LGBT Community Celebrates Local Luminaries at Annual Awards

The city's Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board hands out their annual Rainbow Key Awards on Tuesday night.

may be over, but gay pride still took front and center Tuesday night at the Pacific Design Center for the Rainbow Key Awards ceremony.

Hosted annually since 1993 by the city's Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board (LGAB), the Awards recognize individuals and organizations whose efforts have significantly benefited the LGBT community.

About 100 people were on hand for this year's ceremony, held in the PDC's Silver Screen Theater. Seven individuals and one organization were honored.

Mayor John Duran greeted the audience, noting that people across the country know West Hollywood as a place of LGBT advocacy, a place of LGBT culture, and the Rainbow Awards were one of the reasons why.

Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Prang, who received a Rainbow Key Award in 1996, also greeted attendees and thanked the LGAB for making sure West Hollywood stays in the forefront of LGBT issues and civil rights. 

Transgender attorney Mia Yamamoto, who was voted “super-lawyer” by her peers for the past five years, received the first award. “Everything we do in the interest of social justice is not just for our little community, but for all across the world,” she said. "No minority community ever succeeds without the assistance of its allies.”

In receiving his award, AIDS activist and attorney Stephen Simon noted that he was a Caribbean kid from New York, who moved to Los Angeles with no job and no money, and ultimately became an AIDS advocate. Currently serving as AIDS Coordinator for the city of Los Angeles, Simon is the founding attorney for the HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance.

Journalist and filmmaker John Ireland called receiving his award a “dream come true for a kid from Modesto.” A board member for the Pop Luck Club for gay dads, Ireland was responsible for creating marriagetrials.com, which re-enacted scenes from the January 2010 Prop 8 trial, Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked public airing of the trial proceedings. 

Longtime LGBT activist Terry LeGrand, who helped found what is now the LA Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, dedicated his award to all the people who were not at the ceremony, including leathermen across the country and people who have died of AIDS.

Longtime lesbian activist Del Whan accepted her award on behalf of all the people who were in the Gay Liberation Front in 1970-71. She especially thanked late gay activist Morris Kight for helping her come out of the closet in 1970. She said Kight spoke at one of her classes at USC, telling the class that “gay is good,” revelatory words to Whan at the time.

In accepting his award, grassroots activist Rick Watts said he was honored and humbled by the company he now finds himself in. Referencing to the Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, he said he has much LGBT activist work still to do and “miles to go before I sleep.”

Sam Borelli, who is active with the Trevor Project, GLSEN (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network), and Christopher Street West, among others, plus founder of the LA LGBTQ Youth Advocates Group, said he knew he was home within three months of moving to West Hollywood in 2000. He graciously accepted his award, thanking all those people who came before him, saying, “I wouldn’t be here if not for what you did.”

Finally, the June Mazer Lesbian Archives was honored. Founded in 1981 in Oakland, the moved to Weho in 1988 when the city provided free office space in the Werle Building off Robertson. Mazer representatives accepted the award in honor of “all the voices that would have been silenced if not for [the Mazer] saving their stories.”


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