all LGBT people more visible.''
GLAA's 39th Anniversary Reception is 6:30-9 p.m., Tuesday, April 20, at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle NW. Minimum donation for one ticket is $50. For details, visit glaa.org.