By: Chuck Colbert/TRT Reporter—
BOSTON, Mass.—There is good reason to commemorate ten years of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The statewide, grassroots organization largely responsible for protecting equal marriage rights, MassEquality, intends to celebrate not only that achievement, but also transgender equality while raising awareness of other battles yet to fight. The occasion for celebration is the group’s third annual Icon Awards, to be held February 27 at Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel.
The Icon Awards recognize “extraordinary contributions to LGBTQ equality” in political, corporate, community, and philanthropic arenas. The awards this year spotlight game-changing allies in efforts to ensure a majority of pro-LGBTQ lawmakers, or champions, on Beacon Hill. Some of the work these champions undertake includes advancing protections for transgender people in public spaces, improving HIV/AIDS prevention, supporting older LGBTQ adults, improving healthcare access, and ensuring a fairer workplace for LGBTQ individuals and couples. MassEquality has already announced one of this year’s honorees as political icon, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Robert A. DeLeo, who has served in that role since 2009. [pullquote]“Speaker DeLeo has been an essential partner to MassEquality in its continuing campaign to ensure that every LGBTQ person in Massachusetts is equal, safe and free, from cradle to grave,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini in announcing the selection.[/pullquote]
“Speaker DeLeo has been an essential partner to MassEquality in its continuing campaign to ensure that every LGBTQ person in Massachusetts is equal, safe and free, from cradle to grave,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini in announcing the selection. “He listens, he asks questions, and he takes action because he cares. His steadfast leadership and commitment to justice has made possible passage of the Transgender Equal Rights Law, creation of the nation’s first statewide commissions to address LGBTQ youth homelessness and LGBTQ aging, and increases in financial support for services for LGBTQ young people, older adults and survivors of intimate partner violence and more.”
Since 1991, DeLeo, a Democrat, has represented the 19th Suffolk District, which includes Winthrop and part of Revere. From 2005 to 2009, he chaired the House Ways and Means Committee. For his efforts, Speaker DeLeo has earned praise from both The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. The former has called him “an expert on the state budget.” The latter said he has served “honestly and well” as speaker, praising DeLeo for “guts and determination to wrestle with the nitty-gritty of governing.”
A graduate of the Boston Latin School, DeLeo holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and a law degree from Suffolk University.
“As a legislator, it is my job to fight for the rights of all Massachusetts citizens,” said DeLeo. “I am proud of the work we’ve done to promote equality for those in the transgender community, particularly through the landmark 2012 Transgender Equal Rights Bill. MassEquality has been an invaluable partner in this regard and I thank them for their unyielding commitment.” [pullquote]“I am proud of the work we’ve done to promote equality for those in the transgender community, particularly through the landmark 2012 Transgender Equal Rights Bill. MassEquality has been an invaluable partner in this regard and I thank them for their unyielding commitment.”—DeLeo[/pullquote]
Looking ahead, DeLeo pledged “to continue our work in the House so that residents facing adversity have the confidence to live their lives unhindered by hatred.”
In addition to leadership on transgender equality, MassEquality is honoring DeLeo for his ongoing efforts to address the epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness, end bullying of LGBTQ youth, and ensure state support for life-saving social services for older LGBTQ adults, survivors of intimate partner violence, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
While on the House Committee on Ways and Means, DeLeo championed LGBTQ civil rights as one of the first state legislators in allocating funds to support gay youth. As MassEquality noted in a press statement, he has continued that leadership role with a commitment to supporting unaccompanied homeless youth in Massachusetts, of which an estimated 40 percent identify as LGBTQ.
A decade ago, LGBT advocates fought on Beacon Hill as lawmakers began deliberating the Supreme Judicial Court’s (SJC) green light to same-sex marriage. To marshal resources and win allies, MassEquality was formed with the organization playing a critical role over the three years it took to defend the SJC’s landmark Goodridge decision, safeguarding equal marriage rights in the Commonwealth and beyond. The LGBT community prevailed in early 2007, when lawmakers refused to pass along to voters a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Accordingly, the MassEquality Icon Awards celebration pays tribute to lawmakers who defended Goodridge in the Legislature at that time.
“We are tipping our hats to the champions who defended Goodridge through the constitutional convention process, not the Goodridge case itself,” said Mike Givens, MassEquality’s communications manager.
Additional recipients of the Icon Awards in the categories of corporate, community and philanthropy will be announced in the weeks leading up to the celebration, as well as marriage champion honorees, said Givens. The co-chairs for this year’s event are Lisa J. Drapkin and Richard Giglio, and the event will feature a special anniversary dinner prepared by celebrity chef Tiffani Faison. For more information on the event and MassEquality, visit www.massequality.org/events.
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