Three longstanding LGBT legal activists will be honored by the American Bar Association Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity with its third annual Stonewall Award during a ceremony on February 7, 2015, at the ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston.
Named after the New York City Stonewall Inn police raid and riot of June 28, 1969, which was a turning point in the gay rights movement, the award recognizes lawyers who have considerably advanced lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the legal profession and successfully championed LGBT legal causes.
The purpose of the Stonewall Award as relayed by the official website:
Achieving greater diversity in the legal profession depends upon recognition of the contributions of individuals from many different backgrounds, including those people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities. The purpose of the Award is to recognize those lawyers, members of the judiciary and legal academia who have effected real change to remove barriers on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression in the legal profession and the world, nation, state and/or locale, and to recognize those who have championed diversity for the LGBT community, both within the legal profession and impacting the greater human universe.
The 2015 award recipients:
Rep. Brian K. Sims, the first out LGBT member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, is the former president of the board of directors of Equality Pennsylvania and former chair of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Pennsylvania. He introduced a bill In the Pennsylvania State House to help reduce and eliminate the gender gap in pay as well as legislation to ban conversion therapy. In 2000, Sims came out to his Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania football team after helping to lead them to the Division II national championship game. A committed bipartisan, Sims seeks out collaborations between Democrats and Republicans.
Lise M. Iwon, a partner specializing in family law at Laurence & Iwon in Wakefield, R.I., was the first out lesbian president of the Rhode Island Bar Association, where she was instrumental in gaining the bar’s support for same-sex marriage prior to the state passing the Marriage Equality Act. In addition, as a litigant, Iwon sought and won a declaratory ruling that same-sex couples in Rhode Island who are married or joined in civil union are allowed to take the same marital deductions, for estate tax purposes, as married, different-sex couples.
Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center on Lesbian Rights, served as the first staff attorney for the ACLU in Utah before becoming the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights in 1994. Through her leadership, today the influential group has a staff of 24 and a budget of $5 million. In addition to being at the forefront of litigation moving forward marriage equality, Kendell has developed key arguments and strategies advancing LGBT family law, including securing spousal rights for a same-sex partner in a wrongful death action and adoption rights for LGBT parents in dozens of states.
“These are three remarkable leaders within the LGBT community dealing with different aspects of it. Kate Kendall is marshalling and directing litigation efforts, Lise Iwon provides leadership within the legal community and as a litigant, and Brian Sims is a public servant and visible example for the community,” said Jim Holmes, chair of the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.