PFLAG National—the nation's first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, their families, and allies—today announced it will honor civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis (GA-5), LGBT Equality Caucus founding Co-Chairs Congressman Barney Frank (MA-4, Retired) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and LGBT Equality Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jared Polis (CO-2) with its inaugural Champion of Justice award at PFLAG’s 45th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, D.C. on May 9th at The Mayflower Hotel.
PFLAG was founded by Queens, NY schoolteacher Jeanne Manford. After her gay son, activist Morty Manford, was harassed and beaten in 1972, she marched by his side in an early precursor to NY Pride, and found herself surrounded by young LGBTQ people asking her to reach out to their parents. Within weeks, the phone in her home was ringing off the hook with requests from these young people and their families, and nine months later, in March 1973, PFLAG was born.
“The common thread among these Champions of Justice is that each serves as a beacon for the communities they claim as their own, and each is a true champion for fairness, equality and justice for all residents of the U.S. and around the world, on all sides of every aisle and every chamber of elected service,” said Diego M. Sanchez, Director of Advocacy, Policy and Partnerships for PFLAG National. Before joining PFLAG National in 2013, Sanchez served as Senior Policy Advisor to Rep. Frank, and was the first openly transgender senior staffer on Capitol Hill.
Congressman John Lewis is an icon of the civil rights movement, and was elected to Congress in 1986 representing Georgia’s 5th District. He is senior chief deputy Democratic Whip and is often referred to as the “conscience” of the United States Congress. In 2011, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.
In 1998, Tammy Baldwin was elected as Wisconsin’s first female member of Congress and the nation’s first openly gay challenger sent to Congress, where she served seven terms. In 2012, Baldwin became the first woman from Wisconsin and the first openly gay candidate to be elected to the U.S. Senate, where she continues her commitment to fight for fairness and equality. Senator Baldwin has committed her life’s work to public service, fighting for fairness, equality and opportunity, and has been a champion of LGBT equality both at home and abroad.
“I am deeply humbled to receive the Champion of Justice award as we celebrate PFLAG’s 45th Anniversary,” said Sen. Baldwin. “While our country has made incredible progress we can never mistake our progress for victory. There is more work to be done on the march toward full equality for LGBT people and their families. We must remain strong in fighting any rollback of progress, large or small, and continue our work to pass on to the next generation a country that is more equal, not less equal. Together, we will break down barriers so that every American has an equal opportunity to dream the same dreams, chase the same ambitions and have the same shot at success. This is the promise of America and we must continue working together to make sure we keep it.”
After graduating from Harvard in 1962, Barney Frank worked there as a teaching Fellow in government and Assistant to the Director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School. In 1968, he became Executive Assistant to Boston Mayor Kevin White. He then spent one year as Administrative Assistant to Congressman Michael Harrington.
In 1972, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives from downtown Boston, and immediately filed the first gay rights (as it was then called) bill in the history of Massachusetts. During his time in the Mayor’s Office and the Massachusetts house, he taught part-time at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Boston University, and the Kennedy School at Harvard. In 1974, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating in 1977, and passing the Massachusetts bar in 1979. In 1980, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His thirty-two-year career there included serving as Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services from January 2007 to January 2011.
In 1987, he became the first Member of Congress to acknowledge voluntarily that he was gay, and 2012 he was the first Member of Congress to marry a same-sex partner while still serving.
He lives in Newton, Massachusetts and Ogunquit, Maine with his husband James Ready.
Congressman Jared Polis has consistently advocated for LGBTQ rights. He is a founding member and co-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, and an original cosponsor of the Equality Act. In addition, Polis introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) and helped re-launch the Transgender Equality Task Force.
“I am proud of how the Equality Caucus has grown over my time in Congress, and truly humbled to be called a Champion of Justice, alongside the legendary Congressman John Lewis, as well as Congressman Barney Frank and Sen. Tammy Baldwin,” said Polis. “The movement for full equality has come far in a short period of time, but many barriers persist, and there is a lot of work left to do. I am hopeful that one day, every member of Congress will proudly be a member of the Equality Caucus, and members of Congress will wonder why there was ever opposition to legislation like the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Equality Act.”
Other special guests for the event include The Seasons of Love Ensemble of The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC and Jessica Halem, the inaugural LGBT Program Director for Harvard Medical School, who will serve as the event’s live auctioneer for packages from Marriott, American Airlines, and R Family Vacations. All event ticket purchases include one raffle ticket to win a $2,500 shopping spree from Whirlpool.
PFLAG’s 45th Anniversary Celebration will be held on Wednesday, May 9th in Washington, D.C. at the Mayflower Hotel. To purchase tickets or inquire about becoming a sponsor of the event, please visit pflag.org/anniversary or call (202) 467-8180 x218.
Founded in 1973 with the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG National is first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, their families and allies. PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education and advocacy, and has more than 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America. To learn more, please visit pflag.org, or follow us on Facebook (/pflag), Twitter (@pflag), and Instagram (@pflagnational).