Metro Weekly

Capital Pride Gala to Honor Eric Holder and 9 other Heroes

Annual awards ceremony honors people who have made significant contributions to D.C.'s LGBT community

Photo: Eric Holder. Credit: North Charleston/flickr.

Photo: Eric Holder. Credit: North Charleston/flickr.

Capital Pride will honor former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and nine other individuals or organizations who have made major contributions to the D.C.-area LGBT community at its Capital Pride Heroes Gala on June. 3.

This year’s list of honorees for the annually-occurring awards ceremony reads like a “Who’s Who” of major community figures or allies, including a former gubernatorial candidate, a religious leader, a representative from the Metropolitan Police Department and several transgender activists. All will be honored for their dedication to recognizing the dignity of and improving the lives of LGBT people.

Holder, the event’s highest-profile honoree, will be presented with the Paving the Way Award for his courage and leadership in helping to advance LGBT rights. As attorney general, Holder, on behalf of the Obama administration, refused to defend the congressionally-approved Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on the grounds that its prohibition on recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples was unconstitutional. When the Supreme Court overturned that section of the act in 2013, Holder instituted guidelines outlining how the federal government would treat and recognize same-sex couples with respect to federal spousal benefits and legal rights. He further encouraged state attorneys general to drop their defense of same-sex marriage bans that they believed to be unconstitutional. Holder also oversaw the Justice Department’s enforcement of federal hate crime laws, investigating of crimes that were suspected to be motivated by bias over victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We are thrilled to honor Attorney General Holder for his work on behalf of the LGBT community, said Bernie Delia, president of the Board of Directors of the Capital Pride Alliance. “Under his leadership, the U.S. Department of Justice  has become a strong advocate and enforcer of equality under the law for all Americans, including those in the LGBT community. We are extremely proud to present him with the 2015 Paving the Way Award.”

The other honorees include five Capital Pride Heroes and two Engendered Spirit Award winners. The latter honor is given to those who have advocated on behalf of and made a significant impact on the District’s transgender community. This years Heroes are: Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of the Anglican Communion; Alexandra Ernst, a member of the Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT rights organization; Paul Kawata, the founder and executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council; Justin Markiewicz, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU); and Heather Mizeur, a former Maryland delegate and gubernatorial candidate who was an outspoken advocate on behalf of LGBT rights issues during her time in the General Assembly.

The Engendered Spirit Award winners are Bobbi Elaine Strang, an active volunteer with the D.C. trans community, known for her past work with The DC Center as well as an officer in the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization; and Kaprice Williams, a full-time volunteer at Casa Ruby, an LGBT community and drop-in services center that specifically caters to members of the transgender and immigrant communities in the District.

The gala will also honor those who have made major contributions to the planning, implementation and celebration of various Pride events. Local community health center Whitman-Walker Health will receive the Larry Stansbury Award for Exemplary Contributions to Pride, named in honor of Stansbury, an activist, health educator, and former executive director of Brother, Help Thyself. Holly Goldmann, a local transgender activist who has been instrumental in planning and carrying out D.C.’s Capital Trans Pride celebration, will be honored with the Bill Miles Volunteer Award for her contributions to Capital Pride.

“This Pride season is an especially poignant one for Whitman-Walker Health,” said Don Blanchon, executive director of Whitman-Walker Health. “We celebrate this Pride season with the opening of an affirming new health center on 14th Street NW. Yet the health center is so much more than a shining, new building. It is a beacon of light and hope that marks the path on life’s journey towards full equality and a truly inclusive community. We are humbled by this recognition and hold close Larry Stansbury’s unwavering dedication to those who have not made it this far.”

In a brief interview with Metro Weekly, Goldmann said she was grateful to be receiving the Miles Award for her efforts working on DC Trans Pride, which has seen increases in attendance, including a number of allies, in recent years.

“I don’t want to be mourning deaths or arguing about conversion therapy,” she said. “I just want the trans people to have six hours to be happy, to celebrate Pride…. I’m still getting emails from people as far out as Stafford County asking if they can come or be involved, and I tell them, of course, everyone’s welcome.”

Goldmann also said it will be a pleasure to be honored with her fellow awardees, who have each made their own contributions to the lives of LGBT people, either locally or nationally.

“I’m totally floored and honored,” she said. “And I am in good company.”

The Capital Pride Heroes Gala, presented by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., will take place at 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Library, 801 K St. NW. For more information on Capital Pride, including a full schedule of events planned throughout May and June, visit capitalpride.org.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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