The 24th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles will honor former President Bill Clinton with its first Advocate for Change Award. The organization will also confer the Stephen F. Kolzak Award on Board member Steve Warren, a top openly gay Hollywood attorney. The awards will be held on Saturday, April 20, starting at 5:30pm at the JW Marriott Los Angeles, 900 W Olympic Blvd, LA. (Click to purchase tickets.)
In 1991, then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton made a concerted effort to reach out to the LGBT community through his friend David Mixner (pictured with Clinton in my photo), whom Clinton met when the two were protesting the Vietnam War. Mixner and the LA-based group ANGLE raised roughly $1.3 million in early money for Clinton and helped organize a national bloc of gay votes based on Clinton's promises to focus on the HIV/AIDS crisis and to fight for equal rights for LGBT citizens.
Once elected, Clinton ran into considerable pushback from conservative, antigay members of Congress - especially Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat. Nonetheless, Clinton found other ways to help LGBT people achieve equality and his appointment of LA-based AIDS expert and ANGLE member Dr. Scott Hitt to head the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS lead to more research, funding and help for people with HIV/AIDS.
The GLAAD press release notes:
In 2011, Clinton advocated for marriage equality in New York, stating that "for more than a century, our Statue of Liberty has welcomed all kinds of people from all over the world yearning to be free. In the 21st century, I believe New York's welcome must include marriage equality." In 2012, he joined the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families in working against North Carolina's proposed Amendment One to ban marriage and civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Most recently, he called for the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act in an op-ed for The Washington Post.
During his administration, Clinton became the first U.S. President to appoint out gay and lesbian people to all levels of government. He appointed more than 150 including James Hormel as America's first openly gay ambassador. During the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, his administration convened the first White House Conference on the epidemic, created the national AIDS Policy Coordinator post, and expanded funding for research. In 2002, his Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) began as the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in the developing world.
"President Clinton's support of the LGBT community and recognition that DOMA, the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional and should be struck down shows that the political landscape continues to change in favor of LGBT equality," said GLAAD's Wilson Cruz. "Leaders and allies like President Clinton are critical to moving our march for equality forward."
GLAAD will present the Stephen F. Kolzak Award to Steve Warren. Warren, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, has been a practicing entertainment lawyer for twenty-seven years. He is a name partner at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren, Richman, Rush & Kaller, LLP, specializing in the representation of actors, directors and writers. He served as the first out gay man on the Board of Trustees for his daughter's school, the Center for Early Education, and currently serves as the first out gay man on the Board of Trustees at the Archer School for Girls. Warren joined GLAAD's Board of Directors in 2010, and currently serves on the Executive Committee.
"Steve Warren's work and career have opened doors for out professionals across the entertainment industry," said Wilson Cruz. "In addition to advocating for LGBT people, he has continuously mobilized a large base of high-profile allies to help bring about social change," said Cruz.
Additional special guests for the Los Angeles event include: Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, and Jennifer Lawrence. Additional presenters and LGBT advocates will be announced.