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Democrats for Equality 2013 Freedom Awards

Posted: September 20th, 2013 | Cover stories, News, Top Story |

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to receive highest honor Sept 22

By Manny Lopez | GSD Reporter

San Diego Democrats for Equality announced Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez as this year’s A. Brad Truax Human Rights Award recipient, to be handed out at the Democrat’s annual Freedom Awards on Sunday, Sept. 22.

Each year the award is presented to a person who has helped make significant and sustained strides toward the advancement of LGBT equality. The 2013 Freedom Awards will be held at the home of Lambda Archives of San Diego board President Maureen Steiner and Camille Davidson in Coronado, Calif.

“I am deeply grateful to be receiving the Brad Truax Human Rights award,” Pérez said via email. “Our community has made tremendous progress over the last few years. Certainly, having our marriage rights restored was a powerful victory for our community, but California is leading the way forward on other issues of equal importance.”

(l to r) Gov. Jerry Brown looks on as Assembly Speaker John Pérez speaks (Courtesy office of John A. Pérez)

(l to r) Gov. Jerry Brown looks on as Assembly Speaker John Pérez speaks (Courtesy office of John A. Pérez)

Doug Case, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, said Pérez was chosen for the award because in addition to having an outstanding record on LGBT and progressive issues in general, he is the highest-ranking LGBT official ever in the history of California.

Case said that throughout the Assembly Speaker’s career, Pérez has been supportive of labor issues, and a strong participant in the Democratic Party and LGBT caucus.

“John’s role in the LGBT movement has primarily been as a role model. It’s not as unusual [now] or as trailblazing as it was, having an LGBT elected official,” Case said.

“When Christine Kehoe became the first LGBT-elected official in San Diego, it was big news and it was groundbreaking, and that was what the story was all about,” Case said. “These days when [someone like] Todd Gloria, David Roberts, Bonnie Dumanis or Carl DeMaio gets elected to office, their sexual orientation is more of a footnote and not a major story.”

Pérez was elected in 2008 to represent the 48th Assembly District, located in Los Angeles. In 2010, he became the first openly gay person in the country to ever be elected as Speaker of a state House or Assembly.

Among his accomplishments is his election to serve as president of the National Speakers Conference, a non-partisan organization of those holding the position of Speaker in a state House or Assembly. He was also appointed by former-presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to serve on the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, a past recipient of the award, will present the Human Rights Award to Pérez on Sept. 22. About 100 people are expected to attend the ceremony.

The award is the highest honor given by the nonprofit. It is named for Dr. A. Brad Truax, a physician and early president of the LGBT Democrat group, which was previously known as the San Diego Democratic Club. Truax advocated for laws protecting people with HIV and AIDS from discrimination.

“Speaker Pérez is one of the toughest, smartest, most strategic political leaders I’ve had the honor to work with,” Atkins said. “He is also a good friend and a perfect choice for the Brad Truax award.”

Atkins said that as the nation’s first LGBT Speaker, Pérez has moved LGBT rights forward and brought LGBT elected officials to the table in an unprecedented way. She said that under his leadership, the California legislature has passed groundbreaking laws to advance LGBT equality, especially for LGBT youth.

dems4equality-logo-04 web“We were the first state to ban the abhorrent practice of conversion therapy, and other states are following our lead,” Pérez said. “I am very proud of the groundbreaking protections the legislature has passed for transgender students in California’s classrooms. We clearly have more work to do, but the victories we have won on behalf of our community are a powerful affirmation of justice and human dignity, and I am deeply grateful not only for this award, but for the work activists in our community do across the state every single day.”

Other honors presented Sept. 22 include the J. Douglas Scott Political Action Award to Don Mullen, the Gloria Steinem Communications Award to Lambda Archives, the Eleanor Roosevelt Community Service Award to Connor Maddocks and the R. Stevens Pope Award for Volunteerism to Phyllis McGrath. Special Recognition will be given to the San Diego Democrats for Equality Transformation Task Force and the President’s Award will be announced at the event.

Tickets for the Freedom Awards are $50 for members, and $60 for guests. For more information on the San Diego Democrats for Equality, visit democratsforequality.org or email info@democratsforequality.org.

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