San Francisco – Equality California will honor U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, actor and activist George Takei, businessperson and philanthropist Kathy Levinson and former San Francisco Supervisor and civic leader Bevan Dufty at the 2016 San Francisco Equality Awards for their extraordinary service to the LGBT community. The awards will take place on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square.
Equality California will honor U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, actor and activist George Takei, businessperson and philanthropist Kathy Levinson and former San Francisco Supervisor and civic leader Bevan Dufty at the 2016 San Francisco Equality Awards for their extraordinary service to the LGBT community. The awards will take place on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will receive Equality California’s Ally Leadership Award for her decades of stalwart support for the LGBT community as well as her transformative leadership to advance LGBT civil rights in Congress. Pelosi is the first woman to serve as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and has been a formidable advocate for laws protecting LGBT people since she was first elected to Congress in 1987. She helped lead Democratic opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 and efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution to bar same-sex couples from marrying. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi spearheaded the passage of a fully-inclusive hate crimes bill, signed by President Obama, and led the efforts to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which discriminated against gay and lesbian servicemembers. As Democratic Leader, Pelosi has fought efforts by House Republicans to defend DOMA in federal courts, and was the first national elected leader to call for the inclusion of a marriage equality plank in the 2012 Democratic National Convention platform. In the spring of 2015, Pelosi led more than 200 Members of the House and Senate in filing an amicus brief in support of marriage equality at the Supreme Court. She is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act of 2015, the landmark bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as of the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, a 2015 federal bill to ban the practice of so-called LGBT “conversion therapy”.
“House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi truly sets the standard for everything an LGBT ally should be,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “She was one of the first members of Congress to not just oppose LGBT discrimination, but to openly advocate for us, long before it was politically safe or expedient to support our community. She has never wavered in her advocacy for the LGBT community. The boldness of her support on the national stage has helped ease the way for the enormous progress we have made since then at every level of government.”
George Takei will be honored with the Equality Advocate Award for the outstanding public example he has set as an openly gay man and as an activist advancing social justice. Best known for his work in the role of Mr. Sulu on television’s original “Star Trek” series, he was born in Los Angeles but spent much of his childhood in wartime internment camps for Japanese-Americans. He ran for Los Angeles City Council in 1973, and was appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley to the Board of Directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District, where he served for 11 years and helped launch the first subway network in the city’s history. He also has served on the boards of organizations fostering U.S.-Japan relations. Takei married husband Brad in 2008, two months before the passage of Proposition 8, and has used his extensive social media following to become an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights, immigrant rights and social justice in general.
“Since his coming out in 2005, George Takei has served as an example and role model, not only for the LGBT community but for everyone seeking to live an open, engaged and authentic life,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “Throughout his life, George has refused to accept anything other than full equality for LGBT people, for immigrants and for all disadvantaged communities. His dignity, humor, and commitment to social justice has made him one of our community’s leaders and most prominent voices. His warmth and courage are an inspiration to all of us.”
Kathy Levinson will receive the Geoff Kors Leadership Award for her role in changing California’s LGBT civil rights landscape as a founding board president of Equality California, and through her significant philanthropic and community activities. Under her leadership as board president, Equality California adopted a goal to win marriage equality and full civil rights protections for LGBT Californians within a decade. As a result of that strategy, California went from a state with limited laws protecting LGBT people to the state with the most comprehensive LGBT civil rights protections in the world. In addition, as former president and chief operating officer of E*Trade Financial Corporation, Levinson has served as a powerful role model for our community as she has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of LGBT people, women and girls, and Jews through her significant philanthropic and community leadership. She married wife Naomi Fine in 2004 at San Francisco’s City Hall, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom announced that marriages of same-sex couples were legal in the City of San Francisco. Their marriage was later voided along with some 4,000 others by the California Supreme Court, but the couple remarried in 2008, shortly before voters approved Proposition 8. In addition to creating the Lesbian Equity Fund with her wife, which has contributed to a number of social justice campaigns over the past decade, she was appointed in 2011 as co-chair of the LGBT National Finance Committee to Re-Elect President Obama and she played a key leadership role in the effort to defeat Proposition 8.
“California’s LGBT civil rights protections are where they are today thanks in large part to Kathy’s dedicated and visionary leadership of Equality California during the organization’s early days,” said Zbur. “But Kathy’s vision did not end with her contributions to EQCA. She founded and led other organizations that improve the lives of LGBT people and provide leadership development for women and girls, and stood on the front lines fighting efforts to target the LGBT community at the ballot box.”
Bevan Dufty is receiving both a Humanitarian Award and a State Farm Good Neighbor Award for his 40-year public service career that has made San Francisco a better, more humane place to live, and for his advocacy, creativity, leadership and mentoring of the LGBT civil rights movement. In 2015, Dufty retired as director of Housing Opportunity, Partnership and Engagement (HOPE), the city’s initiative targeting homelessness. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee appointed Dufty to lead the newly created agency in 2012. Dufty partnered with various community and non-profit organizations serving homeless individuals and families to launch the Navigation Center, an informal housing service that accepts people with partners, possessions and pets often turned away at traditional shelters. The Center helps clients transition to more permanent housing and has helped nearly 500 people find homes. Previously, Dufty served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 2002 until 2011, in the same district once represented by Harvey Milk. During that time, he helped establish economic, workforce and housing services at the San Francisco LGBT Center, including the Center’s innovative Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative, which provides transgender people with job search support, mentorship, networking opportunities, and legal services. With LGBT people comprising an estimated 29 percent of San Francisco’s homeless population, Dufty also secured funding to establish the Castro Youth Housing Collaborative and other services for homeless youth.
“Bevan understands that homelessness is very much an LGBT problem,” said Zbur. “In some cities, a staggering 40 percent of homeless young people are LGBT. Through his years of hard work as a public servant, Bevan has dedicated his career and community service activities to helping the most marginalized members of the LGBT community – those without a home and without other support structures. He has helped thousands of LGBT people move from the streets into stable homes and jobs.”
Each year, Equality California recognizes individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact on the movement to secure full and lasting equality for LGBT people at its annual Equality Awards — a series of formal events held in San Francisco, San Diego, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.
This year’s San Francisco Equality Awards will take place on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square, located at 335 Powell St. in San Francisco. Individual tickets are $350 and up, with event sponsorships opportunities beginning at $5,000.
Co-chairs of the 2016 San Francisco Equality Awards are San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell and Equality California Board members Sen. Ricardo Lara, Andrea Casalett and Boe Hayward. The event is sponsored by AT&T, Gilead Sciences, La Crema, Prophet, PG&E, Sempra Energy, Southwest Airlines, and State Farm Insurance. For more information about the Equality Awards, to purchase tickets or to become a sponsor, click here. For more information, contact Scott Gizicki at email@example.com or Frank Stasio at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 323-848-9801.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance, and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well-being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through electoral, advocacy, education and mobilization programs, we strive to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org