Whitman-Walker Honors Advocates

WWH to present three awards for work related to LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues at legal-services fundraiser

By John Riley
Published on May 15, 2013, 4:32pm | Comments

Whitman-Walker Health, the nonprofit community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS and LGBT-sensitive health care, will present three awards recognizing advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community at its May 29 ''Going the Extra Mile'' benefit. The fundraising event benefits Whitman-Walker's legal-services program, which provides pro bono legal advice and representation to LGBT people and those with HIV/AIDS.

At the benefit, Whitman-Walker will present the Joel A. Toubin Memorial Award, for outstanding advocacy on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS, to the Honorable Chai R. Feldblum, commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for her leadership in advancing disability rights and LGBT rights; Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) for the organization's dedication to raising awareness about issues affecting LGBT seniors; and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) for its leadership on behalf of equality for transgender Americans.

''With these awards, we thank individuals and organizations whose efforts over many years have improved the lives of LGBT individuals and families, and persons living with HIV/AIDS, in many ways,'' Adam Falcone, chair of Whitman-Walker Health's board of directors, said in a statement praising Feldblum. ''Over the last 25 years, Commissioner Feldblum has shown her dedication to equal treatment under the law for all Americans. She played a leading role in the writing and passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ADA Amendments Act and is one of the drafters of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA). As a law professor and legal scholar she has had a major impact on disability law and LGBT law. She is also the first openly lesbian member of the EEOC. We are proud to honor her years of work and dedication.''

Don Blanchon, WWH executive director, offered praise for SAGE in his organization's announcement of the awards.

''Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults,'' Blanchon said. ''For 35 years, they have worked to improve the lives of LGBT elders, who face different challenges in aging than heterosexual elders. As their mission says, 'SAGE works to achieve a high quality of life for LGBT older adults, supports and advocates for their rights, fosters a greater understanding of aging in all communities, and promotes positive images of LGBT life in later years.' Whitman-Walker is proud to honor their vital work.''

Dan Brunner, Whitman-Walker's director of legal services, commented on NCTE's honor in the WWH statement, saying, ''In just 10 years, the National Center for Transgender Equality has become a leading voice on the issues facing transgender people. Through a combination of creative thinking, powerful legal analysis and effective lobbying, NCTE has had a major impact on public policies affecting the transgender community and greatly heightened awareness of the issues that transgender individuals face every day. We are honored to recognize NCTE and their accomplishments.''

The WWH announcement also included comment from the honorees themselves.

''I am beyond delighted to receive this honor,'' Feldblum said. ''I started my legal professional career at the ACLU AIDS Project, where I was privileged to work on laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Ryan White CARE Act. I feel I have come full circles now, helping to implement employment civil rights laws at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Whitman-Walker does amazing work for people living with HIV/AIDS, both in medical care and legal services, and I am honored to be part of their effort in making the world a better place.''

Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE, spoke on behalf of his organization, saying, ''SAGE is honored to receive the Joel A. Toubin Memorial Award. People over 50 make up almost 50 percent of those living with HIV/AIDS – and many of them are LGBT. As one of the longest-standing organizations working to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS receive the compassionate care they need, Whitman-Walker has been a steady advocate for years alongside many of today's LGBT older adults. Thank you to Whitman-Walker for continuing to support the health and well-being of LGBT elders.''

Similarly, NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling also thanked WWH, as well as her fellow honorees.

''The National Center for Transgender Equality is honored to be recognized along with incredible change-makers like Commissioner Chai Feldblum and SAGE,'' she said in the announcement. ''We've worked closely with both for many years, and we're thankful for their advocacy on behalf of transgender people. NCTE also deeply appreciates Whitman-Walker staff and volunteers for their longtime commitment to trans issues. Advancements in the rights of transgender people would not be possible without groups like Whitman-Walker and others on the ground carrying this work forward.''

Whitman-Walker's ''Going the Extra Mile'' benefit is Wednesday, May 29, at the Carnegie Institution for Science, at 1530 P St. NW. Tickets, $150, are available by calling 202-939-7627 or online at whitman-walker.org/gtem2013.